Peter Donald, a port chaplain for international maritime charity Sailors’ Society, notched up a milestone recently when he visited the merchant vessel Pacific Leader in Montrose.
It took Peter’s total number of ship visits up to 6,000.
Peter has been a familiar face in the ports of Dundee, Montrose and Perth since he joined Sailors’ Society in 2005 as a port chaplain, visiting seafarers on board the ships to offer practical, emotional and spiritual support. His role combines a number of his passions.
Peter said: “I felt that becoming a port chaplain for Sailors’ Society was my destiny, as it took me back to my roots and combines my love of God, the sea and people.
"The Pacific Leader’s crew came from many nationalities, which epitomises the work we are doing."
Peter has always had an affinity with the sea. He attended Leith Nautical College before going to sea and then spent most of his working life as an auctioneer in the fishing industry in Newhaven and Arbroath.
To the world’s 1.6 million seafarers, who can spend up to nine months away from home, Peter represents a friendly face in a faraway port.
Having travelled enough gangplank miles to climb Ben Nevis 26 times, Peter isn’t entertaining any thoughts of slowing down anytime soon.
“The ships coming into the ports might have changed, but the needs of the people on them haven’t.
“Seafarers still face isolation and loneliness and the need for chaplaincy support is as present today as it was when I made my first visits.”
Although Peter has supported thousands of people, he doesn’t always hear about how the seafarers have fared.
That wasn’t the case in 2013 when Peter helped a Filipino seafarer traumatised by the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan.
Peter explained: “His house had been flattened but he had to leave his family to make ends meet and provide for them.”
Sensing how upset the man was, Peter contacted his colleagues on the other side of the world, who were able to support. Sailors’ Society gave the family an emergency welfare grant and arranged for their house to be rebuilt.
“It took a great weight off his shoulders when I told him my colleagues in the Philippines were supporting his family to get back on their feet. It meant the world to him.
“We care for people and are able to help and this was one of the occasions where I knew there was a happy ending.”
During his 12 years with Sailors’ Society, Peter has visited more than 100,000 seafarers and was integral in setting up the Montrose Seafarers’ Centre.
He has received a great deal of local support, for which he is grateful.
“Whether it has been knitting a woolly hat for a seafarer or through prayer or practical support, the local community has been terrific,” he said.
If you would like to find out more about Peter’s work, you can get in touch by emailing [email protected].