by Susan Huppert, NAMMA
The huge blue ship-to-shore cranes tower above the newly developed Hugh K. Leatherman, Sr. Terminal in North Charleston, S.C. Later this month container ships will begin to arrive, adding an expected 700,000 TEU’s of annual throughput to the port’s capacity. The increase in cargo delivery brings an increase in seafarer needs.
The South Carolina Ports Authority has designated nearly the entire second floor in the new terminal building to benefit seafarers, a significant statement of support for crews. The Charleston Port and Seafarers’ Society will occupy the space for outreach and service. Seafarers will soon be able to benefit from the strategically located seafarers lounge thanks to the genuine relationship between the two entities.
“We cherish the relationship we have had with them [South Carolina Ports Authority],” said the mission’s administrator, Clark Cromwell. “They see us as service providers on the port. Now we are part of the team and that makes all the difference in the world.”
The Charleston Port and Seafarers’ Society board of directors has named the new center in honor of Father Linwood “Len” Williams who served as chaplain for 17 years and remains a volunteer today. Longevity in our port relationships lends toward solid futures.
“I am thankful for all the good personal relationships of those who came before us,” said Chaplain Jeff Wallace. “We have had continued goodwill and good relationships with workers on the port and those in leadership.”
The new 832 sq. ft. space will be available 24/7 and include a seafarer’s lounge with a small kitchen, free WI-FI, and phone service. Seafarers can use their own smartphones or laptops to connect with their families by Internet. Plans are to add free literature, recreational items, and a television. Staff and volunteers are thankful for additional office space which can also provide privacy for chaplain visits or conversations.
The Charleston Seafarers Center has three other locations in the port also, serving the Wando Welch Terminal, North Charleston Terminal, and the Columbus Street Terminal. The non-denominational center works in coordination with all the missions in Charleston’s ports that are caring for seafarers including a Stella Maris mission and a Baptist ministry.
Contact with seafarers is improving following the more than year-long contention with COVID-19.
“I am invited to visit the ships occasionally with my PPE,” said Wallace. “I have had my vaccine and I believe things will be changing soon as far as seafarers accessing the new location.”
Prior to the global pandemic, up to 15,000 seafarers annually visited the three seafarer center buildings. Cromwell is hopeful that as more volunteers receive the COVID vaccine and it becomes available to seafarers that person-to-person contact at the center will revive.
Photo: Interior of new seafarers’ center at Hugh K. Leatherman, Sr. Terminal, South Carolina Ports, Photo courtesy of Charleston Port & Seafarers’ Society.