Exploring Partnerships and Challenges in Seafarers’ Welfare: Highlights from ICMA’s 2024 Northern Europe Regional Meeting

Article audio (courtesy of Don Sheetz)

The International Christian Maritime Association (ICMA) recently convened its members and partners at the 2024 Northern Europe Regional Meeting in Stockholm, Sweden, held from April 22nd to 24th. This gathering served as a platform for chaplains, ship visitors, and staff from various Northern European countries, including Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Poland, Germany’s Baltic Sea Coast, Norway, and Greenland, to come together. Hosted at the Scandic Sjöfartshotellet in central Stockholm, the meeting aimed to address key trends and challenges in seafarers’ welfare, fostering partnerships and developing programs to enhance support for seafarers.

Fostering Connections: The Conference Theme

Under the theme “Connected by the Sea: (Re)building Partnerships,” Pastor Matthias Ristau, ICMA Northern Europe regional coordinator, delivered welcome remarks, setting the tone for the discussions ahead. Reverend Frank T. Skofteland, Senior Pastor of the Seafarers’ Group at Sjømannskirken, offered an opening homily, emphasizing the significance of unity for our ongoing work.

Insights and Reflections

The conference agenda featured sessions addressing crucial aspects of seafarers’ welfare. Sara Baade from the Sailors’ Society presented insights from the organization’s 2023/2024 Cadet Survey Report, while Dr. Khanssa Lagdami of the World Maritime University explored the future landscape of seafarers’ work, training, and welfare.

Throughout the event, participants engaged in workshops and discussions, sharing best practices and experiences. Jari Raminen, Director of Kaknäs Seamen’s Center, shed light on the work of the center and the Swedish Seamen’s Service. Stefan Scheja, Manager of Cruise and Ferry at Ports of Stockholm, highlighted facility trends and developments in the region’s ports.

Exploring Partnerships and Programs

The second day included visits to prominent maritime attractions, such as the Vasa Museum, offering participants insights into maritime history. Sessions delved deeper into partnerships for seafarers’ welfare and well-being, addressing topics like ship visiting, digital programs, and well-being services. Capt. Christer Lindvall discussed the critical issue of recruitment and retention of seafarers.

Key Takeaways and Reflections

Attendees reflected on the conference’s significance and the opportunities it provided for collaboration and learning. Siiri Suhonen, Chaplain of the Finnish Seamen’s Church in Rauma, emphasized the importance of international collaboration, stating, “It is always nice to meet with this international group and to know that we really have colleagues, we are really part of a community.”

Fr. Edward Pracz, Stella Maris chaplain in Gdynia, Poland, expressed gratitude for the gathering, highlighting the value of sharing experiences and learning from each other. Rev. Matthias Ristau emphasized the importance of connectivity within the maritime community, emphasizing the power of collective knowledge and support.

Acknowledgments and Gratitude

The success of the event was made possible by the contributions of various individuals and organizations. Special thanks were extended to the hosts, Katarina Sjöfartsklubb and the Sjömanskyrkan, and the financial support from the ITF Seafarers’ Trust. Pastor Matthias Ristau and Rev. Nicolaj Wibe were recognized for their efforts in guiding the conference. Sanna Rasi of the Finnish Seamen’s Mission was appointed as a regional representative to help organize future meetings, ensuring continued collaboration and progress in supporting seafarers’ welfare in the Northern European region.

The 2024 Northern Europe Regional Meeting served as a testament to the commitment of ICMA and its members to address the evolving needs of seafarers, fostering partnerships and solidarity within the maritime community. As delegates departed Stockholm, they carried with them not only valuable insights but also a renewed sense of purpose in their mission to serve those who navigate the world’s seas.


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