Sailors’ Society’s regional superintendent for India, Pastor Joseph Chacko, died alongside his wife, Leena, and Meru Kaku, a driver at the Deendayal Seafarers’ Centre in a traffic collision on 21 February in Gandhihidham.
Joseph Chacko was born on 18 January 1964. He was educated at Mount Carmel School, Gandhidham, before going onto achieve a diploma in civil engineering at Tolani Foundation Gandhidham Polytechnic in 1983.
In 1987 Joseph became a junior engineer at Kandla (now known as Deendayal) Port Trust.
He and Leena married in the May of that year, having first met as children in 1970.
The pair were blessed with daughters Neha and Noreen and grandchildren.
Joseph’s deep faith led him to become an ordained Pastor in June 1994.
His passion for improving maritime well-being saw Joseph become the administrator for Kandla Seafarers’ Welfare Association in May 2009.
But it was his role at Sailors’ Society the enabled Joseph to combine his love of God and the improvement of seafarers’ plight.
He became the charity’s regional superintendent for India in April 2015 and had a huge influence on the Society’s expansion in the country.
A trailblazer in seafarer welfare, he saw opportunities for improving in port welfare. He was instrumental in the foundation of the Deendayal Seafarers’ Centre in 2012.
The centre was Joseph’s great passion, which he described as “a heaven for seafarers”.
Joseph recently said: “70 per cent of seafarers are unable to get shore passes. When we have a centre inside the port they can just come, use the facilities and go back with a relaxed mind.”
He added that seafarers are very happy when chaplains approach them.
“They are away from their families for six to nine months on contracts, so they desperately look for someone to pour their heart out to,” he said.
He was responsible for setting up ear and eye testing within the Deendayal centre, which has helped hundreds of seafarers by identifying medical issues before they became potentially career threatening.
In 2016, he was nominated for the International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network’s (ISWAN) Dr Dierk Lindemann Welfare Personality of the Year, for his outstanding contribution to seafarers’ welfare.
Leena was a constant supporter of his work.
She had recently gone into remission from cancer and had been inspiring others affected by the disease by taking part in well-publicised cancer survivor catwalks.
There has been an outpouring of grief online from not only seafarers around the world, but also industry figures touched by Joseph’s dedication to seafarer welfare.
Stuart Rivers, Sailors’ Society’s CEO, said: “Joseph was a true friend to seafarers and a champion of improving their health and well-being.
“He worked tirelessly to better seafarers’ welfare not just in India but beyond and we are committed to continuing this.
“He and Leena, who was a great support to her husband in his welfare work, are a great loss to the Society and the wider maritime community and our thoughts and prayers are with their family.”
Joseph was known for his inspirational Facebook updates, and one of his last statuses was reassuring in its message of hope, “God is always near in spite of our fears.”