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Standby vessels

To explore and understand the meaning of the name ‘Emmanuel’.

by Janice Ross

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To explore and understand the meaning of the name ‘Emmanuel’.

Preparation and materials


  1. Talk to the children about North Sea oil exploration and extraction. Explain that oil can be found deep under the sea bed. Oil platforms, or rigs, are built, towed out and erected over these oil-rich areas, in order to pump the oil up to the surface. Workers are taken out to the rigs by helicopter to work on them. As well as drillers and engineers there are cooks, fire-fighters, doctors, cleaners and office staff. Show any pictures of oil platforms.
  2. Discuss the difficulties of working in such an environment. Talk about winter gales and the danger of explosions.
  3. Ever since the start of North Sea oil extraction, rigs have needed the support of safety standby vessels. These are called Emergency Response Rescue Vessels or ERRVs. A standby vessel sits alongside the oil platform, it patrols the area around the platform, is always ready to pick up anyone who falls in the water, and to react in the event of any emergencies on the rig, and carries fast rescue craft.
  4. Show pictures of standby vessels if you have them. Tell briefly the story of the West Gamma rescue mission.

    The West Gamma oil rig was being towed into a new position. There was a storm and the rig began to drift towards the German coast. As night fell, the conditions became terrible, with huge crashing waves, and the workers needed to be rescued from the rig. But the rig was pitching and rolling in the waves, so no helicopter could land or get near enough to winch people off. Fortunately two Danish standby and rescue ships, the Omega and the Protector, were sent from nearby rigs to help. In a desperate rescue operation, the workers on the damaged rig tied themselves together in groups of five or six and jumped into the heaving sea. A rescue helicopter's searchlight meant that they could be seen and picked up by fast rescue craft belonging to the standby vessels.
  5. Most of us might never go on an oil rig or even on a boat on a very rough sea. We might never need a standby vessel. But sometimes there can be very stormy times in our lives – difficult or dangerous times when we would really appreciate someone watching over us.
  6. Christians believe that’s what the Christmas story is all about. The story tells us that God knows we need someone to stand by us all the time, so he sent Jesus. Jesus was given another name, or title: Emmanuel, which means ‘God with us’. Now we are beginning a new year. We do not know all the challenges this new year will bring, but let us remember the message of Christmas: that God is with us – Emmanuel.

Time for reflection


There are many people and services we can go to for help when we are in trouble.

There are many people who are trained to listen and to help us with our problems.

Who helps me with my problems?



We thank you, God, that you want to be right beside us.

Thank you that, just like the standby vessel, you are always on hand to help and protect us.



‘Waves are beating’ (Come and Praise, 84)

Publication date: January 2008   (Vol.10 No.1)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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