Sea Farers

Medway and Thames Ports Chaplain
         The Rev Ray Trudgett
A former Royal Marine, the Rev Ray Trudgett has been working as Port Chaplain for the Mission to Seafarers for 17 years.

Ray works with a team of chaplains from different faiths. He said, “We minister to seafarers whatever their faith or nationality. Most ships have crews of 20 – 25 people from all different places. So you could have 7 or 8 different nationalities aboard of all different faiths.”

There are 300 ports around the world where seafaring chaplains are working. Up to 50 ships a day come into the Thames and the Medway carrying anything from cars to clothes. Ray said, “Seafarers see us as someone to trust because we are known around the world.”

Seafarers can be away from their families for up to 10 months at a time and he said, “They can be amongst people during the day but when they close their cabin door they're alone. So communication is the most important thing. We give them sim cards for their mobiles so they can phone home from the ships.”

When ships come in they can be in port from 4 – 20 hours depending on the tide, but Ray said it is important to get them off the ship if possible. The Mission to Seafarers has centres where seafarers can watch satellite television, catch up with news in their own language, use the internet, sit quietly or relax.

Sometimes the seafarers want to visit places when they port. Ray said, “Most seafarers love Argos, if you go onto a ship there is always an Argos catalogue. So I take them to Argos for electric drills or a hairdryers but sometimes they want weight lifting equipment and we wonder how we will manage to get all this onto the ship!” He added, ”I had a lovely Russian seafarer who had a hamster on board and wanted some bedding for it. So I took him to Asda to get some and this man was delighted. Just little things are important but we don’t know what we are going to be asked next!”

A number of people in parishes support the seafarers by knitting woolly hats, scarves and gloves. Ray said, “We have 1.2 million seafarers and they’re going through time changes and climate changes on each trip. A hat today may not be much use but next week when they’re going to South America, crossing the equator and into winter there they’ll be putting their hats on.”

Ray said when the seafarers port they often want to talk about anything that is not related to their work so it could be sport, family, home or the economy. At times, seafarers can be away from home when a relative dies and are unable to get back for the funeral. Ray offers them prayers and can take a funeral service for them to mark the passing. 

Difficult situations that Ray has seen over the years have included ships sinking, rescues, lost crews, death on board ships, illness, injuries and piracy. He said, “There’s probably 800 seafarers affected by piracy and there’s 30 ships impounded at the moment. It is traumatising for them.”

The Mission to Seafarers supports seafarers with medical care, and assistance if a ship becomes stranded, alongside pastoral care. Ray said, “Seafarers usually have a religious belief in some form. They believe in God or a god and very often ask me to say prayers on board and pray for their relatives. I sometimes do communions on ships and quite regularly bless new ships. There is still superstition that someone should bless a ship and then you will be safe.”

If you would like to know more about the Mission to Seafarers please visit


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