Seaports Magazine - Spring 2015 - (Page 29)

» GUEST VIEWPOINT 'Welcome to Our Port' By Jason Zuidema North American Maritime Ministry Association B eing a merchant seafarer is still a difficult and dangerous job. Though standards and technology in the maritime world have improved markedly in the last generation, the life onboard a modern ship continues to swing between periods of interminable monotony and intense pressure. With quicker ship turnaround times and increased paperwork, many crews find the time in port to be where the demands are most concentrated. The few hours they do have to get ashore are precious. To respond to the welfare needs of seafarers, there are more than 50 seafarers' centers in the ports across the United States and Canada that provide transportation, communication services and, especially, a friendly welcome. Most of these seafarers' centers are faith-based non-profits, many with noble histories stretching back into the 19th century. Financial support and the armies of volunteers it takes to get the work done come from the port-related groups, but also many churches and individuals who want to say "thanks" to visiting seafarers for the work they do. Whether foreign or domestic and without regard to language, religion or culture, these seafarers' centers seek to be a home away from home for visiting mariners. Each day starts for seafarers' centers by checking out the ship list for the port and planning ship visits. If we get a call from a crew or know it is a convenient time to board a ship, a member of the seafarers' center staff will head over to the ship in the seafarers' center van, pass through security, and climb up the gangway to welcome the crew and provide information on services. The gangway watchman then leads us to the duty officer who confirms times when we can pick-up and drop off the crew - typically one group in the afternoon and Merry Christmas - 12,000 presents distributed to seafarers at the Port of Houston Authority last year. another in the evening. Before taking a group out, we might stop in the crew mess room for a bit conversation, especially with crew members who might welcome a chat with someone who has local knowledge or the time to hear about their family joys and concerns back home. The trip off the ship usually includes a ride to a shopping center and then on to the seamen's club where there is free highspeed Wi-Fi and a friendly staff. Crews might have a cold drink, play a game of pool or ping-pong or visit the chapel, and they often spend time chatting with their families on Skype and catching up with friends far and wide on Facebook. The outing ends with the seafarers' center van bringing the crew back to their ships - each seafarer often carrying bags with electronic gadgets or a few snacks to brighten the long weeks at sea in front of them. Like shipping, the welfare of seafarers doesn't take a break - some of the busiest days are those on which others in the port are on holiday. The best is Christmas time. Not only do we offer the regular services, but all seafarers' centers pass out Christmas presents to each visiting seafarer. As most seafarers come from countries with warmer climates, these gifts typically are warm hats, scarves or socks, but also chocolate or a personal Christmas card. This past year, more than 71,000 gifts were given across North America. At the end of a long day, staff and volunteers in the seafarers' center are often tired but thankful that they could be among those who said, "Welcome to our port." ● Dr. Jason Zuidema is the Executive Director of the North American Maritime Ministry Association. Founded in 1932, NAMMA (www.namma.org) exists to encourage, provide training, and coordinate seafarers' welfare organizations in North America. SPRING 2015 * WWW.AAPASEAPORTS.COM 29 http://www.namma.org http://WWW.AAPASEAPORTS.COM

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Seaports Magazine - Spring 2015

AAPA Headquarters
From the President’s Desk
Building a Strong Brand
Laying a Foundation for Success
How Tenants and the Freight Community Bring a Brand to Life
The Value of Awards for Ports
Ensuring Cost-Efficient Transportation to Global Markets
‘Welcome to Our Port’
Port of Port Arthur’s Camp Sea Port Sails into the Future
Advocating Seaports Issues Before Policymakers
Index of Advertisers

Seaports Magazine - Spring 2015

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