The Mission to Seafarers has celebrated a year of achievement while remembering those seafarers in continuing need during at its annual Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols on 6 December. Attended by the Mission’s President, HRH The Princess Royal, the service coincided with the departure from India by many of the crew of the Seaman Guard Ohio, including the Chennai Six, marking the successful culmination of a four-year legal fight to release them from prison.

The festive occasion, honoured by the attendance of HRH The Princess Royal who read the fifth lesson, was dedicated to seafarers who work in often lonely and dangerous environments to keep the global economy afloat. The event so far has raised £23,500, which will go to help The Mission to Seafarers to continue to offer emergency assistance and practical support to the 1.5million seafarers around the world.

The event was cause for particular celebration for Ann Towers, one of the readers, whose husband Paul Towers, one of the Chennai Six, was at the time of the service on a flight home to the UK after four years of imprisonment in India. The Mission to Seafarers has provided counselling, advice, and financial support to the crew of the Seaman Guard Ohio and their families since their arrest in 2013, including administering their legal fund. The 35 men, including the Chennai Six, will now be home for Christmas with their friends and families.

Reading the eighth lesson was Christopher Catrambone, Co-founder, MOAS (Migrant Offshore Aid Station), a search and rescue organisation whose ship MY Phoenix has been operating in The Bay of Bengal to rescue Rohingya refugees fleeing the violence in Myanmar. The Mission’s chaplain, the Reverend Tim Tunley, was deployed onboard MY Phoenix for two months to provide welfare support to the crew during the rescue operation.

The Revd Canon Andrew Wright, Secretary General, The Mission to Seafarers said: “The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols is a marvellous opportunity for us to thank those to whom we owe a great debt of gratitude; our staff and volunteers working hard to bring peace and goodwill to seafarers in need, our charitable donors without whom we could not offer much needed practical assistance, our President HRH The Princess Royal who has been such a consistently valuable and engaging friend, and to the seafarers on whom we all depend.

“The past year has been a year of challenges and successes. We have supported seafarers dealing with great sorrow and trauma in the Bay of Bengal. We have seen more seafarers than ever need our help after being abandoned, far from shore, without payment, food and water. But the year has ended with the successful conclusion of a four-year fight for the freedom of 35 men facing unjust arrest and imprisonment. We end this year with a celebration, but that celebration is also a reminder of how vital the work we do truly is.”