Chaplains’ Seafarer Advocacy Workshop at ISC

Feb 17, 2011

by Douglas B. Stevenson, Director, Center for Seafarers’ Rights

On February 15, I led a workshop on seafarers’ advocacy in the newly renovated seminar room at the Seamen’s Church Institute’s (SCI) International Seafarers Center (ISC) in Port Newark. Chaplains from New York seafarers’ ministries participated in the workshop, including Ruth Setaro, Bill Rex, Sigrid Jaegersen, and Clint Padgitt from Seafarers’ & International House; newly arrived pastors at the Swedish Seamen’s Church Mona Svensson and Stellan Ponnert; and chaplains working on behalf of SCI, including Tom Piccate, Marge Lindstrom, James Kollin, Joyce Parry Moore, Jacques Girard, and SCI’s President & Executive Director, the Rev. David M. Rider. The collective decades of port ministry experience of the workshop participants contributed greatly to everyone’s learning.

Port chaplains work in a very complicated legal environment. They encounter strict port security requirements to go through high-security terminal areas to visit seafarers from many different countries working on ships that often are registered in other countries. Port chaplains have a unique insight on seafarers’ lives and work. No one knows more about seafarers’ lives and work (other than seafarers themselves) than port chaplains. Seafarers trust chaplains and often seek their assistance. They share with them their joys and pains, aspirations and failures. Seafarers share with chaplains personal thoughts and feelings—things they might not share with anybody else.

SCI designed the advocacy workshop to give chaplains tools to respond to seafarers’ requests for help. At the February workshop, chaplains learned basic principles of maritime law that govern and protect seafarers. Participants practiced interviewing skills, learning to identify legal issues and subsequently how to find resources to address seafarers’ advocacy needs.

For almost 20 years, SCI’s Center for Seafarers’ Rights has trained hundreds of port chaplains in seafarers’ rights advocacy through workshops held in ports around the world. By way of this training, port chaplains have become effective advocates for the seafarers they serve. If you are interested in hosting a seafarers’ rights workshop in your port, please contact the Center for Seafarers’ Rights at