On Tuesday, May 17, the Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI) christened its International Seafarers’ Center in Port Newark, NJ. New Jersey Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno and the Deputy Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Bill Baroni, along with the Bishop of Newark, the Right Reverend Mark M. Beckwith, spoke at the dedication ceremony, which marked the official reopening of the Center, originally constructed in the 1960s and recently renovated. SCI’s event hosted more than 200 people alongside working seafarers continuing their daily use of the building’s services.
Guests took tours of the refurbished Center, taking in the new surroundings housing SCI’s programs, including the Center for Seafarer’s Rights, the world’s only full-time, free legal aid program for merchant mariners, and the Institute’s volunteer knitting program, Christmas at Sea, which distributes handknit items to mariners donated by volunteers across the United States.
Amid the day’s events, SCI set aside time for a formal rededication service, which included a blessing similar to that for a new vessel. SCI leaders, including SCI Board of Trustees Chairman David S. French, and others spoke during the short ceremony, each noting the importance of the men and women behind maritime commerce.
Although SCI opened the doors of the Center and a portion of the building for use by the port community in November 2010, SCI awaited the completion of the final stages of construction before hosting an official grand reopening ceremony this month. The renovated Center contains an Internet café, telephone carrels, recreation lounge, chapel, business services, and a Health and Wellness Center—all vital services for maritime transportation industry workers. SCI runs the only facility of this kind in Port Newark, the largest port on the East Coast.