Seafarers’ charity Apostleship of the Sea (AoS) has responded to the pastoral needs of a group of seafarers after their captain was found dead on their ship during a voyage from New York, United States to Tilbury, Essex.
The container ship, Santa Bettina, was a week into its voyage when the master apparently took his own life on board, leaving its crew members distraught and traumatised.
AoS port chaplain Fr Colum Kelly along with two chaplains from other seafarer charities went on board to meet the crew when the ship docked in Tilbury on May 21.
“All three of us spent time listening to the crew and of the stress that they had been feeling during the voyage. It emerged the death took place one week into the voyage. It was the first time the crew had sailed with that captain so they knew very little about him,” said Fr Colum.
“His body was laid in his sealed cabin for the remainder of the voyage. Particularly distressed was the young seafarer who had discovered the body. It was the first time he had seen a corpse,” he added.
The crew requested Mass to be said and for specific areas of the ship to be blessed, including some cabins and the spot where the body was found.
Fr Colum said, “It was a fitting conclusion to all we had been doing on the ship and we could sense the relief among the crew.
“A new Polish captain came to join the ship. He had sailed with this crew previously and was obviously well liked.
“We did what we were able to do for the crew; talking to them and trying to bring some consolation. It was a terrible time for the seafarers, but at the end of the day there was a sense of joy in the midst of the grief, stress and bewilderment,” he added.