Peter Smyth
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Port Chaplains and interns amongst others from N. America and beyond gathered from August 14th-17th at the Maritime Conference Centre in Baltimore, Maryland for the annual NAMMA (North American Maritime Ministry Association) conference, the theme being 'Port Ministry at the Margins'.

A key part of the conference is meeting people and sharing stories of port ministry as a way to improve how we help the seafarers. 

There were also a range of speakers including from ISWAN (International Seafarers Welfare Assistance Network) who spoke about the increase in suicide amongst seafarers and the need for more emotional support for them as well as ways to improve seafarers sleep and social interaction. The ITF Seafarers Trust UK spoke about money and training on maritime welfare. There was information on seafarers health including the effect of medication and the ability to work safely.A rep from NAMEPA shared how they advocate for the preservation of the marine environment by promoting a sustainable maritime industry.

The Secretary General of the Mission to Seafarers the Rev'd Canon Andrew Wright shared how ministry on the margins means engaging with all seafarers not just the friendly ones, focusing on social justice meaning advocating on behalf of the seafarers, putting resources where the need is greatest and centres being necessary when seafarers have a need for them.

A number of speakers spoke about internships some from personal experience with the need to understand what both the intern and employer is looking for. The opportunity for interns in port ministry is being encouraged. 

There was time given to how we perceive and communicate with the cultural and religious diversity of seafarers being mindful of our stereotypes and bias.

Changes mentioned were the MLC standardization, digitalization, automation,Wi-fi onboard more ships, officer shortage and a ratings surplus and a focus on shipping and the environment. 

There were also a number of speakers from the US Coast Guard.

We all had the opportunity to experience the ship simulator on site as the centre is for training those who will go on to work at sea. 

A great week with great people who all care about the welfare of  seafarers.

NAMMA August 2018 wil be in Charleston, NC.