Port of Southampton – providing vital services in unusual circumstances

14th December 2020
Many events occurred during the month of October – the lead up to the US election, the UK re-entering lockdown and most notably, in the maritime industry and in the Solent region, the attempted hijacking of the Nave Andromeda.

The tanker was on route from Lagos, Nigeria to Southampton when stowaways became violent towards the captain and crew. The crew safely contacted the coastguard and alerted the police, following the strict protocol which is advised in the case of these incidents and retreated to the ship’s citadel, a secure area in which crew can lock themselves, making it impossible for attackers to enter and, rightly, prioritising their safety.

Following an operation by the Special Boat Service to resolve the situation, the vessel was escorted to the port of Southampton where the stowaways were detained. For the traumatised seafarers onboard who had undergone a serious ordeal, our Mission to Seafarers chaplain, John Attenborough, was on stand-by to provide them with vital aftercare.

Despite the vessel essentially being designated as a restricted area as it was under police surveillance, John Attenborough was determined to ensure the health and wellbeing of the seafarers. After three days, he was able to board the Nave Andromeda.

Living up to The Mission’s values, John provided post-trauma support to the often-overlooked keyworkers of the seas – lending an ear as the captain recalled the attempted hijacking experience.

Having been deprived of human contact as well as the opportunity to contact their families as a result of the ongoing pandemic, our chaplain spent some much-needed time with the crew and providing free SIM cards which gave them the opportunity to get in touch with their loved ones.

Recalling the unexpected event, Revd John Attenborough said: “During the month of October the team and I visited 70 ships. At the end of the month, the Nave Andromeda came into sight of the South Coast. Once the ship was eventually escorted into the Port of Southampton, I knew I had to see them, despite the vessel being designated as a restricted area.

“Eventually after three days of trying I managed to board the ship, where I spent some time with both the captain and the crew where I was able to help them come to terms with what had happened as well as offer other essential services.

“Following completion of the visit, the Captain told me that he was so pleased to see and thanked me, and the mission for bringing humanity back on board his ship – lots of frowns were turned upside-down.”

After contacting their families, and providing wellbeing support, the vessel left Southampton safely, grateful for the support from our local chaplains.

It is with these services, such as a listening ear, access to WIFI and SIM cards, that seafarers can feel connected to loved ones and protect their mental wellbeing after traumatic experiences such as these. Being isolated onboard a ship for a long period of time is difficult but also experiencing an attempted hijacking is something that will remain with these seafarers for the rest of their lives. Providing support is essential and we are extremely pleased to have provided support and care to the Nave Andromeda during this difficult experience.

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