Category Archives: Education

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


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.

Tool to keep fit

“Training on Board”, a new website to help seafarers keep fit was launched by the International Committee for Seafarers Welfare (ICSW) this week.  The website was developed by the Norwegian Maritime Authority and is supported by the ITF Seafarers Trust.

The site provides physical training programmes for seafarers designed by a professional physiotherapist, Mona Woll Haland. The exercises can be done onboard and have been tested with the help of the Norwegian shipping company, Odfjell.

“Training on Board” hopes to inspire a healthy lifestyle among seafarers.  It helps to understand the link between physical training, nutrition, and fatigue.

The website has an online calculator to measure fitness.   It goes on to guide seafarers on how to start a programme of physical training to improve their health and overall well-being.  Seafarers can register on the site and record their workouts and monitor their progress. Seafarers can compete among themselves, and against other crews and companies to see who has done the most training and improved their fitness as a result.

The site addresses the concern that many seafarers are becoming unfit and obese. Torbjørn Husby of the Norwegian Maritime Authority said

“In Norway we are finding that seafarers are losing their health certificates as they have BMI’s of more than 35 and are becoming vulnerable to diabetes and heart conditions because of lack of exercise and poor diet.”

Roger Harris, Executive Director of the ICSW, said that improved fitness sits well with the soon-to-be-implemented ILO Maritime Labour Convention (MLC). He said that the MLC emphasises the importance of health and welfare, and “Training on Board” encourages seafarers and shipping companies to actively participate in the fitness programme and learn about healthy nutrition.


We are connected

“Even if we do not meet in person in the near future, we are connected through the many seafarers, who tell about our ports and seafarers’ mission.”

Kerstin Schefe, DSM Stade

In her contemplation of lessons learnt and friendships forged at the Seafarers Ministry Training held this year in Barcelona, SMT student Kerstin Schefe of the Deutsche Seemannsmission remembers the closing sentiments of the 2012 SMT:  we are connected.  We are one worldwide support group for seafarers with as many ministries as there are Christian churches and as much diversity as there are traditions within our Christian faith.  We are ecumenically connected to one another by shared faith and common commitment to care for all seafarers.

Kerstin Schefe wrote:

With a slightly Irish accent now in my English pronunciation I am sitting in the plane and think about the past two weeks.

I traveled to Barcelona for the Seafarers Ministry Training 2012 – to meet 12 other participants form different missions and ports of the big wide world. And I met “parts
of the world”, learnt from them and received something from them – not only concerning my language skills.

Through topics like Pastoral Care, Concepts of Mission, Cultural Diversity, the work of different seafarers’ missions, Maritime Law, a Port Visit, Inter Religious Dialogue
and a visit to the maritime museum various basic themes of our work were discussed.

There was as well time for personal exchange, helping each other, developing new concepts for the own work and getting to know each other. Apart from good basic knowledge, a new idea for fundraising I took as well “small things” for the daily work with me. It is a good idea when coming on board not only to give the gangway watchman a friendly welcome but to start with a simple “Welcome to Germany”.

And I won’t forget the faces of the other seafarers’ missions with their various ports and the newly developed friendships.

Satisfied I look back and remember positively a statement in the Maritime Museum of Barcelona: “When we end a journey, we are different.”

And now I am sitting in the plane, already to missing the group while I start smiling unconsciously when a statement from our farewell round comes to my mind: “Even if we do not meet in person in the near future, we are connected through the many seafarers, who tell about our ports and seafarers’ mission”

Kerstin Schefe, Deutsche Seemannsmission, Stade, Germany

Africa trains seafarers of the future

With African economies bucking the trend and showing 7% growth, the continent is looking to become a significant resource of seafarers.  The initiative comes at a time of concern in the industry for recruitment and retention.

The South African government has taken the initiative in training seafarers and are recruiting students from Africa for its cadet schools in Durban and Cape Town.  The drive to supply seafarers for merchant fleets is fueled by South Africa’s understanding of its strategic maritime significance and its commitment to tackle unemployment.


Ms Sindisiwe Chikunga with the South African High Commisioner to the United Kingdom, H.E. Dr. Zola Zkweyiya with cadets from the Agulhas 1

Ms Sindisiwe Chikunga,  South Africa’s Deputy Minister of Transport, addressed an audience of shipping and crewing companies, ICMA welfare providers (including Reverends Canon Ken Peters and Hennie la Grange) and ICSW Executive Director, Roger Harris.

The reception was held on board the icebreaker vessel Agulhas 1 moored in The Pool of London.  Agulhas 1, South Africa’s trusted transporter of scientists to Antarctica, has recently been gifted to cadet schools and is reinventing itself as a training facility and trading platform.  It is set to transport the Trans Antarctic Winter Traverse to the southernmost continent.

Crewing the vessel currently is a team of enthusiastic young cadets from South Africa, Ghana and Cote d’ Ivoire.

“…Important is the role our country is playing in leading the development of an integrated African maritime strategy.  …The voyage gives us an opportunity to showcase South Africa’s potential as a seafaring nation,,” said Minister Chikunga.

ICMA is well placed to respond to the recruitment of African seafarers. The Christian Seaman’s Organisation’s Cape Town based port chaplain, Johan Smith, has developed training modules for cadets focused on seafarers’ wellness in collaboration with the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. He is delivering a pilot of the course supported by ITF Seafarers Trust.  The course helps cadets to cope with on board isolation by strengthening their resilience to the challenges of working in dangerous conditions and multicultural environments.  The course teaches coping skills, informs on welfare services available to seafarers and addresses the need for wholeness and spiritual support.

Seafarers’ wellness programme

Johan Smith, port chaplain of ICMA member the Christian Seaman’s Organisation has devised a wellness programme to train seafarers.   He is currently presenting a pilot of the training programme in collaboration with the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in Cape Town.  The training is expected to be eventually rolled out internationally.  

Johan Smith, CSO

Johan Smith conceived, initiated and authored the Wellness Programme. The finished product will be  witness to widespread collaboration within the international seafarers’ welfare sector.  Smith was given leave of absence by his employer, Christian Seaman’s Organisation, to develop the programme having appreciated its value to seafarers’ wellbeing. Most of the content is Smith’s original work,  but several of ICMA’s partners in the welfare sector have contributed,  including the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme (content on piracy awareness, -response and -resilience), the International Committee on Seafarers Welfare (Seafarers Health Information Programme – SHIP – material), SeafarerHelp, the Center for Seafarers Rights and Seafarers Rights International.  The pilot programme has been developed and presented to cadets under the auspices of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, and, it is expected to be accredited by ICMA for wider presentation. The pilot was made possible by a grant received from the ITF Seafarers Trust.

Johan Smith has written in the ICSW News of October 2012, explaining the scope of the Wellness Programme:


So, how are you doing?  …  Fundamentally, this is the question a wellness program asks.  At first glance it is a seemingly simple question, one we answer a hundred times each day.   But if you dwell for a moment and take time to answer, you soon realise that it is way more complex, and justifies more than a simple ‘I’m fine’ answer.  Fact is that each of us is complex, multi-dimensional, holistic and highly unique human beings.

So how about seafarer training?  Does it cater for seafarers who are complex, multi-dimensional, holistic and highly unique human beings … or is it one-dimensional, only focused on the practicality of how to steer a ship from point A to point B?
An old school of thought would argue that developing seafarers is all about developing the practical, technical, occupational aspects of who they are.  Other areas are often viewed as not important, even non-relevant and it would be argued that an individual is responsible for the development of the other areas by him-/herself.  

Continue reading Seafarers’ wellness programme

Register for the 2013 Houston Chaplains School

The Houston International Seafarers Centres and the North American Maritime Ministry Association (NAMMA) have invited registrations for the 2013 Houston Maritime Ministry Training Program.

Houston presents an annual training program for recently appointed port chaplains.  This training program focuses mostly on chaplains in the ports of the North America continent.

The 2013 training is planned for February 13th to March 1st, 2013.

Reverend Dr. Ben H. Stewart coordinates the 2013 school.

See the ICMA Training and Education page for more information and a link to the registration form.



Collaboration on Seafarers Mental Health

Source: Wikimedia Commons

ICMA affiliated organisations the Stella Maris Centre and the Mission to Seafarers Victoria in the Port of Melbourne, Australia, have collaborated with the Rotary Club, the Melbourne Port Welfare Association and beyondblue, a national initiative dealing with depression, to set up a website on the mental health of seafarers.

The website contains background information on mental health and tools for dealing with mental health concerns.

The website states:


Mental illness among seafarers is of growing concern and it is believed that mental health problems may contribute to many other physical health conditions that seafarers experience.   Due to the nature of their work, seafarers are often separated from their families and support networks for long periods of time and may feel very lonely.  The fast turnaround times of modern ships often result in limited time for shore leave.  Seafarers who are severely depressed, thinking of suicide or self harm may not tell their fellow crew members because mental illness is not discussed openly in their cultures.   It is hoped that the information on this website will give Masters information needed to identify crew members at risk and help depressed seafarers on their ships.

The website contains downloadable booklets on the mental health of seafarers in English, Russian and Chinese.   CLICK HERE to download the booklets.


Seafarers Ministry Training 2012 announced

The Chair of ICMA’s Standing Committee on Training and Education (SCET) and coordinator of Seafarers Ministry Training (SMT) Reverend Martina Platte has announced the dates of  this year’s SMT: 28 October to 10 November 2012.

The SMT is an annual educational programme soon to be accredited by ICMA.  It stretches over two weeks.  Its participants can be either lay or ordained.  The SMT is available to persons who minister to merchant seafarers in ports.  Participants should be nominated or their application should be endorsed by an ICMA society. Preferably applicants should be newly assigned professional workers in the seafarers’ ministry.

Students are invited to apply and ICMA’s members are urged to nominate candidates for the training before the end of August 2012.  A limited number of 20 places are available.

The core modules of the training are

  • Pastoral care
  • Advocacy
  • Ecumenism
  • Intercultural communication

For more information, click on the link to the brochure.

ICMA accredits its first training course

ICMA proudly announces the accreditation of its first training course, The Seafarers’ Environmental Education Workshop for Port Chaplains and Ship Visitors.
Originally developed by ICMA member the Seamen’s Church Institute of New York and New Jersey, ICMA’s Standing Committee for Education and Training (SCET) have approved and endorsed the course for presentation to ICMA personnel.  ICMA’s Chairman, Douglas B. Stevenson, speaking on behalf of the SCET and SCI, announced that the course has been tried and tested.  He said it has already been successfully presented in Boston (25 May 2011), Albany, NY (13 June 2011) and Port Newark, NJ (14 June 2011).

ICMA is moving towards setting standards of professionalism in training for port chaplaincy. To uphold its quality of care ICMA designs training courses for its personnel that are innovative, fit for purpose and comprehensive in scope. The accreditation of this course marks the  first of a comprehensive package of training instruments which ICMA intends to collect and endorse.
ICMA thanks the SCI for taking the lead.  ICMA now encourages its members and partners to submit to our training portfolio existing and newly designed training materials aimed at enhancing the skills of chaplains, seafarers centre staff and volunteers. Continue reading ICMA accredits its first training course