Seafarers today come from the Philippines, Japan, Korea, China, Myanmar, India, Russia, Estonia, Lithuania, the Ukraine, Romania, Poland, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, and elsewhere. The challenges of seafaring include physically demanding and sometimes dangerous work, violent storms, piracy, and loneliness.
Most seafarers have gone to sea because it is the best way or the only way to support their families. Sadly, many crew members are separated from their loved ones for 10 months, or even longer. These men and women work on ships bringing us petroleum and forest products, computer parts and cocoa beans. Their ships then depart Baltimore with cargo ranging from coal to tractors. All of us are part of the global economy, and seafarers risk their lives to serve us.
Since 9/11, stricter port security prevents many seafarers from leaving their vessels. Others have little or no time ashore because of increasingly tight work schedules. Many container ships or car carriers are in port only a few hours, and some terminals have no working phone booths. Thus, visits from the Seafarers' Center are most welcome.
The Center's volunteers and Director visit over 70 ships most months, with crews ranging from 9 to 30 men and women. Ship visitors are eagerly welcomed as they offer a listening ear, low-cost phone cards, cell phone loans, and free Bibles, as well as magazines and newspapers in several languages.
For those seafarers who have time, ship visitors also provide transportation to stores or to the Seafarers' Center. At the Center, seafarers can enjoy telephones, internet access, recreation facilities, and a chapel. Hospitality is offered equally to all seafarers, regardless of nationality or religious background.