Category Archives: Ecumenical working

Deutsche Seemannsmission shines at Kirchentag 2013

“Five days of sunny summer weather, ships, vessels, harbour sounds and more than 120,000 visitors made the annual meeting of German Protestant Christians, the so-called Kirchentag, an unforgettable experience. ” 

Viola Heutger, Volunteer from the Deutsche Seemannsmission’s station in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, sent this report on  impressions of the events at this year’s Kirchentag (Church Day).

Heutger wrote:

The staff of the German Seafarer’s Mission was involved in various activities of the Kirchentag in Hamburg from 1 – 5 May 2013. Conferences about piracy and “fair transport” and an exhibition of Cargonauts took place. Information stands about the seafarer’s mission and its work invited visitors to discuss the daily life and the working conditions of seafarers.

Two events stood out. Particularly memorable was the seafarers’ night service of worship in the old fish auction hall. In the entertaining three-hour worship we learned a lot about the working conditions on a ship. Reverend Sakari Lehmuskallio of the Finnish Seamen’s Church built bridges between the individual visitors and his preaching helped to put together a real worship community. At the Holy Communion the congregation shared fish, made from German “Brezenteig”. Finally, like sailors from the Philippines, the almost 900 visitors of the Seafarer’s Night sung along “I am sailing”. The atmosphere was marvelous.

Another highlight was a boat trip around the harbor to the Sailors’ Club Duckdalben close to the container terminal. A warm welcome with freshly grilled sausages awaited the travelers by sea.

Every evening the Seamen’s Mission Altona invited guests for barbecues. It was the perfect place to meet and greet new and old friends.

See also the film of the Seafarer’s club Duckdalben:  CLICK HERE.


Regional Conference commits to priorities for ministry

The final report from the ICMA Regional Conference held in Odessa concludes with a set of statements by the delegates that underline the region’s commitment to caring for the welfare of seafarers.

The outgoing Regional Coordinator, AOS Deacon Ricardo Rodriguez Martos from Barcelona, Spain, wrote that the region was committed to pursue the following goals and priorities in delivering care to seafarers and families in the Black Sea, Mediterranean and Middle East Region of the international Christian Maritime Association.

  1. Port Welfare Committees: PWC’s are very important for achieving more efficient assistance to seafarers. The region’s chaplains would promote such committees in each port.
  2. Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme: In cases of emergency or of piracy, port authorities, ship owners and the ship’s agents should be aware of the important role that port chaplains can play in welfare response and first emergency response.
  3. ICMA Code of Conduct: To enhance ecumenical working, chaplains, volunteers and welfare workers from ICMA’s members should follow the ICMA Code of Conduct.
  4. Networking:  Being connected to one another benefits seafarers and should be an ongoing goal of all ICMA members’ personnel and centres.
  5. Cruise ship ministry:  Given that access to cruise ships is not easily gained, a short and simple directory of ports and welfare providers in the region would be produced and distributed among crews and crew coordinators on these ships.
  6. MLC 2006: ICMA centres should promote the ratification of MLC 2006 in those countries where it is not yet incorporated in national legislation,  and are urged to  collaborate in its implementation in all ports of the region.
  7. Ship visiting: Given the fast turnaround and workload while in port, many seafarers have no time to go ashore. Therefore, ICMA personnel should prioritise ship visiting
  8. Onboard welfare:  Chaplains could facilitate groups on board that care for the welfare of fellow crew members.  These groups could form informal welfare committees or prayer groups.
  9. Seafarers Rights:  Chaplains are encouraged to engage advocacy for seafarers rights

This ICMA Regional Conference was made possible by a grant received from the ITF Seafarers Trust.  ICMA thanks the Trust for its generous support.

CLICK HERE for the full report from the Regional Conference





 The Mission of ICMA

Membership of ICMA carries an obligation to abide by the Constitution of the Association and of this Code of Conduct.

The seafarers of the world remind us of the ultimate purpose of all God’s plans:” And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24,14 NIV). In a fragmented and divided society, it is ICMA ’s mission to promote unity, peace and tolerance. ICMA was founded for promoting and co-ordinating Christian ecumenical co-operation in maritime ministry.

Chaplains and staff of all ICMA Member Societies at local, national and international level are therefore to:

  1. Show an unconditional love to the seafarer as a human being, created in the image of God, and a sincere respect for her/his personal values and beliefs;
  2. Serve seafarers and their dependants of all nationalities, religions, cultures, language, sex or race;
  3. Fight prejudice, intolerance and injustice of any kind;
  4. Respect the diversity of ICMA Members and Churches and to develop that which unites them;
  5. Respect the loyalty of those engaged in maritime ministry to their particular ecclesiastical discipline and tradition and refrain from proselytising seafarers;
  6. Co-operate with persons, organisations and institutions, Christian or non-Christian, which work for the welfare of seafarers.


CLICK HERE for a printable version of the ICMA Code of Conduct

CLICK HERE for the French version of the ICMA Code of Conduct


Stuart Rivers takes office at Sailors Society

The Sailors’ Society’s new Chief Executive Officer has assumed the role at the Society’s Southampton office in the United Kingdom on April 1st 2013.  Stuart R Rivers succeeds Robert N Adams in the role.

In a letter announcing his appointment, the Sailors’ Society wrote that Rivers has extensive experience in the international mobile communications sector, having been Strategic, and later Global, Business Director of Ericsson.

In 2002 Rivers left the communications industry and entered into full time Christian ministry for the Salvation Army.  He has since worked for BP, was Executiive Director of Enterprise at the Bible Society, has worked with the International Social Justice Commission and has contributed to Theos, the ecumenical public advocacy “think tank”.

Rivers holds post-graduate diplomas in Theology and in Marketing.

Ross Sinclair, Chair of the trustees of Sailors’ Society, said:


“Stuart posseses a most unusual blend of skills and business experience spanning commercial management, technology and charity fundraising fused with a deep practical understanding of ministry, social justice and pastoral welfare.”


The International Christian Maritime Association congratulates Stuart Rivers upon assuming the role of Chief Executive Officer at this valued founder member of our Association.  ICMA looks forward to continuing its close collaboration with the Sailors’ Society and its Chief Executive Officer who has in the recent past also assumed the role of ICMA’s Treasurer.

Initially, up to and including ICMA’s Annual Genreral Meeting in Bucharest later this year, Robert Adams will continue to represent the Sailors Society on ICMA’s Executive Committee.  Robert has a crucial role in ICMA’s strategic review and has elected to assist the Association to conclude the process before he retires from ICMA.  Sailors Society’s commitment to ICMA is highly appreciated by the membership.

NAMMA announces appointment of new Executive Director

The North American Maritime Ministry Association, a founder member of the International Christian Maritime Association, has announced the appointment of its new Executive Director. Dr. Jason Zuidema from Canada will assume the role in July 2013.

Announcing the appointment, NAMMA Notes said:

NAMMA’s Board of Directors in January selected Jason Zuidema as the next Executive Director. He will be the first full time ED in over a decade as NAMMA begins the next phase of growth in serving seafarers and the maritime ministries in North America

Born in English-Canada, Jason Zuidema lives in French-speaking Quebec where he and his family attend a French-language Reformed Church.  Educated in English and French Canada, the United States and Europe, Jason earned a Ph.D. in religious studies from McGill University, focusing on ecumenical theology.  He has written a number of books and articles about diverse Christian traditions, especially when in minority settings.  Following his studies, Jason held successive ecclesiastical and academic appointments that built his public speaking, fund-raising, and organizational experience.  Bracketing these years of academic and administrative service, Jason served as chaplain with the Ministry to Seafarers in the Port of Montreal, Canada.  He gave the keynote address at the 2005 NAMMA annual conference.  Jason lives with his wife Anna and his three children in Montreal, Quebec.

The move to establishing a full time position of leadership came after many years of effort to focus and clarify the role and value of NAMMA within the maritime community. The Board of Directors established a second strategic plan that highlighted the need for full time leadership in an association of agencies and chaplains already stretched thin in resources. The hiring of Jason comes after receiving a grant from ITF Seafarers’ Trust that provides a foundation on which to build a solid future for NAMMA. Beyond traditional tasks of the Ed, the role also established targets for funding and a venture into serving some of the maritime missions who need support in strengthening their local funding capacity. The goals focus on equipping the more than 50 maritime ministries so they can be more effective in serving seafarers on a local and world-wide scale.

Dr. Jason Zuidema said in anticipation of his new role at NAMMA:

“The port ministries that are represented in NAMMA have a strong track-record of providing real care to seafarers bodies, souls, and spirits. As Executive Director of NAMMA, I hope to be a real encouragement for their continued work.”

“Though our markets are tied closer together by the increasing speed and efficiency of global maritime traffic, the seafarers don’t necessarily have the same benefit. If we are pulled together, they are orphaned from family, friends and the culture that they know. As Executive Director I hope to keep the focus of NAMMA on serving these ‘orphans of globalization’”

“Though we represent diverse Christian traditions, we come together as an association of ministries. It is my hope that while respecting the diversity within NAMMA, we can lend strengths and share weaknesses. Around the NAMMA table, we all have something to learn.”

ICMA welcomes Dr. Jason Zuidema to our ecumenical family. NAMMA is a valued member of our Association, represented on ICMA’s Executive Committee.  ICMA’s members look forward to collaborating with NAMMA’s new Executive Director and the our North America partners in Christ who share our ministry to merchant seafarers, fishers and maritime families.  

A new team leads ICMA Region

Father Oleksandr Smerechynskyy, Apostleship of the Sea chaplain in Odessa, was elected as the new Regional Coordinator for the ICMA Black Sea, Mediterranean and Middle East Region. 

Father Oleksandr Smerechynskyy and Hennie la Grange

The Region met in Odessa, Ukraine.  Oleksandr is based in Odessa and operates from a small seafarers’ centre just outside the port gates.  He shares his centre and works as a close team with colleague Rostyslav Inzhestoykov of the Mission to Seafarers.  Together these two dedicated port chaplains did a magnificent job in staging a hugely successful regional conference.  The organisation was flawless and every request for assistance was met with a smile.  The outspoken aim was that everyone should have a relaxed conference, and that aim certainly achieved.  The accommodation was first class, the meals were scrumptious, especially the traditional Ukrainian cafe-style banquet and the closing gala buffet.  The conference highlighted the wonderful hospitality of the Ukrainian people.  The speakers were clearly specialists in their field, and the chaplains eagerly participated in discussions.  The organising team deserve our gratitude and congratulations on a job very well done.

What struck me was the committed dedication and unfailing enthusiasm of the region’s chaplains.  Almost all these chaplains face very difficult odds, yet their determination to succeed in their chosen ministries to seafarers was a credit to their faith.  They love passionately what they do, caring for both seafarers and the maritime families who live locally.  They are driven by faith that leads them to care unconditionally for all seafarers.

This regional conference was an inspiration.  I commend these men and women to seafarers.

With the election of  Father Oleksandr, Ricardo Rodriguez-Martos of Barcelona, a stalwart of the region’s ecumenical work, bows out as regional coordinator.  It is fair to say that Ricardo has set the bar high for all our regional coordinators.  Ricardo has done exceptional work for this Association. He has maintained close contact with all the chaplains in his region, and has come out in support of chaplaincy and ecumenical working as the core of ICMA’s existence.  His region’s contact details are up to date, and he kept every port chaplain abreast of ICMA’s communications, adding to the Secretariat’s letters to chaplains a regular regional bulletin.  The International Christian Maritime Association thanks Ricardo, one of the characters of this ministry, for his services to our Association.

In closing the conference, we prayed together for God’s blessing of the care to seafarers given by these men and women of the Black Sea, Mediterranean and Middle East Region.  May these ICMA personnel be especially blessed, their vocational commitment strengthened and their relationships cemented in faith, that they may overcome the many obstacles that they face.

Twinning… or dating for seafarers’ centres!

The twinning of seafarers’s centres, a project currently run by the newly established ISWAN, was initially intended by ICSW to connect ex-Soviet Union centres with centres elsewhere in the world.  Set up to improve understanding of the the mindset of Slavonic seafarers, and to inspire hospitality to foreign seafarers in Eastern European ports, the Twinning programme has proven so successful, that it has been expanded to include the rest of the world.

Seafarers’ centre staff are supported to enable reciprocal visits.  Spending time at other centres that have similar needs and demographics, and that face challenges akin to those at home, allows for centres to learn from one another.    Centres are matched on various criteria.  The evaluation of the twinning scheme has been universally positive.  In some cases twinning of seafarers’ centres have gone way beyond the original aims of the programme, resulting in ongoing relations being established between the host ports and even the host cities.

Tatyana Tarasysk, manager of one of the two seafarers’ centres in Odessa, Ukraine, leads the project. Tatyana Tarasysk promoted the programme in a presentation at the ICMA Black Sea, Mediterranean and Middle East Regional Conference held in Odessa.  The aim of the programme, she said, was to improve seafarers’ welfare. “To feel encouraged when you see others struggling with the same problems.”

Tatyana related several stories and comments from centres that have participated. She urged ICMA centres to consider participating in the Twinning scheme.

Guidelines on who could participate and how to get involved are available on the website of ISWAN, the International Seafarers Welfare and Assistance Network.

Christian unity is the face of ICMA


“Evangelisation in seafarers’ ministries is closely related to all our faith communities’ witness to Christian unity.  Christian unity, expressed as ecumenism, is the face and identity of ICMA”. 

Father Bruno Ciceri, representative of Apostleship of the Sea / Stella Maris in the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerant People and member of the ICMA Executive Committee, addressed the Odessa Regional Conference of ICMA.  He spoke of New Evangelisation and Ecumenism.

Established in 1969, ICMA grew from new hope for demonstrations of Christian unity after Vaticanum II.  ICMA heralded the end of much enmity and conflict among denominations involved in ministries to seafarers.  At that time,  IMO and the International Labour Office and the industry in general were keen to cooperate with Christian partners and to hear the voice of the church, if Christians can speak with one voice.  For both the church and the industry, ICMA has lived up to these expectations.  It has bridged the schisms between the faith traditions and has been actively involved in IMO and ILO, having made significant contributions to conventions like MLC2006.

ICMA fostered solidarity and unity at a time when its individual members operated in competition with one another for the custom of seafarers. ICMA facilitates sharing of resources, establishment of ecumenical centres and inspires respect for the theological traditions in Christian faith.

Sakari Lehmuskallio, at the time Chair of ICMA, once said at an AOS World Congress in Brazil that ICMA members should “interact in friendship”, highlighting the personal relations that encourage ecumenical working.

While we strive to speak with a single  Christian voice, it is required that we also act accordingly for the benefit seafarers, fishers and families.  In reality, complete unity in our witness to Christ is not yet complete.  Often the problem lies not with ICMA members’ managements, but at port level.  Personal differences between local chaplains and volunteers sometimes complicate relations.  Not enough people know and follow ICMA’s agreed Code of Conduct. Father Ciceri urged chaplains to meditate on the Code of Conduct.  We should be inspired by it, have it framed in every centre, but most of all installed in our hearts, Father Ciceri said.    We are tempted to proselytise (to make seafarers members of our own denomination).  Let us be directed by the spirit of ICMA’s Code of Conduct.

We should serve all seafarers without discrimination.  We should fight prejudice, intolerance and injustice of any kind.   Let us respect diversity, and develop what unite us rather than emphasise too often what divides us.

We should get to know one another personally.  Good personal relations help.  Try to develop an understanding of the doctrines of other churches.  Often we judge one another with no regard to another’s loyalty and faithfulness to the own church and tradition. Let’s make an effort to know more. Learn to be honest and to discuss problems with one another rather than to harbour suspicions.  Address small problems in good time to prevent them from getting out of hand.

May the Holy Spirit guide us in reconciliation and help us to be sign of hope and consolation.

Our beginings are borne from the need to preserve the faith of seafarers. Be bridge builders.  Embrace one another. Connect people.  Connect seafarers to churches and to support services. Ask: What do seafarers encounter in us?  Do they find in us a faith that is relevant for them and affects their life?   If seafarers were to ask: Why do you do this for me?, we have achieved our goal.   There is no reasonable answer to this question other than faith and our relationship with God and his people.  We do not get personal benefit.  We build bridges from the church to the seafarer. We bring toe gospel to their troubled life, we bring the gospel to their celebrations, and we bring the gospel to the industry.

Our common action speaks louder than words.  Let s be messengers of one new humanity in Christ.

ICMA strategic review continues

River Liffey, Dublin. Source: College Tribune

The International Christian Maritime Association continues its strategic review.  The Executive Committee meets in Dublin on 15th and 16th January to discuss the report on the Members Consultation held last year in Rome.

Crucial to the discussions continues to be the strengthening of the Association.  The Members’ Consultation has identified what the Association should be doing to meet the needs of its members.  The delivery of these services to its members hinges on ICMA’s ability to afford them.

The Executive Committee has invited members to comment on the report of the Rome review and to make proposals for the implementation of ideas and principles agreed at the Consultation.  The Executive meeting in Dublin will attempt to devise practiicable strategies within the Association’s limited means.

The Apostleship of the Sea in Dublin is hosting the meeting of the ICMA Executive Committee.  The ExCom is grateful to Rose Kearney who has assisted in making local arrangements.

The management of the ICMA UK and Ireland Region is set to meet at the same venue in Dublin on January 17th.  The ExCom has been invited to attend the region’s meeting.


Directory a lifeline to seafarers

ICMA member the Apostleship of the Sea / Stella Maris has launched its first printed directory of port chaplains around the world. This directory contains contact details of the Stella Maris network.

In a statement released in London, AoS spokesperson John Green said:

The directory contains the phone numbers and e-mail addresses of the Catholic maritime agency’s chaplains in 259 ports.  We have chaplains in most of the world’s ports, from Durban to Dubai and from Costa Rica to Colombo.  We believe providing details of all our chaplains will be a valuable resource for both seafarers and many others working in the shipping industry.

The AoS directory will be useful to the International Christian Maritime Association.  ICMA has a comprehensive online directory which reflects details of all our members’ operations.  The new AoS directory will, in time, be added to the ICMA online directory.

Over Christmas the ICMA online directory (available by clicking on the icon in this article and at the top of this page) has been updated extensively.  The update process is continuing.   ICMA’s directory makes every attempt at providing convenient access to all of our members’ stations, centres and chaplains at a single location in an up to date database.  ICMA’s directory is the only one that provides contact details of all our members’ seafarers’ centres and of our chaplains in ports where no seafarers centres exist.

Port chaplains, seafarers centres and other ICMA personnel and establishments are urged to check their own details in the ICMA database and to regularly inform the Secretariat of changes as they occur.

The value of the ICMA directory was demonstrated recently when SeafarerHelp searched for assistance to be given to seafarers in crisis as far afield as Chile, the Falkland Islands and Ukraine.

AoS’s John Green stated at the release of the new AoS directory:

Our chaplains are a lifeline for many seafarers when they arrive in a port. Seafarers know that they can trust and rely on a chaplain.

That lifeline depends on our diligence at keeping our contact details current.

ICMA Regional Conference announced

The ICMA Mediterranean, Black Sea and Middle East Region is to present its regional conference in Odessa from 8th to 11th of April 2013.  The Regional Conference was announced this week by the region’s coordinator, Deacon Ricardo Rodriguez-Martos, from Stella Maris Barcelona. The conference is made possible by a generous grant received from the ITF Seafarers Trust.

In a letter to ICMA chaplains in the Region, Ricardo wrote:

We are calculating costs for the conference.   We will inform you very shortly of the costs and the program planned for the event.  Some topics are already included for presentations to be made by specialists:

  • Cruise Ships ministry,
  • Ecumenical working and networking within ICMA,
  • Chaplains’ responses to the effects of piracy on seafarers, to be presented by the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme
  • MLC 2006, to be presented by Douglas B. Stevenson from the Center for Seafarers Rights, SCI New York and New Jersey
  • The welfare agenda of the ITF and its Seafarers’ Trust

However, given that this is a regional conference and that it is very important to take into account the concerns of the region I am asking you now for suggestions.  Please send me, not later than January 16th, your proposals for topics that you would like the conference to address.  Even if you don’t know if you will be able to attend the conference, send your suggestions. As far as possible we will try to find ways for people not able to attend the conference to somehow participate in it.

Only ICMA members from the region need respond to the request.  Ricardo can be reached at