13 February 2003

Last-minute hitch leaving Malta

Now on the last leg of their voyage to Israel, the crew mercy boat M V Barbara had a last-minute scare before leaving the port of Valetta in Malta.
The Danish cargo vessel has been chartered by the Dove and Dolphin mission to carry much needed food, clothing, medical supplies and raw materials to needy people in Gaza.
A week into their journey, they stopped at Malta to take on supplies, make contact with friends and family and catch up on paperwork.
John Maughan, from Boscastle, is one of the Dove and Dolphin team.
He explained:
“The ship had a surprise inspection by port authorities in Valetta.
“This can be very serious and small defects in paperwork can mean you are tied up in port for several days.”
The inspection gave the boat and its cargo the all clear and they set off on schedule.
But it was an anxious time.
John added:
“David was presented with more hoops to jump through.
“Once inspected the boat cannot be re-inspected for six months. All now seems to be in order. One less thing to worry about at Ashdod (Israeli port).”
The mission is led by David Halpin, of Haytor in Devon.
His aim is to raise awareness of suffering – particularly of children – in areas of conflict.
He has no involvement with government, religious or charitable organisations.
This, he says, is “a citizen to citizen” mission which will put their cargo directly into the hands of those of who need it most.
David and his wife Sue have invested up to £95,000 of their own money in the mission, although donations have now topped £20,000.
They hope more similar missions will follow in their wake.
The Dove and Dolphin expedition was organised at breakneck speed and back at home Sue has been busy fielding questions over paperwork.
She has had to forward certificates from food manufacturers and in Malta; a bill of lading had to be obtained before the ship could set off to complete its last 1,026 miles.
The Barbara has been through both rough and calm seas, been accompanied by Dolphins and been in and out of telephone contact.
The crew and mercy team have had plenty to occupy themselves but now, says David Halpin, the real nature of their journey and their task is foremost in everyone’s mind.
People, he says, can be forgiven for imagining potential problems in what is a tense area in tense times.
He says:
“I keep reminding the group that what we are doing is unexceptional; i.e., taking much needed food and clothing to the poorest children with the complete co-operation of citizens in Gaza.”