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 Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

People on the Move

N° 101, August 2006



Final Statement OF The Apostleship of the Sea Regional Coordinators Meeting 

(Rome, Jan. 31st to Feb. 1st 2006)



The Apostleship of the Sea Regional Coordinators of the nine Regions of the world- 1. Africa Atlantic, 2. Africa-Indian Ocean 3. East /South East Asia, 4. Europe 5. Gulf States 6. Latin America, 7. North America 8. Ocenia & 9. South Asia met at the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People office for an AOS-International Meeting from Jan. 31st to Feb. 1st 2006.

1.   They presented their reports and reviewed region by region the pastoral action of the AOS and the living and working conditions of seafarers and those of the fishing communities around the world. There was a wide consensus to say that although international bodies and some religious, governmental and non-governmental organisations are very active in this sector and that many positive developments have happened in some regions, overall the situation in the maritime world has not really improved and that new dangers have emerged such as piracy, the criminalisation of seafarers, shore leave restriction, increased stress and fatigue, hence creating a deterioration of the human environment. There is need for the AOS of a concerted effort to work together with our valued partners of ICMA, ICSW and ITF-ST to address relative pastoral and spiritual necessities. 

2.   Three areas - Eastern Europe, Southern Africa and the island States of Oceania - need renewed efforts and attention in order to promote the AOS there. As in certain regions chaplains are working in difficult situations, they need our support and prayers.

3.   In some regions where AOS is facing difficulties, it was suggested that other regions might help by enlisting the cooperation of better established national AOS.

4.   AOS recognises the efforts of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) towards bringing into being a Consolidated Maritime Convention that will update more than 60 international instruments regarding the conditions of employment for seafarers. It encourages governments, ship owners and maritime unions and religious maritime organisations to fully cooperate for the happy conclusion of the 94th Session of ILO (7th- 23rd February 2006). Non compliance or overzealous application of laws and regulations, such asinstances of denial or restriction of shore leave, must be reported. 

5.   In many parts of the world, thanks to local AOS efforts and to their participation in Port Welfare Committees there are good relationships between port chaplains and port authorities. Together with all concerned there is a common effort to ensure that visiting seafarers are being welcomed and listened to. It has been recommended that a questionnaire be circulated to ascertain the true needs and requests of seafarers.

6.   AOS assets such as buildings and premises must be preserved, as these generally were acquired through specific fundraisings and donations and once disposed of, will not be easily replaced. At the same time we must never forget that our goal is not to run profit making centres but to uphold the dignity of seafarers by caring for their spiritual, moral and physical well-being.

7.   The proposed website of the AOS International was discussed. This project, under the responsibility of the Pontifical Council, will enable access not only to statistics and a data base but also to the more important messages and inspirational material from the Holy See in this field. 

8.   Sea Sunday is attracting each year a larger audience. It raises awareness around maritime issues as it focuses on seafarers and maritime communities. It is also an opportunity for ecumenical /interreligious celebrations and fundraising. 

9.   The necessity of a Chaplains pastoral manual has been discussed, and the necessity of reviewing a project which has been in place for many years has been accepted. Additions and changes to the same will be sought and will be done in due course.

10.  The AOS recognises the new challenges being faced by the rapid growth of the cruise ship industry. Especially the role of Chaplains on board these vessels is a crucial pastoral issue which needs attention and new initiatives. The recommendations/observations of the Dunkerque AOS meeting (October 2005) on Cruise ships were noted and will constitute the basis of further reflection on this important segment of our pastoral work.

11.  A draft paper regarding the development of “Onboard Christian lay leadership” in ships, which was discussed at the same meeting in Dunkerque, was also examined and will be further studied in the context of the chaplains’ Manual.

12.  Among areas, which need also our pastoral attention and care, are the Yachting, fluvial (lakes) coastal and inter-island shipping.

13.  AOS welcomes the ICSW/ITF-ST Maritime Welfare Regional development plans and asks all its members to collaborate to its realisation.

14.  The XXII AOS World Congress will be held in Gdynia, Poland from 24th to 29th June 2007. The theme was discussed. Suggestions for logistics, speakers, workshops and other modalities were offered. It was recommended that participants should be carefully chosen and their long time commitment to AOS should be taken into consideration when selected. The mode of voting for Regional Coordinators was discussed. 

15.  An entire day was spent on the AOS International Fishing Committee. There are more than 200 million people in the world depending on fishing for their living, very often they are the poorest of the poor.

16.  The Tsunami has made the world more aware of the plight of the fishing folks. In South Asia, thanks to the modest AOS–International Relief fund which was contributed by its members around the world, AOS reacted to the emergency and continues today to be active in the ongoing relief work. The lack of nets and permanent housing remain a grave problem. AOS specific approach has been, since the beginning, to reach out to those left out from master plans of larger funding agencies. All monies collected have now been distributed and the accounts audited.

17.  Conditions on board fishing vessels often border on the inhuman, even if it is one of the world’s more dangerous profession, the lack of proper life-saving equipment and proper training is a matter of urgent concern.

18.  Illegal recruitment of crew members and fishing fleets continues; exploitation and bad treatments are rife. There are also whole communities of undocumented migrant fishers which suffer continuous harassment. 

19.  New technology, poaching and over fishing are fast depleting the last remaining stocks. On the other hand, in many parts of the world the quota regime and regulations are hitting hard the Fishing communities who struggle for survival. The fishers must be sensitised on the urgency of environmental protection.

20.  Fishermen find it difficult to react to changes. In some parts of the world agro-tourism has presented a valuable alternative for fishers facing difficulties to carry out their traditional activities. The need for social security and insurance for fishers is slowly making headway in many countries. In Mexico, for example, a comprehensive project has already started.

21.  The ILO Fishing Convention will be represented for the members’ approval in 2007. Each national AOS should campaign for its approval. and impress upon their individual governments the need for relevant ILO Conventions. These conventions need not only ratification, but also must be implemented and enforced wherever necessary. 

22.  Cooperation between national AOS agencies to secure the liberation of unjustly imprisoned fishers has given good results. We encourage the countries concerned especially in the south Asia region to continue in their efforts for their release. 

23.  The East /South East Asia AOS Region in collaboration with the Africa-Indian Ocean Region is planning the setting up of a “Centre for Fishers’ Rights”. This socio-pastoral project will be based in Manila in the new seafarers centre where space will be made available, it will be geared towards gathering data and information, handling cases, give legal assistance and will eventually produce formation material, in communion with AOS-International.

24.  Both the President, Cardinal Hamao, and the Secretary, Archbishop Marchetto, recommended urgently the AOS the study of the new Encyclical Letter “Deus Caritas Est” – presenting it – as it will be a great help in understanding the motivations and spirituality also of the AOS.

25.  In 2007 because of the World Congress, there will be no Regional Coordinators meeting at the beginning of the year, therefore the next meeting will be in January 2008. A provisional calendar for Regional Conferences in 2006 was prepared and will be confirmed in time.