A SOUTH Tyneside chaplain has offered a helping hand to the crew of the Seaways King ferry after the weekend’s fire drama.
Paul Atkinson, the Tyne port chaplain of the Apostleship of the Sea (AoS), has visited the vessel to offer both practical and emotional help to staff members.
A fire was found on the ferry a few hours after it left North Shields on Saturday night.
The blaze, said to have started in a cabin, broke out when the vessel was around 30 miles off the North Yorkshire coast.
Once the ship had docked back at North Shields, Mr Atkinson went on board on Monday.
The ferry and its crew are well known to him as he visits every week to provide help such as transport for seafarers to get ashore and phone cards and internet top-ups for crew members to contact loved ones in their home countries.
And in recent weeks, he had distributed dozens of Christmas gifts to the crew from local churches.
In ports around Great Britain, and around the world, the port chaplains of the AoS visit ferry crews to offer support, a friendly face and listening ear, while also providing practical and spiritual support for each and every crew member.
Mr Atkinson, who works out of the Mission to Seafarers in South Shields, said: “Being a member of crew on a ferry can be stressful at the best of times.
“Factors such as prolonged separation from family and the proximity of so many people living and working together can increase stress on crew.
“Outlets and opportunities to talk and be heard for the crew are important for their wellbeing, so that they can continue to work and live in a happy environment.”
The impact of AoS port chaplains is crucial at times of particular stress such as this weekend’s fire.
They offer emotional support to crew and at Christmas will arrange for religious services for Catholic seafarers from countries such as the Philippines. Four of the ferry crew were airlifted off the ship after the fire, and eight were treated by doctors for smoke-related injuries on board.
n A 26-year-old Sunderland man appeared in court yesterday charged with starting the fire on board the ferry, which caused an estimated £815,000 damage.
Boden George Hughes, of Fulwell Road, was at North Tyneside Magistrates’ Court charged with arson reckless to endangering life and affray.
He was remanded in custody until January 14, when he will appear at Newcastle Crown Court.