Decommisioning Doulos: Questions & Answers

Doulos in Singapore drydock

What has happened?

While Doulos has been undergoing her annual period of dry dock and maintenance in Singapore, the ship’s classification society (RINA) has been conducting a ‘special survey’ of the ship’s structure, machinery and systems, which takes place every five years. This survey has identified a significant number of additional works to be completed. No extension of time has been given to do this work while the ship continues to operate.

What does this mean?

The additional work would have to start right away, since the surveyors have confirmed that they will not issue new certificates for the ship until this work has been completed. The present certificates run out on Dec 31, 2009.

How much work would have to be done, how long would it take, and how much would it cost?

Quite a number of work projects have been identified, but the primary one is replacing sections of steel on the main deck. An initial quote has been received from the shipyard in Singapore where Doulos has been in dry dock. This, together with other additional costs, would be well over fourteen million dollars. The work would take at least five months and, because of other commitments, this yard could not even start the work until September 2010.

Why can you not do the works needed?

The OM Ships executive leadership team and board believes that it is not appropriate to invest resources of this scale into the ship, since Doulos would have a limited ministry future.

Is this a surprise or did you see this coming?

Yes, this is a surprise. We expected that the ship would be able to sail until at least September 2010, with the hope for longer. Out technical team has been working towards this five-year ‘special survey’ for some time. The ship has passed many such inspections, but work to keep the ship compliant with marine regulations is continual. Additionally, a new set of ‘Safety of Life at Sea’ (SOLAS) regulations applying to all passenger ships with more than 36 passengers is due to come into effect in October 2010. Meeting these new requirements would have meant huge investment in the ship to remove all remaining non-fireproof construction materials.

What events led up to this point?

Earlier this year, we reached agreement with the Malta Maritime Authority that we could add our ‘staff’ to the official ‘crew list’, and change the ship’s ‘class’ to that of a passenger ship with fewer than 36 passengers. This would have allowed the ship to continue to sail beyond October 2010. Our technical personnel then commissioned a comprehensive assessment of the ship’s construction to see what work would be needed to sail the ship beyond that date. This revealed significant work needing to be done in a number of areas, including replacement of steel in sections of the ship’s main deck. The surveys in Singapore have confirmed this, and early indications were that the ship would be able to sail until the end of September 2010, as long as conditions would be met. It is only in the last week that it has become clear what these conditions are.

Does OM Ships have a contingency plan for this?

Work had been going on for many months to identify the issues and establish the options for the ship not being able to sail beyond September 2010. Things have moved very quickly now and we are responding to the reality that the ship will need to be decommissioned much sooner than anyone expected. Initial plans are coming together and these will continue to be developed and implemented over the coming days and weeks.

What are the next steps?

The people on board are our top priority and our personnel team is already responding to manage the issues and help people work out their next steps.

We want to communicate as clearly as possible and provide regular communication updates as new information becomes available.

Our technical team is working with the marine authorities and making plans to decommission the vessel.

We are looking at the possibility of chartering a ship in the interim.

What will happen to Doulos now?

The ship will remain in Singapore, alongside and/or at anchor until the end of December. Meanwhile, a group will investigate possible options for the vessel, including discussion with ship preservation groups, since Doulos is unique and registered in the Guinness Book of Records as ‘the world’s oldest ocean-going passenger ship’.

What will happen to the ship after Dec 31?

Options include changing the vessel class and obtaining a single voyage certificate for a smaller group of essential crew to sail the ship to a port for handover to a new owner.

What about all those on board and how many are they?

There are around 300 people on board at this point, including singles, couples and families. Our Personnel team on board intends to interview every individual on board over the next weeks, and look together with them at the best options for them. We are also appointing pastoral support to deal with the emotional issues that many of them will be facing. At this stage the future options could include a number of different scenarios such as relocating to a chartered vessel as an interim replacement for Doulos, relocating to another OM field, or returning home.

Who should family members and representatives of sending churches be in touch with?

First and foremost with their relative or church member on board directly, but also with the OM office in their country.

What about the future ports on the schedule?

All future ports on the schedule will have to be cancelled. The team responsible for schedule planning and port preparations will be in communication with government authorities and other partners in these ports. Line-up teams already in place will bring their work to a close and leave.

What about friends, family who were planning to visit the ship in one of those ports?

Planned visits to the ship in these ports will no longer be possible and we regret these visits will have to be cancelled. Due to the uncertainty of the ship’s location and whether access for visitors will be possible, we would advise against making plans to travel to the ship in Singapore. Staying on board will not be possible.

Where can I get regular updates and information about next steps?

Detailed information will be available at and we encourage you to visit this special section of the site frequently. Please also contact your local OM office for help and advice.

How can I/we help you financially?

You can give to the Doulos Replacement Ministry fund. Thank you for your generosity and partnership.

Will OM replace Doulos?

The board has expressed their commitment to continuing to operate two ships. Initial work was already under way to consider options for replacing Doulos, believing that the ship would not be able to sail for many more years. The executive leadership team and the board are considering all interim and longer-term options to continue as a two-ship ministry into the future, in close cooperation with our OM partners around the world.

Who should I ask if I have a question?

There are many unanswered questions right now. For parents, crew and staff, home offices, sending churches, partners, supporters etc, we have set up a special email account for questions and to ask for advice.

Where is our faith in all of this?

Although the sudden end of the Doulos ministry has come as a surprise to us, we know that God is in control. We would ask our partners around the world to pray with us as we seek His plan for the future. We are confident of the Lord’s sovereignty and grace at this time.

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