On the night of December 5th there was a three metre surge from the sea into the lock in the port of Immingham. Most of the dock was flooded including the seafarers’ centre which was badly hit. Many of the Christmas gifts being prepared for seafarers were ruined and the centre had to close.
The Apostleship of the Sea vehicle used to bring seafarers’ ashore was also written off. With the seafarers' centre closed, seafarers were unable to use the internet facilities inside the centre to contact home. This was particularly sad because for many seafarers Immingham may well have been their last port of call before Christmas.
The port authority, ABP, provided a team of dock workers to clear the seafarers' centre and the centre staff have gallantly faced this crisis with a mixture of laughter and tears. The dock workers made short shrift of the ripping out procedures; their tools are hammers, crowbars, shovels and wheelbarrows.
AoS' mission goes on: Fr Colum with Christmas presents for seafarers onboard a ship
The seafarers centre was hit by a tidal surge
But when it came to the chapel they seemed to sense that this was a special place and all was done with a sense of dignity. They said "we've been told that all has to go" but wouldn't touch anything without first asking Fr Colum Kelly, the AoS port chaplain.
The one thing Fr Colum insisted stayed behind was a statue of Our Lady in the upper corner of the chapel. Fr Colum told the dock workers that she would stay to oversee the rebuilding. The statue is now the only remaining presence in an otherwise empty shell.
The AoS chaplaincy is now a mobile mission. AoS has provided Fr Colum with additional Mi-Fi units – mobile Wi-Fi – to enable seafarers to use the internet to contact loved ones, despite the closure of the centre. The bus is packed with lap tops, Christmas presents, phone cards and Fr Colum’s mass kit. The seafarers' centre may be closed but the AoS mission continues.