Christmas Miracle Between The Years
Rev. Andreas Latz, Singapore
When the German shipping company Hapag Lloyd’s 368-metre-long container ship Al Jasrah was hit by a Houthi rebel missile in the Red Sea before Christmas on 15 December 2023, I was quickly asked by both the German Seamen’s Mission in Hamburg and Hapag Lloyd to look after the crew in the port of Singapore.
After Christmas, the Al Jasrah finally arrived in Pasir Panjang, Singapore’s largest container harbor. Many emails were sent to the captain beforehand. A children’s service group from the Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer had written cards for the seafarers and prepared small Christmas presents.
The watchman greeted me by name, I was expected. A long conversation with the captain in the crew mess followed. Actually, it was relatively certain that a ship with the Arabic name Al Jasrah (meaning “the bridge”) would not be fired upon.
But on the bright day of 15 December, a rocket hit the cargo on the port side of the ship, setting containers on fire and the shock wave caused two containers to go overboard. The Polish captain is incredibly proud of his crew; everyone reacted extremely professionally in the situation and immediately worked through all the emergency protocols that had been prepared.
This allowed the fire caused by the rocket to be quickly extinguished in several containers. As the structure of the ship’s hull was not damaged, the ship’s command decided to resume the voyage at the maximum possible speed of 17 knots.
They passed the much smaller MSC Palatium III, which was engulfed in flames after being hit by three missiles, but was already close to receiving the necessary assistance from American naval boats.
It was probably only after a day had passed and they had reached safer waters that the expected shock set in for the crew members. Only now did they realize that they had escaped with their lives or a potential hostage-taking and piracy. The captain shared with me his great concern that he was probably obliged to sail through the Red Sea again on the way back, as the world’s largest container shipping company, Maersk, had just decided to resume using this dangerous route and Hapag-Lloyd had joined in.
I learnt that even if a ship is damaged or sinks in the Red Sea and the ship’s insurance is unlikely to pay out in such a case, it is still cheaper for the shipping companies to lose a ship than to take the long route via the Cape of Good Hope. We both just shook our heads at the brutality of the business. In the subsequent conversations with the Filipino crew, this existential fear was intensely expressed.
Back home, I thanked the captain warmly by e-mail for the opportunity of this three-hour visit and expressed the wish that, if he could, he would take the return journey to Europe via the Cape of Good Hope. Only minutes later, I received an e-mail from the CEO of Hapag Lloyd saying that he could guarantee that all Hapag Lloyd ships would NOT be taking the route through the Red Sea for the time being. I was very relieved.
当艾尔·贾斯拉号（Al Jasrah），一艘长达368米的集装箱船只，于今年圣诞节前12月15日，在红海遭到胡塞叛军的导弹袭击后，德国汉堡海员事工和该国赫伯羅特（Hapag Lloyd）船运公司即于第一时间邀請我到新加坡海港探访船上船员。
在接到传呼后，我在休息室与船长进行了深入的长谈。根据一般情况，一艘拥有阿拉伯名称（“艾尔·贾斯拉”意为“桥梁”）的船只通常不太可能成为该区域武装袭击的对象。但在12月15日，这个天气明朗的日子里，一枚火箭却突然击中了船只左侧的货物，导致集装箱起火，强烈的冲击波使得两个集装箱坠入海中。这位波兰船长对他的船员感到极为自豪；面对这突如其来的危机，每位船员都展现了高度的专业素养，迅速并有序地执行了预先设计的所有紧急应对措施。这使得由火箭引起的火势能够在几个集装箱中迅速得到控制。鉴于船体结构完好无损，船舶指挥部便决定以最高速度——17节，继续航行。他们经过了舰型较小、且已经遭受三枚导弹击中后受火焰吞噬的MSC 帕拉蒂姆三号 （Palatium III）。所幸的是，该船已接近获得美国军舰的必要援助。
The 368m Al Jasrah at Pasir Panjang on 28 Dec 2023
Officer Mess of Al Jasrah
Christmas gifts from LCOR