The Mission to Seafarers (MTS) is a missionary society of the Anglican Church. Our organisation cares for the spiritual and practical welfare of seafarers from all races and creeds and their families. The MTS operates through a network of chaplains, honorary chaplains, lay staff and helpers who show God’s love to seafarers in more than 230 ports around the world.

We are a volunteer organisation and  we provide welcome and friendship. We offer help of whatever kind is required: it may be visiting a seafarer left in a foreign hospital, assisting the survivors of a disaster at sea, comforting the distressed or bereaved, providing support for families or helping cases of injustice or hardship. The Mission also provides opportunities for Christian seafarers to join in worship as well as distributing Bibles and Christian literature in different languages.

The Flying Angel Seafarers Mission is a place where seafarers can relax away from their ships. The facilities offered may vary but most centres have a chapel, telephones and computers to assist seafarers to keep in touch with their families as well as a small shop selling toiletries, souvenirs, food and drinks as well as leisure facilities.

Founded in 1856, the Mission adopted, as its symbol, a flying angel inspired by a verse from the Book of Revelation (14:60)

“Then I saw a flying angel in mid-heaven, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those on earth, to every nation and tribe, language and people”

 With this verse as our guide, we here at the Port of Newcastle, attempt to create a friendly environment for our local and international visitors. Our volunteers provide a vital network of carers for all seafarers from around the world.

In Newcastle we have a very special relationship with Stella Maris, the Roman Catholic equivalent to the Mission to Seafarers. Stella Maris, The Apostleship of the Sea, is an agency of the Catholic Church. It is also sometimes known as Stella Maris (star of the sea), and its patron is the Virgin Mary as Our Lady, Star of the Sea.

Founded in Glasgow, Scotland in the early 20th century, it provides pastoral care to seafarers through chaplaincies in ports in all continents of the world. It was a founder member of the International Christian Maritime Association in 1969. It is the task of the Apostleship of the Sea to offer pastoral care to all those who live from seafaring and fishing, their dependents and communities. Pastoral care means practical help to those in need; welcome and hospitality to those on the move; solidarity and support for the marginalised; and spiritual nourishment to all People of the Sea. The Apostleship of the Sea offers pastoral care to all People of the Sea regardless of race, culture, nationality or religion.

Both organisations, The Apostleship of the Sea and The Mission to Seafarers, have a proud history in providing comfort to seafarers around the world.

 The Mission to Seafarers – a brief history

The Mission to Seafarers (formerly, The Missions to Seamen) is an international Anglican mission serving mariners and sailors in over 230 ports around the world.

Its formal creation was in 1856 through the Church of England although the Mission had its roots in the earlier work of an Anglican priest, John Ashley who in 1835 was on the shore at Clevedon with his child who asked him how the people on a nearby island, Flat Holm, could go to church. For the next three months Ashley voluntarily ministered to the population of the island. From there he recognised the needs of the seafarers on the four hundred sailing vessels in the Bristol Channel and created the Bristol Channel Mission. He raised funds and in 1839 a specially designed mission cutter was built with a main cabin which could be converted into a chapel for 100 people. The organisation adopted a flying angel as its symbol in 1858.

The name change to Mission to Seafarers occurred in 2000. The Patron is Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom. The Secretary General is the Revd Tom Heffer. The organisation’s offices are in London. The new name means that The Mission has become in name what it had always been in reality — a society which cares for all who earn their living at sea, regardless of their gender, nationality or rank.




Early Days

1768 Captain James Cook begins exploration of the Pacific Ocean
1833 Slavery abolished throughout the British empire
1835 1835 John AshleyJohn Ashley, a young Anglican clergyman, who was to become the Mission’s founder, is holidaying at Clevedon near Bristol. The story goes that as he walks along the cliffs with his daughter, the little girl asks how the islanders of Steep Holm and Flat Holm are able to go to church.
1837 1837 Bristol ChannelAshley founds the Bristol Channel Mission. In the following 15 years he visits over 14,000 ships at sea and sells more than 5,000 Bibles and prayer books to British seamen.A mission chaplain holds a service on the deck of a ship
1838 Regular Atlantic Steamship Service begins
1843 1843 IsambardFirst propeller driven ship launched (Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s SS Great Britain).
1851 The Great Exhibition promotes the best of British Technology.
1855 Bristol Channel Missions to Seaman formed.
1856 The Missions to Seamen founded – foundation meeting.

Worldwide Growth

1857 1857 Mission FlagWork started on the Mersey, Humber and Tyne rivers, with the appointment of chaplains.The Mission’s flag flies for the first time.
1858 By 1858 the society was represented by 14 stations (ports) manned by seven chaplains, seven honorary chaplains and six scripture readers. Readers were also sent to Nova Scotia and then to Madras and Singapore, the first links in Asia.
1859 Work commences on the Suez Canal

Pioneering Days

1863 A seafarer on board a ship at Antwerp spoke gratefully of a visit to the Seamen’s Institute at Sydney, and said what a good time he and his shipmates had had there.”I have been in a good many Missions all over the world”, he said, “but never in any of them have I had so hearty a welcome as from The Mission to Seamen. Whenever I see the Flying Angel I know that I am at home.”
1869 Suez Canal opens to shipping
1874 – 1891 The Revd Robert Boyer contributes strongly to the eradication of the practice known as crimping (shanghaiing, to shanghai or conscript men as sailors – Reference: Wikipedia).
1891 Invention of the periscope, making submarine navigation possible.
1899 – 1902 The Boer War.
1900 – 1910 – The change from sail to steam did not herald improvement in conditions in which seamen lived. It is believed that one seafarer in every 250 died simply because he was a seaman, eating inadequate food and living in appalling accommodation.
1903 Early 1900s – The shift from sail to steam dramatically changed the way that The Missions to Seamen operated; chaplains no longer need to visit ships at anchor by launch as ships came alongside as soon as they arrived in port.
1911 – 1914 National Sailors’ and Firemen’s Union of Great Britain and Ireland helped increase pay from a mere £3.50 a month to an average of £5.50 a month.
1912 Titanic sinks with the loss of over 1,500 lives.

Changing Times

1914 – 1918  WWI: With the outbreak of the First World War some smaller stations were closed down and 15 chaplains were called for naval service. However, with encouragement from the Royal Naval Authorities, 27 new stations opened in Britain, and 24 new stations overseas, helped meet war-time emergencies.
1917 The Russian Revolution begins
1918 Following the First World War, The Missions to Seaman came under immense pressure and helped out many unemployed seamen who had lost their jobs in the economic depression.
1924 RNLI’s 100th anniversary: 59,975 lives saved, fleet of 221 lifeboats around UK and Ireland.
1939 – 1945 WWII: Mission’s involvement begins on the first day of the Second World War.
1940 Winston Churchill becomes Prime Minister.
1945 Following the Second World War the society, in response to the end of the war and to changes in shipping, began the reorganisation of its network of centres, closing some stations and re-establishing others.
1950 Sea-Land corporation set up by Malcolm Mc Lean – containerisation of shipping, meaning larger ships with smaller crews.
1956 Centenary of The Missions to Seamen – the Mission now has centres in 81 ports.
1956 The Suez Crisis
1960s – 1970s 1960 HalifaxShipping trends change which means that The Mission must change in order to meet the new needs of seafarers.At the shop in Halifax, Canada, Seafarers can quickly stock up on essentials
1969 The umbrella organisation, the International Christian Maritime Association, is established to stimulate co-operation between different denominations working to provide welfare facilities for seafarers.
1969 Neil Armstrong is the first man to walk on the moon.
1980 1980 – 1988 Iran – Iraq warMission chaplains in ports in the Persian Gulf help seafarers caught up in the Iran – Iraq hostilities.
1982 The Falklands conflict
1985 Mission appointed its first chaplain to develop the society’s work in the area of justice.
1991 The Gulf War
1998 Consultative Forum formed to enable meetings of representatives from different parts of the word to discuss seafarers’ changing needs and the future development of the worldwide society.
2000 2000 full time chaplainsThe Mission to Seamen becomes The Mission To SeafarersThe Princess Royal, the Mission’s president, looks at the new flag at the rededication service

Present and Future Challenges

2000 2000 Princess RoyalThe Mission has full-time chaplains and/or centres in more than 100 ports around the world, and is represented in some 200 others by honorary chaplains.