NAMMA Releases Survey Report on Seafarers’ Ministries and Welfare in North America, 2022

by Kevin Walker and Jason Zuidema, NAMMA

In January of 2022, the North American Maritime Ministry Association (NAMMA) distributed an online survey to its members, asking about the state of seafarers’ welfare in their ports. Responses were received from 38 ministries in Canada, the USA, and Puerto Rico from January 26 to February 7. The results show an encouraging persistence of ministry in difficult times, with many vaccinations and other services having been provided, but also a disturbing lack of access to shore leave for many seafarers. 

North American ministries did much in 2021, and play a key role in the welfare of seafarers: they organised thousands of seafarer vaccinations, often under difficult circumstances, while still managing ship visits, transportation, centres, thousands of Christmas gifts, and the new reality of shopping on ship-bound seafarers’ behalf. From their comments, it is also clear that many ministries are stretched quite thin, working with less support from volunteers and churches even as their work increases. We hope to do what we can to support them, and that the rest of the maritime community does the same.

Onboard, wifi is increasingly common, although seafarers’ use of it is often limited and costly, and many still buy SIM cards. On the port side, there are clear signs of improvement: wifi is present for seafarers’ use in a substantial minority of terminals, as are mobile wifi units in a substantial minority of ministries. Respondent comments suggest that seafarers’ desire for wifi is great, while also noting that the associated costs make it difficult for them to meet it: mobile wifi units are still too expensive for many ministries, and the cost of SIM cards is low in some places but high in others.

Shore leave was one of the most disappointing statistics, with implications that colour the rest of the survey’s findings: after all, transportation and centres are impossible, and vaccinations and internet very difficult, without it. Seafarers need more shore leave than they are getting, not only for their sanity and their general welfare, but in order to be vaccinated against the very disease that keeping them on board is supposed to protect them from. Many respondents mentioned that COVID-19 at sea and at home remain real concerns for seafarers, as does mental health; shore leave and safety cannot be an either/or.

While we are aware of the present instability that comes with a pandemic and the slow emergence of a ‘new normal’, we also emphatically hope that seafarers’ welfare is taken no less seriously than any other person’s, and that their safe access to shore leave be prioritised, in 2022.

The full report is available to read or download here:

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About NAMMA: With seafarers’ welfare provider members in more than 50 ports around North America, NAMMA’s mission is to support those in maritime ministry with professional development, fellowship, and advocacy. https://namma.org/. Contact us at executivedirector@namma.org.