Seaports Magazine - Spring 2015 - (Page 29)
» GUEST VIEWPOINT
'Welcome to Our Port'
By Jason Zuidema
North American Maritime Ministry Association
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
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
SPRING 2015 * WWW.AAPASEAPORTS.COM
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Seaports Magazine - Spring 2015
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