BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. - Port Everglades staff and port users discussed the Port’s relationship with seafarers, most of whom are from outside the United States, and their needs at the annual conference of the North American Maritime Ministry Association (NAMMA) held in Fort Lauderdale, FL, August 5-8, 2013. Hosted by the Seafarers’ House at Port Everglades, this conference brought together members of maritime ministries throughout the United States and focused on this year’s theme of "Safety of Souls at Sea."
“A busy day at Port Everglades might have eight cruise ships, five cargo ships, three oil tankers, and two cement liners. These ships sail around the world with their crew members leaving their families for months at a time. The Seafarers’ House ensures the seafarers’ well-being while in port,” said Glenn Wiltshire, Deputy Port Director of Port Everglades.
According to Seafarers’ House officials, most ship workers or crew members come from countries where unemployment is high. They work long hours for low wages and leave their families behind for up to a year at a time to support them. Besides being so far from home, seafarers are nearly invisible to the societies that they serve. This sometimes leaves them vulnerable to exploitation. Ministries located at seaports provide worship and pastoral counseling, among other services, to these seafaring crew members.
Panel Facilitator Wiltshire guided the Port Relations panel participants Denise Johnston, Director of Resolve Marine’s Maritime Academy; Betty Ann Rogacki, Vice President of International Warehouse Services (IWS); and Peg Buchan, Assistant Port Director at Port Everglades.
Johnston said that the Seafarers’ House at Port Everglades, “often see perils and provide the spiritual and support services necessary to mitigate stresses, especially when these workers are away from their families.”
“We should take care of those who take care of us,” added Buchan. “When you look out in the huge industrial complex that is a port, it is cold and this place is their home away from home, it humanizes a port.”
“They are also first responders providing pastoral care and grief counseling, not just to mariners but also for companies at the Port,” Rogacki said.
Wiltshire said that in the seven years he’s been at Port Everglades, he has observed a number of incidents on shore where the critical incident stress team of the Seafarers’ House responded promptly to provide services. “There are 11,700 people and over 300 businesses tied to Port Everglades, and the staff of Seafarers House is always available to provide services, whether to the seafarers or port workers.”
“Any seafarers’ ministry needs to stay engaged and visible in a community,” Johnston said. “The people on these ships at the lower rungs of the ladder feel the pain more of what is right and wrong and the personal relationships the ministries build with the port’s users gives them access and insight into situations.”
As one of South Florida’s leading economic powerhouses, Port Everglades is the gateway for international trade and cruise vacations. Already one of the busiest cruise ports in the world, Port Everglades is also Florida’s leading container port and South Florida’s main seaport for receiving petroleum products including gasoline, jet fuel and alternative fuels. The Port Everglades Department is a self-supporting Enterprise Fund of Broward County government with operating revenues of approximately $143 million in Fiscal Year 2012 (October 1, 2011 through September 30, 2012). It does not rely on local tax dollars for operations. The total value of economic activity at Port Everglades is approximately $26 billion. More than 201,000 Florida jobs are impacted by the Port, including almost 11,700 people who work for companies that provide direct services to Port Everglades. For more information on Port Everglades, which is governed by the Broward County Board of County Commissioners, go to porteverglades.net or e-mail PortEverglades@broward.org.
NAMMA, the North American Maritime Ministry Association, is an ecumenical, Christian association of individuals and organizations involved in maritime ministry throughout North America, including the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. Founded in 1932 as the National Group of Seamen’s Agencies, it was renamed NAMMA in 1991. Its mission is to provide a framework to support and assist port chaplains and others in their ministry to the spiritual, moral, human rights, and physical concerns of mariners and others in the maritime community. NAMMA's members include 41 major maritime ministry agencies and approximately 150 member chaplains.
Seafarers’ House at Port Everglades is non-profit organization and hospitality center that generally provides worship and pastoral counseling supportive to a seafarer's own faith and assistance with family separation, repatriation, recovery of back wages, improvement of working and living conditions and securing medical care. Supported by the faith-based community as well as by labor, business and civic leaders with a mission “to offer refuge, resources, renewal and respect to the maritime community through multi-faith service” the organization is open throughout the year as a safe, friendly place where mariners can connect with their families, relax, or get emergency assistance if needed. With the help of its supporters and volunteers, Seafarers' House offers many services including low cost international phone calls, free transportation, Internet access, counseling services, liaison with authorities as well as recreational facilities. Seafarers’ House was recently honored as the 2012 Seafarers’ Center of the Year by the International Committee on Seafarers’ Welfare – the first American agency to receive this international honor. Seafarers’ House annually hosts more than 150,000 visits by cruise and cargo ship crewmembers and is the busiest such agency in the world. For additional information, visit www.seafarershouse.org.
DATE: August 19, 2013
MEDIA CONTACTS: Maisy Alpert