Category Archives: Ministry

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.


Old enough to be “heritage”…

The years of service delivered by seafarers’ missions is often forgotten or underestimated. It is gratifying when port communities understand the significance of centres for seafarers. 

When The (Australia) National Trust recently hosted a conference on the future of Melbourne’s maritime heritage, it was acknowledged that the domed roof of the Mission to Seafarers is iconic to Melbourne’s port.  It is an unmissable beacon to seafarers and landlubbers alike.  Docklands News reported:

Maritime heritage links the North Wharf and South Wharf areas.  The Shed 5 and Mission to Seafarers on the North Wharf have together served in history and today present unique opportunities to restore the balance back towards preservation of maritime history.  The iconic dome structure of the mission building is a notable landmark for seafarers and many visitors daily. The dome and Shed 5 are earmarked for restoration and will become even more noticeable.

“But “, Docklands News asks, ” what if the mission building was not there?”  The building, it says, will be preserved as part of the City of Melbourne’s heritage.

“…The vision for Melbourne’s Docklands was developed as a result of an extensive consultation program conducted by VicUrban (now  Places Victoria) and the City of Melbourne. The vision recognised and builds on Docklands’ unique qualities and positions it to play a vital part in maintaining and enhancing Melbourne’s role as a global city.”

We who work from these buildings know that the structures themselves, though significant part of the local architecture, are merely the spaces from where the love of God is made apparent in acts of hospitality and the pursuit of justice for all people of the sea. It is for our fellowship and faith that we are remembered and valued by seafarers.


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.  

Chaplains: common sense, not therapy

Chaplains’ responses to seafarers affected by piracy requires common sense, not therapy.  Pastors should be professional in fulfilling their limited but crucial role, and establish themselves as a vital resource.  

The ICMA Regional Conference in Odessa was addressed by the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme.  Toon van de Sande delivered a paper to raise awareness of the Programme’s work and its ideals for ICMA’s continued partnership.

Toon van de Sande (pictured with Alexander (left), the MPHRP representative in the Ukraine) was previously a chaplain of the ICMA member Stichting Pastoraat Werkers Overzee, emphasised the need for training in appropriate responses to seafarers affected by piracy.  The Programme valued highly ICMA’s participation in the industry-wide alliance to care for seafarers and maritime families affected by piracy.  ICMA was a founding partner of the MPHRP. The need for a continuum of care, a concept devised by psychologist Dr. Marion Gibson, is central to understanding responsiveness to the humanitarian needs of seafarers in crisis. The role of chaplains can best be described as humanitarian first aid.  Welfare response is common sense, not therapy. Chaplains are chaplains, not lawyers, inspectors, mental health professionals, or anything but chaplains.  Our work has limitations, but has immense value. Chaplains should limit themselves to their role, and be the best they can be in delivering that role.  Evidence suggests that the role of chaplains may reduce the eventuality of complications after traumatic events. Van de Sande explained his experience of working with the industry as chaplain to the Dutch dredging industry,  responding to crises in dredging companies.  The conference deduced that the chaplains should aspire to be included in first- and emergency responder teams. The problem is that the industry is not sufficiently aware of what chaplains can contribute.  First emergency and welfare response should be demonstrated and be delivered with professionalism.  The ideal is that pastors will be recognised for their crucial role and professionalism in delivering support. A standard of professional conduct for pastors was suggested to the MPHRP by a workshop of chaplains held in Durban in 2012.

ICMA continues to support all initiatives to counter piracy and to support seafarers and their families who are affected by piracy.

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.

Lighthouses and -keepers

The sea is dangerous.  It is a hazardous place both to live and work.  Unsinkable ships have sunk, unspeakable trials and tribulations inflicted. The terror and the tragedy, the hope and the heroism borne by the sea upon the people whose lives depend on it, are legendary.

No surprise then that the maritime world has provided us with much symbolism that reflect our hankering for safety and stability in a world that stubbornly refuses to remain where we left it when we went to bed last night.  Anchors, maps, a compass, a ship’s wheel, buoys, ships, fish and flags, seamen’s knots… All of these have gained prominence and symbolic applications beyond the maritime world.


Oh, and lighthouses too, of course.  Some of these symbols reflect a romantic fascination with things maritime, others have regained contemporary and no less deadly applications – black flags with scull and crossbones – and some run the risk of becoming redundant altogether.


Lighthouses are in the latter category.   All but redundant now, replaced by hi-tech navigational instruments, lighthouses are abandoned and falling into disrepair.  But let’s not forget the symbolism achieved by lighthouses in their heyday.

  • Sources of light piercing darkness and fog, lighthouses warned of the proximity of land.  For lighthouses are almost always land-based structures.
  • Light cleverly manipulated to enable the calculation of one’s place in vast empty space.
  • Instruments therefore, for plotting direction, of safe passage and assured arrival at an intended destination.

I can also imagine that lighthouses were, besides mere beacons, a reminder that someone out there is looking out for us – we are not alone. That not so far from here, a community of landlubbers await our arrival and attempt to secure our safety and help us along.  Lighthouses once connected seafarers with land-based care.


Of course lighthouses have become redundant with good reason:  they have been replaced by far more reliable precision instruments of navigation.  Their demise should not be lamented when technology has surpassed their application and has vastly improved seafarers’ lives.


But there is something about lighthouses, isn’t there…?  The simple awareness that out there somewhere is someone, and not just something, that knows of us and cares enough to keep the fire burning and the rotation going.


People cannot be replaced.  Caring people are of greater value than all the artificial intelligence generated by state of the art technologies.  It is the humanness of us that reacts lovingly to people in distress and prompts interventions of care.  One cannot do without love.


Seafarers’ centres,  even though they’ve been around for almost as long as lighthouses,  never gained iconic status.  There is no template, no single image depicting seafarers’ centres that is generally recognised as a facility for the wellbeing of seafarers.  In fact, centres are off the public’s radar altogether.  We who work in them and from them may also run the risk of underestimating their value, and underrate our role.  Money, or the lack of it, and the belittling of welfare have led to shrunken and often unmanned facilities.  And don’t get me wrong, they’re better than nothing.  But you can’t do entirely without people.


Well, we might argue, the facilities that exist, whether peopled or not, are themselves evidence of human intervention and should suffice.  Much like automated lighthouses.


I maintain it’s the people in ports, there only for the sake of seafarers, that make the difference.  ICMA’s workforce are out there right now meeting face to face real people on, or from,  ships.  Our facebook theme changes today to pay homage to lighthouses. But symbolically only: really our appreciation is for the people who shine light on seafarers’ lives. I pray that the metaphor of lighthouses and their sweeping beams of light will reinforce understanding of our role in the lives of seafarers.


The light itself is more intangible than its “house”.  But the light is not less real.  In fact, it’s the lighthouses are for passing, the enlightenment remains. God bless all you lighthouse keepers.


This poignant quote was taken from the Christian Seaman’s Organisation’s bi-annual newsletter.

“We are family. The man refers to me as ‘brother’. I only know him for a few minutes, but he calls me ‘brother’. He even introduces me to the other men as his ‘brother’. It is as if he can read my thoughts and he explains . . .

Brother, we are at sea nine months at a time. No family. When I come to a harbour, the only family who comes to greet me and take care of me are my family from the missions in the different harbours. So while at sea, you are my family . . . you are my brother, Brother’.”

That last laugh… and a simple act of kindness

Port chaplain Reverend Danie Taljard from Port Elizabeth recounts a touching tale of a seafarers’ longing for his family, and the little act of kindness that helped to relieve his mood.  Danie works for ICMA member the Christian Seaman’s Organisation (CSO). 

Danie Taljard, third from left, and seafarers

At the earthen quay everything is covered in a thick black dust. Spend only a morning here, and you blend in with the environment. That black dust gets in everywhere – it has a way of getting into your heart. There is nothing of beauty here. The depressive industrial scene darkens your mood.

Noel is from the Philippines and he talks to Danie in the ship’s dining room. It is Noel who relates the black quay to how he feels. His contract started only recently, but he already knows that nine months from home is a lifetime alone.  When saying goodbye, he, his wife and his children were in tears, but he chooses not to remember that.  It is the memory of that last laugh that gets him through the lonely months until he sees them again: the last time they shared a happy moment and laughed together. 

Noel must go, his shift starts in a few minutes. ‘Here is something small for you, ’ Danie says, giving Noel a colourful knitted beanie and a scarf. It is not enough to say that Noel is overwhelmed. The small gift leaves him emotional and he wears it immediately. He assures Danie that this gesture gave colour to his day and is of immense value to him. Noel reads the letter that came with the woolly hat and scarf, written by the lady in Somerset East who knitted them.  Suddenly, the black quay of Port Elizabeth does not seem quite as dark and and dreary . . .

A 71-year old lady who knitted the scarf and beanie, like many of the CSO’s donors, regularly knits for seafarers who visit Port Elizabeth. She probably does not know it, but her colourful beanie and scarf made that  bleak quay a better place that day. It gave colour to that quay, and lifted a man’s spirit.