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 mitigatestresses, 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.”