Spare some thought for the seafarers

Peter Tirschwell came to town last week. I’ve known Peter for many years, and given that he might write my obituary one day, I offered to buy him lunch.

Not having seen him for a while, once we got past insulting each other, as old friends do, the conversation settled down into a wide ranging discussion about the current state of the maritime industry, longshore contract negotiations, waterfront personalities and the like. What became clear during our conversation was Peter’s commitment to seafarers and to seafarer centers around the country which provide much-needed help and assistance to those that work on board vessels.

  Seafarer Centers
  If you want to learn more about seafarer centers, here is a partial list:

While much of the international trade community is focused, and rightfully so, on the current status of waterfront contract negotiations, not noticed and certainly not recognized by the trade community is the importance of the work performed by seafarers. The job is dangerous and separates men and women from their families for long periods of time. Filling some of the needs of these hard-working individuals are seafarer centers at various ports around the country. These centers provide a variety of services, from providing means for seafarers to communicate with loved ones at home to providing meals, transportation to go shopping and counseling or pastoral services for those in need.  These organizations are inter-faith, operate long hours to accommodate vessel schedules and succeed based on countless volunteers who generously offer their time for organizations that operate on limited budgets.

The seafarer centers around the country deserve not just the maritime industry’s support, but the support of the entire supply chain. It’s one thing to focus on the outcome of waterfront contract negotiations when wondering about the delivery of a particular shipment. It’s also important to acknowledge that a seafarer worked long hours and in difficult seas to get cargo to the dock in the first place. It’s time the entire supply chain recognized the importance of those that work on ships and support seafarer centers around the country, which provide mariners much-needed help, support and care.

Peter, it was good to see you. Thanks for stopping by.

John McLaurin is president of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association. Contact him at

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