The following is a Christian Work Project sponsored in part by a grant from the Boston Baptist Social Union.

Seafarer's Friend

Mission & Purpose

In our 183rd year, Seafarer's Friend serves the spiritual and practical needs of seafarers coming to our New England ports. The mission of Seafarer's Friend is to come alongside the maritime community with friendship, faith, and hospitality. With the compassion of Christ we offer the hand of human thanks and compassion to foreign seafarers who are cut off from the daily life each of us takes for granted. Ninety-five percent of all commodities this nation uses daily arrive in vessels traveling from all over the world and guided by merchant mariners. Often, ships are in poor repair and crew work long hours in a dangerous environment. Ships have a multi-national crew, often resulting in major discrimination and cultural issues. The maritime world is one in which there are few laws regulating humane treatment of seafarers.

The seafarers living and working on vessels are willing to work for low wages under difficult and dangerous conditions. The majority come from "third world" nations and need to work to support their family. Most are at sea four to twelve months at a time and experience extreme loneliness and stress as a result. Chaplains of Seafarer's Friend come alongside seafarers and share the love of Christ, assisting with ways to communicate home while in port, often the only means available to crew for weeks at a time. Caring conversation, patient counsel, and a pastoral ear help ease stress and loneliness. Seafarer's Friend advocates for seafarers onboard, in the port and on a national forum helps the seafarer in individual situations and overall to improve their quality of life. The Ralph L. Garrett Seafarers Center in Chelsea offers space for mariners to read, relax, communicate with family (by phone, email, or web-cam), and obtain clothing and basic necessities donated by churches and people from many faith communities who support the mission. When in port, Seafarer's Friend is most often the only face of humanity and support these migrant workers of the sea come to know and on which they can depend for transport to local stores for supplies, compassionate conversation, and care. We offer a grounding of normalcy not found at sea and a chance to touch groups physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Crew confined to a vessel with 20 other individuals, often from differing cultures, and at sea for many months the chance to get off the ship, find a visit to our center or a mall, and conversing with people other than crewmates or security personnel is a blessing. About 20% of the crew cannot leave the ship making ship visits even more essential. New TWIC security regulations implemented October 2008 makes it necessary for chaplains to escort crew through secure areas. Over a third of the terminals do not provide means for crew to come ashore, unwilling to provide guards to escort, resulting in increased dependency on chaplains for the seafarer to have shore access.

As the financials included indicate, personnel to visit ships, communication, and transportation for seafarers comprises nearly 60% of the budget. At a time when demands on these dedicated men and women serving seafarers are
increasing, and the hours spent serving seafarers is, of necessity, increasing, the current economic climate presents a difficult challenge. Seafarer's Friend seeks to maintain current levels of personnel and service to seafarers, while being good stewards of the resources available. The grant ensures another year delivering the care and love on which seafarers arriving in Boston, Portsmouth, and Portland have come to depend. BBSU has been a valuable partner and the hope of Seafarer's Friend is to continue to build that partnership in a variety of ways in the future. The amount of [the grant] will support a portion of the cost of providing a person to visit ships while they are in port, ensuring that at least one visit is made to every ship, and each visitor to the pod sees a caring and friendly face during their brief stay. This amount is approximately 20% of the total cost of personnel caring for crew in the Port of Boston. The other funds are raised from donations of many individuals, congregations, and businesses throughout New England.

The world economy has had impact on the maritime industry, as well as our national economy. Shipping has decreased more than 20% and we have seen a decrease in vessel traffic accordingly. Preliminary statistics for the port of Boston-Chelsea show [Seafarer Friend had]

  • 816 ship visits,
  • 13,711 crew contacts,
  • 910 van trips,
  • 3304 van passengers,
  • over 15,000 van miles,
  • and 126 center visits to the center in Chelsea.