Port Everglades Welcomes New Seafarers’ House

Article audio (courtesy of Don Sheetz)

by Susan Huppert, NAMMA

When cruise ships dock and guests disembark, a flood of workers with real needs have minimal time. Seafarer’s centers are critically important to meet the array of seafarers’ needs. The new Seafarers’ House in Port Everglades is well equipped for the task.

During 2015, Seafarers’ House, a multi-faith seafarers’ welfare organization decided their 1980 structures needed replacement. By 2016 a $4.5 million capital campaign to build a 15,000 square foot center was under way. Major donors including SEACOR, Royal Caribbean Group, Carnival Cruise, the ITF Seafarers’ Trust, and the TK Foundation.

Thanks to strong collaboration among ministry leadership, financial donors and visionary planners an impressive new structure stands as a fitting center for the nearly 150,000 seafarer visits through Port Everglades, FL annually.

“It is quite an amazing experience,” said Executive Director Jennifer Stewart. “After looking at it on paper for years, the building is now real.”

The Florida east coast location is a heavy cruise port, with up to seven ships docking at one time in addition to its strong cargo shipping industry. The new center located within the port is designed as a “one-stop shop” meeting the broad range of the seafaring community’s needs. The multi-national crews will find services including money transfers, assistance with business and family contacts, free internet and associated resources. A retail store and recreation space assist seafarers during their short time off their vessels. In addition, a quiet library space and a sacred space in the chapel address the spiritual needs of the multi-faith community of global workers.

The chapel has improved immensely,” said The Rev’d Sanford Sears. “It is a place of comfort and care.”

The previous chapel would get lost in the noise and congestion of the previous center.

Sears, an Anglican priest, shares the spiritual care of seafarers with a Stella Maris Roman Catholic priest and volunteer Baptist pastor. The ministry is also seeking a volunteer Rabbi and Imam. 

On March 28, a private prayer service dedicating the new Seafarer’s House to its mission was led by the leadership of NAMMA alongside the board and staff of Seafarers’ House. Friends and associates gathered acknowledging the critical needs posed by the workers of the sea and the center’s privilege to serve them. The official public Open House is scheduled for later in April.

“The service put heart into the building,” said Stewart. “It was most appropriate. There wasn’t a dry eye. It put into perspective what this building will be to seafarers and the port.”   

A café within the center is a welcome update for crews and port workers who find quick access to quality food items an asset. Education and meeting space is available for the benefit of the port community as needed.

“Having the center has created more value,” said Stewart. Thanks to all the donors and partners, there is “an energy that hasn’t been here before.”

Once open, Seafarer’s House is geared up to be again one of the busiest seafarers’ centers in North America. With tens of thousands of visitors annually, they will have international recognition as a leader in seafarer welfare globally.  It is expected activity will increase in a port with growing infrastructure and investment.

With increased infrastructure and economic growth at the port, the center will be an asset for years to come.

For more on Seafarers’ House: seafarershouse.org

Photo: NAMMA Flickr


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