NAMMA Intern Program Invests in the Future


By Michael Skaggs.

With generous renewed funding from the ITF Seafarers’ Trust, the North American Maritime Ministry Association facilitated bursaries for ten of its port-based seafarers’ welfare center agency affiliates and its central office to employ seafarers’ welfare interns in the summer of 2017. Support included an amount for interns’ salaries over 3 months in the summer and partial travel support for the intern to attend special training at the NAMMA conference in New Orleans, LA from August 8-11.

The interns program is but one branch of NAMMA’s efforts to foster greater professional development across the spectrum of seafarers’ welfare provision. For instance, NAMMA is also a key partner in an ongoing study by Professor Wendy Cadge of Brandeis University on how to strengthen ties between port chaplains and local supporting communities: in enhancing the training of the next generation of port chaplains and staff, NAMMA is uniquely well-positioned to help student and early-career welfare providers understand how best they fit into congregational structures and denominations. Furthermore, because many of the interns are in seminary or other clergy training institutions, they will be able to serve as ambassadors for maritime ministry within their traditions, raising the profile of this crucial but often unseen service to the men and women who keep our global economy moving.

Besides the regular work of ship visiting and assisting the programs of seafarers’ centers, interns also completed the Ship Welfare Visitor Course online (, a program the UK Merchant Navy Welfare Board partnered with NAMMA last year to produce, and took part in an innovative series of weekly one-hour training sessions online, directed by NAMMA, on the most important topics of seafarers’ welfare. They also had daily opportunities to improve skills in social media and the promotion of seafarers’ welfare, as well as to complete special intensive training during participation in the NAMMA Conference.

NAMMA was proud to host the interns at its annual conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. The conference included multiple panels and speakers who helped these men and women gain a better understanding of maritime ministry; furthermore, facilitated discussion groups and ample time for socializing and networking offered the interns an invaluable opportunity to learn the true diversity of maritime ministry and how they will lead the next generation in providing for seafarers’ welfare. By working within NAMMA agency affiliates and participating in the conference, the interns contributed directly to the conference theme of ensuring the future of maritime ministry: indeed, they are the future! Though the priority in this program remains the direct care of seafarers, the experience is meant to develop a wide variety of competencies among interns that could be used for future leadership in seafarers’ welfare locally and regionally.

The International Transit Workers’ Federation (ITF) demonstrated its ongoing commitment to the interns program through representation at the conference by Kate Hunt, Government Fleet Representative for Seafarers’ International Union of North America, and David Heindel, Secretary-Treasurer of SIU-North America and Chairman of the Seafarers’ Section of the ITF. Heindel spoke on the dedicated work of the ITF Inspectorate, a valuable advocate of seafarers’ welfare as it helps ensure adherence to the MLC, 2006 and assists seafarers with grievances pertaining to pay, working conditions, and labor agreements. In this ITF Inspectors are natural partners to those working in maritime ministry – including these interns, who will lead the next generation of seafarers’ welfare in North America. By generously funding the interns program, the ITF Seafarers’ Trust demonstrated its prioritization of ensuring the future of port-based seafarers’ welfare not only during the annual conference but as a standing commitment moving forward.

Last summer, NAMMA had the privilege of piloting this internship strategy with a first group of 10 agencies. At the end of the summer, one of last year’s supervisors wrote: “I think it is absolutely outstanding of NAMMA to work so hard to offer this type of resource to its membership. Anything that improves professionalism is excellent. The opportunity to do things via webinar with other people, but also with the NAMMA conference, was a huge resource. I think it is amazing of NAMMA to put their efforts behind our professionalism. We are so grateful.”

NAMMA Board Chair Rev. Marsh L. Drege said “We need to make it a priority to attract new, capable staff members who will be leaders in the seafarers’ welfare of tomorrow. We thank the Seafarers’ Trust for investing in the future of our work.” Rev. Drege makes an important point: ensuring the future of maritime ministry requires investment. We are intensely grateful not only for the ITF Seafarers Trust’s investment of material and moral support, but also that of time, effort, and dedication on the part of so many NAMMA members and affiliated agencies. We are in an exciting and portentous moment for the future of maritime ministry, and we look forward to seeing the interns develop what they have learned this summer into exciting and fruitful programs in their service to seafarers.

Press release written by Dr. Michael Skaggs, Director of Programs, NAMMA

About NAMMA:

Founded in 1932, NAMMA exists to support and encourage individuals and organizations in maritime ministry and seafarers’ welfare by providing opportunities for professional development, fellowship, and advocacy. The work of all our member individuals and organizations in ports around North America is given without regard to language, rank, country of origin, or religion.

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NAMMA members receive a print copy of The MARE Report, NAMMA’s annual magazines for seafarer’s welfare professionals