Ship re-fitted for international charity

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(With pic)A RIVER pilot from Howden carried out a mercy mission last Friday when he delivered an ex-Royal Navy tender to Gibraltar where it is to undergo a re-fit as a medical ship for an international charity.

John Butler (39), who works for Associated British Ports as a Humber pilot, navigated the ship - which is to be used by the Vine Trust - from Goole to Gibraltar over eight-and-a-half days.

ABP have supported the humanitarian initiative which will see Gibdock - the dry docks in Gibraltar - refit the “Dunster” over the winter months before it returns to the UK kitted out as a medical ship and up to the stresses of an Atlantic voyage. It will then be re-commissioned and sent to operate in the developing world, reaching the most marginalized communities who have no access to any health care because of their remoteness.

John, who used his holidays for the trip, plus a few days extra that ABP gifted, said the voyage had been blessed with good weather, apart from a heavy Atlantic swell around the Bay of Biscay.

“We had to steer the Dunster by hand the whole 1,500 miles - there were no remote controls. It took eight-and-a-half days to get there by boat and just two-and-a-half hours back by air!” said John.

The Vine Trust relies heavily on volunteers from all walks of life and already operates two medical ships along the upper reaches of the Amazon, in Peru. UK based clinicians support Peruvian staff throughout the year taking two weeks of annual leave to dispense primary health care and occasional specialist operating services to the indigenous tribes who live days, sometimes weeks, away by canoe from any medical support. In addition, the medical teams identify those in need of secondary care, such as cataract surgery and hernia repair and either arrange for this work to be carried out onboard ship or at one of the District hospitals in Iquitos.

The trust is carrying research before determining the final destination of its newest medical facility.