In search of excellence in seafarers' centres

The General Secretary of ICMA, Rev Hennie la Grange, invites the managers of seafarers’ centres to participate in a joint initiative with the ITF Seafarers’ Trust

Tuticorin, India
Tuticorin, India

For many years the seafarers’ welfare sector concentrated on providing facilities to meet the needs of seafarers. Seafarers’ centres were safe havens of hospitality, conveniently providing both services and care in one place. They were designed to be ‘homes from home’ for itinerant seafarers. The International Christian Maritime Association is proud to have been associated with this commitment to excellence in care-giving.

ICMA acknowledges that the seafarers’ welfare sector is an evolving environment.  One of the challenges to the sector is the growing reluctance of traditional funders to invest in new centres.  At the same time, it is increasingly difficult to maintain existing centres and sustain services. The bottom line is this: seafarers’ centres are expensive. Recently several centres have closed or are at risk.

Professor Erol Kahveci, of the Working Lives Institute  at London Metropolitan University, is currently conducting a survey among workers in the seafarers’ welfare sector. From the preliminary results, two interesting points emerge. On the one hand, those who work in seafarers’ centres would prefer to be relieved of the effort of maintaining them in order to focus on pastoral care. On the other hand, those who do not have access to a seafarers’ centre wish that they did.

I believe that this illustrates our shared need for a physical meeting place within our ports. A seafarers’ centre links welfare workers to reputable organisations and structures. It gives us credibility among seafarers, port authorities, the maritime industry and the local community. At the same time, the survey findings indicate our frustration at the struggle to maintain our centres.

Cotonou, Benin
Cotonou, Benin

There are two possibilities. We can close down centres as they become financial liabilities. However this means losing huge investments of money and hard work. It also means losing the advantages of having a seafarers’ centre in port. Alternatively, we can seek new ways to run our centres efficiently and sustainably.

ICMA has joined forces with the ITF Seafarers’ Trust in order to help seafarers’ centres. ICMA will compile a document of best practice for successful seafarers’ centres. Then we will publish a guide to sustaining seafarers’ centres. We hope that these documents will help to keep vital services in successful seafarers’ centres which are within easy reach of seafarers.

Managers of seafarers’ centres are to contribute to the study of best practice. Please download and complete the questionnaire below. The deadline for returning completed questionnaires to the ICMA Secretariat is 5 August 2009.

Finally, we would like to thank all those who work in seafarers’ centres for their unfailing support for seafarers. And thank you in advance for helping us to make seafarers’ centres even better.

Download seafarers’ centres questionnaire (PDF 50KB)