NAMMA Conference 2016 Examines Social Isolation at Sea


August 8, 2016 – The North American Maritime Ministry Association completed a fantastic annual conference focused on the welfare of seafarers and fishers around the world.  Running from August 2-5, 2016 at the scenic Portsmouth Renaissance Waterfront Hotel in Portsmouth, VA, the conference gathered more than 100 representatives from international seafarers’ and fishers’ welfare agencies to discuss the most critical issues of their work regionally and worldwide.
Rev. Marsh L. Drege, Executive Director of Seafarers’ International House and President of NAMMA’s Board said, “Social isolation is unfortunately a characteristic part of the lives of seafarers and fishers worldwide. The 2016 NAMMA conference will help chaplains and ship visitors focus even more on the essential goal of being present for those who are alone.”
Social isolation is not just the subjective feeling of loneliness, but the objective state of separation from others.  Besides the natural separation from others while miles out at sea, participants noted trends such as smaller crews, changes to working hours, increased paperwork, multinational crews and the effects of usage or lack of the Internet.  No doubt, an increasing number of scholarly studies note that the various causes of social isolation contribute both to marine incidents and the challenges to seafarer retention experienced throughout the industry as a whole.
Keynote presentations came from:

  • Ian Urbina, Pulitzer-prize winning New York Times journalist and author of “The Outlaw Ocean” article series.  Urbina presented on the challenges to fishers’ welfare worldwide.
  • Martin Doblmeier, founder of Journey Films and producer of the recent nationally-televised PBS documentary “Chaplains”.  Since 1984, Doblmeier has produced and directed more than 30 films focused on religion, faith, and spirituality. Doblmeier presented on the current challenges and opportunities for chaplaincy work across all sectors.

Other program presenters and exhibitors included representatives of the:

  • United States Coast Guard
  • Chamber of Shipping of America
  • Seafarers’ International Union/International Transport Workers Federation
  • North American Marine Environment Protection Association
  • Mission to Seafarers
  • Sailors’ Society
  • Apostleship of the Sea
  • Center for Seafarers’ Rights of the Seamen’s Church Institute NY & NJ
  • Apostleship of the Sea-USA
  • International Christian Maritime Association
  • International Seafarers Welfare and Assistance Network
  • ITF Seafarers’ Trust

In his opening remarks, NAMMA Executive Director, Dr. Jason Zuidema noted, “By our conference theme, we are not pushing for a return to so-called the good old days in shipping: those good old days might not have seen the widespread social isolation we see today, but no doubt those old days had their fair share of social issues! Our work is not to respond to past challenges, but those of today and the future.  What does this general global trend of social isolation – amplified, we might argue, for those at sea – mean for us?  How do we respond?  What kind of presence might we have for those who live in social isolation at sea?”
The conference featured many different perspectives on the issue, but the most important was that of the conference participants themselves: representing more than 75 different seafarers’ welfare agencies, they serve thousands of seafarers on a daily basis.  The NAMMA conference helped provide a place for reflection and dialogue on a significant issue of our time.

About NAMMA: Founded in 1932, NAMMA exists to support and encourage individuals and organizations in maritime ministry and seafarers’ welfare by providing opportunities for professional development, fellowship, and advocacy.  The work of all our member individuals and organizations in ports around North America is given without regard to language, rank, country of origin, or religion.

Program for NAMMA Annual Conference 2016

Conference Opening
Opening remarks – Dr. Jason Zuidema

Session 1 – Social Isolation among People at Sea: Perspectives
Dr. Rafael Y. Lefkowitz, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Yale School of Medicine, “Seafarers’ Health and Welfare”
Lt. Commander Matthew Prince, USCG District Five Chaplain, USN, Portsmouth, Virginia, “Social Isolation and Chaplaincy in the Armed Forces”
Dr. Kaimei Zhang, NAMMA/MARE Project, “Social Isolation among Chinese Seafarers: Understanding the Role of the Commissar”

Session 2 – The State of Shipping and Seafarers
Sean Kline – Chamber of Shipping of America
Clay Maitland – International Registries, Inc. and NAMEPA
Commander Scott W. Muller – District Five Chief, Inspection & Investigation Branch, USCG
Kathleen Hunt – Seafarers’ International Union – International Transport Workers’ Federation

Session 3 – Fishers: Between Maritime Regulations and the Deep Blue Sea

Troy Luna  – District Five Commercial Fishing Vessel Coordinator, USCG, “Fishers’ Welfare and the Regulatory Environment
Carleen Lyden-Kluss – North American Marine Environment Protection Association, “Seafarers, Fishers, and Maritime Pollution”
Captain Pietro Parravano, President of the Institute for Fisheries Resources and Fishing Representative, Apostleship of the Sea – USA – “Challenges to Fishers and Fishing Today”

Session 5 – Partnerships for Seafarers’ Welfare
Jared Chacon, Mercy Ships – “How to Combine Mercy and Maritime
Tom Holmer, Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Program/ISWAN, “Maritime Piracy: Still a Concern?
Joseph Chacko, Kandla, India, Seafarers’ Welfare Association, “Seafarers Welfare and Social Entrepreneurship

Session 6
Keynote Presentation: The Outlaw Ocean: Fishers’ Welfare around the World
Ian Urbina, New York Times

Session 7 – Workshop 1 – Serving Fishers and Seafarers
Fr. Bruno Ciceri, Apostleship of the Sea, “Fishers’ Welfare Worldwide”
Rob Maguire, Seafarers’ Agencies of Hampton Roads, “A Fisher’s Perspective”
Douglas B. Stevenson, Seamen’s Church Institute Center for Seafarers’ Rights, “Fishers and International Law”

Session 7 – Workshop 2 – Running Successful Seafarers’ Centers
Stephen Lyman, Seamen’s Church Institute, Port Newark, New Jersey, “Strategic Planning: From SWOT to SOAR
Jason Zuidema, Executive Director, NAMMA, “Using New Technology for Seafarers’ Welfare: Best Practices
Peter Tomlin, ISWAN IPWP Program, “Port Welfare Partnership Project: Best Practice for Port Welfare Committees

Session 8
Keynote Presentation: Chaplains-On the Front Lines of Faith
Martin Doblmeier, Journey Films