SCI Goes West, Adds New Operations in CA

Jul 3, 2009

The Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI) now has a base of operations on both sides of the American seaboard. As of July 1, 2009, SCI’s Executive Committee assumes management of the International Maritime Center in the San Francisco Bay Area of California. Last year, the Bay Area Seafarers’ Services (BASS) approached SCI about adding a West Coast resource to the services SCI provides to the world’s mariners.

As the largest and most comprehensive (with its Center for Maritime Education and internationally recognized Center for Seafarers’ Rights) mariners’ service organization, SCI connects face-to-face with nearly 85,000 mariners each year. Founded in 1834, SCI’s 175 years of service to the maritime community has adapted to the changes in global shipping and grown to meet the increasing needs of its workforce. This growth has included annexing its headquarters in New York with an International Seafarers’ Center in Port Newark, which opened in 1961 and is currently undergoing a massive, multi-million-dollar renovation. It also included the establishment of a pastoral care program in 1998, Ministry on the River, to America’s inland waterways community.

Although a network of volunteers from 50 states financially and materially support the Institute, SCI’s physical presence has heretofore not branched past the middle of the United States. The International Maritime Center in Oakland, CA stretches across the continent and adds a seventh base of operations for the Institute, adding to four Port of New York area centers, and two Centers for Maritime Education in Paducah, KY and Houston, TX.

The Bay Area International Maritime Center, like SCI’s existing International Seafarers’ Center in Port Newark, provides services to mariners during their stay in the Port. Mariners can use the Center to access the Internet and phone home using low cost phone cards; speak to new friends, including chaplains; relax, play sports, and have some refreshments; and even pick up a few souvenirs from their journey. The Center also serves as a station from which chaplains visit seafarers onboard vessels.

“Our ministry expands to meet the needs of mariners,” says the Rev. David M. Rider, President and Executive Director of SCI. “We do our best to look after them and their needs, and answering the call, ‘Go West!’ is an important step in reaching out to mariners in other locations around the United States.” Rider says that SCI’s expansion meets not only the needs of the mariners visiting the Bay Area Port but also the International Maritime Center, which sought to strengthen its efforts and infrastructure.

The Executive Committee of SCI’s Board of Trustees will manage the International Maritime Center as it is integrated into the framework of the Institute during this transitional year. Two new SCI employees will operate from the Center, serving all of the commercial ports in the Bay Area—a Senior Chaplain and a Community Relations Coordinator. Each brings knowledge and experience of the Port and the International Maritime Center. SCI will also foster the Center’s ecumenical spirit, entering into a covenant partnership with other denominations’ existing ministries to seafarers operating out of the International Maritime Center.

The Bay Area Port community celebrates a new chapter of the International Maritime Center on Thursday, September 24, 2009, with a special gathering. This reception presents an opportunity for Port employees, maritime industry companies, churches, and friends to witness renewed vigor for the Center, which continues its established tradition of being a “home away from home” for international seafarers. On the theme of homes, Rider says, “We are eager to host a housewarming in September for SCI’s new home—another place where SCI welcomes the hardworking men and women of the maritime community.” To receive an invitation or to learn more about the Bay Area Center, contact Jennifer Koenig, Director of Special Events and Donor Relations, at (212) 349-9090 or email jkoenig@seamenschurch.org