Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People
People on the Move
N° 106 (Suppl.-I), April 2008
the state of AOS around the World
Msgr. Jacques HAREL
Apostleship of the Sea International
It is my assigned task to present to you today a report on the state of the “AOS around the World”. This report will be based on the responses to the questionnaire which was circulated to the Bishop Promoters, Regional Coordinators and National Directors in 2006, on the reports we have received from the Regional Coordinators and on observations made during visits in the Regions on the occasion of Regional meetings. After a short introduction on the organisational structure of the AOS, the report will be divided in two parts: The first will be more general and will deal with issues common to all the Regions as presented by the questionnaire, while the second part will be more specific and will deal with each region separately.
Before proceeding further, it might be helpful to explain briefly AOS’ organisational structure. The Work of the Maritime Apostolate is a worldwide organisation, with an international network; its overall direction and coordination falls upon the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral care of Migrants and Itinerant People. Each Episcopal Conference with a maritime territory is responsible for the appointment of a Bishop Promoter and a National Director. Nevertheless, the Bishop of a maritime diocese always remains responsible for determining the most suitable forms of pastoral care for maritime personnel in his diocese and for appointing chaplains and pastoral agents within his diocese. In a given region which encompasses several Episcopal Conferences, a Regional Coordinator is appointed by the Pontifical Council because his action is going beyond the national boundaries.
There are 9 AOS regions and each one of them is coordinated by a regional coordinator (there are at present 8 Coordinators + 1 ad interim for the Gulf Region).
We can say that AOS has a structure which allows a lot of flexibility and which respects local initiatives, while at the same time ensuring its cohesion through international and regional direction and coordination.
On Thursday we shall have regional meetings and you will have the opportunity to submit names for appointment or for renewal as Regional Coordinators by the Pontifical Council. Since the Rio Congress, we have been able to launch the Gulf Region and Fr Xavier Pinto has been appointed the Ad interim Coordinator. He gave to this task, much time and dedication.
There is also a change which has been proposed in the composition of the North America and Caribbean Region. After careful consideration, the Pontifical Council has agreed to the request that Mexico join the Central and South America Region. Consequently, as from now on the North America and Caribbean Region will comprise the United States, Canada and also the English/French/Dutch-speaking Caribbean islands.
Results of the survey
On the 23rd February 2006, as suggested by the AOS Regional Coordinators Meeting held in January 2006, a questionnaire was sent to Bishop Promoters, Regional Coordinators and National Directors. The aim of this survey was to ascertain the real and concrete needs of seafarers and fishers, so that AOS can offer the right services and type of pastoral presence to the maritime community around the world. This questionnaire was also designed to serve as a basis for further discussion and reflection in the XXII AOS World Congress.
The answers, giving information on 31 countries, were normally provided by National Directors. In addition all Regional Coordinators have also replied, hence all continents were covered. This will therefore constitute the basis for the first part of this report, since the answers cover a variety of subjects and give an up-to-date picture of AOS around the world.
Question no. 1
As National Director or Regional Coordinator, do you have support from your Bishop?
See Power Point
The situation differs a lot from place to place, from very good support to none at all. The majority, however, feels they have support, although not to the extent they would have wished. The liaison is often through the Bishops’ Conference or Migrants Commission. Often the cooperation is judged on whether chaplains are regularly appointed and on the financial support available. Confronted with “more urgent pastoral problems” often AOS is not a priority.
Question no. 2
Do you have appointed chaplains in the main ports?
The appointed “chaplains” can be priests, deacons, sisters or lay pastoral agents. Often only the bigger ports have “chaplains”. Many chaplaincies do exist thanks to volunteers supported by the local priests and parishes. Many appointed chaplains have no clear idea of their mission and responsibilities and in addition they have too many other responsibilities. However, in Western Europe and North America, most of the ports have “chaplains”.
Question no. 3
AOS Personnel: Do you rely on lay personnel/volunteers? Are they trained/motivated?
Again the number of volunteers varies much from country to country. In poorer countries many cannot afford to be volunteers, as there are so many people poor and jobless. Also in some countries volunteer work is not part of the culture. A lot of effort is being put into training, but the effort is not uniform. Certain countries rely on training offered from outside, while others organise their own training. There are of course AOS meetings, conferences and other more general training and spiritual formation at parish and diocesan level as many volunteers come from the parishes. All volunteers are very motivated either spiritually or because they are or have been connected professionally with the industry, have family ties or otherwise with the maritime industry. Volunteers are usually very reliable, but they need support and do not always get the recognition they deserve.
Question no. 4
Are seafarers receiving all the services they require in your area?
The main reason for not providing all the services is the lack of personnel and resources. AOS, however, is not acting alone but in collaboration with other Missions, port Authorities, Unions and NGOs. It is important to develop a spirit of collaboration, as AOS cannot take the whole responsibility of all welfare and by itself it cannot respond to all the needs and demands. We support others but also rely on others, we are grateful for this cooperation. It is essential however to maintain a specific presence in view of the great number of Catholics who are seafarers and who need and demand specific catholic sacramental and pastoral care.
Question no. 5
a) Are there Port Welfare Committees (PWC) in your Ports?
b) Are their developments a high priority?
While in several countries AOS has been very supportive and even instrumental in the creation of PWC, in many areas, however, they are not a priority for the authorities. Not all of our personnel is cognizant with maritime Conventions and regulations. Participation to PWC is very much to be encouraged; it is also a means for financial support, training and for providing recognition to the work being done by all the missions, hence making it easier to work closely together and to have access port facilities and ships. The various ICSW initiatives in that domain deserve our support.
Question no. 6
a) Do you have good ecumenical co-operation with other Churches or ecclesial Communities?
b) Do you have good inter-religious dialogue/relations with other religions?
In general there are good ecumenical relations and ICMA has done and is doing a lot in that sense. If there are problems, usually they are individual and localised ones. In some countries there have been “ecumenical covenants”. Most ecumenical relations and dialogue are on a practical level. Sessions on ecumenism should be more widely organised. Given the present context, inter religious dialogue and cooperation is becoming more and more important. In countries where Christianity is a minority, ecumenical relations and also inter religious dialogue and awareness work better.
Question no. 7 and 7.1
Do you see mobile services and centres as more effective in the future?
Many do not see the importance of mobile centres especially when there are seafarers centres (and transport) already established. If AOS has no fixed centre, it can collaborate with other organisations to provide one. The other problem is their cost. In outlying ports where there are no established centres, mobile units could be a solution.
Question no. 8
Funding of Pastoral Activities: Do you have a good/sufficient financial structure?
Many AOS in developing countries have no financial base at all. On the other hand, it is necessary to find ways and means to encourage all national AOS to be financially independent and not to always rely on external aid. It is difficult to organise fundraising, even Sea Sunday collections, without seeming to compete with other fund raisings organised by local parishes or dioceses. Often AOS is not seen as a priority by the Church authorities. In many parts the Church offers buildings and personnel but no recurrent budget. This lack of financial structure causes much hardship and is a real obstacle for the growth and development of AOS in countries with emerging economies and with little possibilities of organising fundraising campaigns.
Question no. 9
Services usually most sought after or requested by seafarers
1) The supply of pastoral care / support
The onboard supply of religious services
Access to Trade Unions
Ship, hospital and prison visiting
Onboard access to purchases, phone cards, toiletries, etc.
Meeting place away from ship (games, pool, table tennis, TV/video)
2) Bus service from ship to local shopping centre
A place to meet and mix with other crews nationalities
Access to email, Internet and postal facilities
Money exchange and transfer
Meeting place away from ship (accommodation, food and drink)
3) Support Services for families of seafarers
Access to multi-denominational/belief, place/s of worship
National/local Internet website
Newspapers, library and news service (e.g. Balita)
Access to sporting facilities
Supply of protective clothing
Question no. 10
Is there an AOS presence among those involved in yachting, competition/recreational sailing?
This sector is gaining in importance, but is still new to many. Some countries have tried some pastoral initiatives. An ad hoc meeting like the one on Cruise ships in Dunkerque in 2005, could start our reflection and help move forward this area of our pastoral concern. To this end there will be a workshop on this theme during the present Congress.
Question no. 11
Is cruise ship chaplaincy present/active in your area?
The Dunkerque meeting in 2005 provided useful suggestions, which must be followed through. This report is available and will be circulated later. In the past 5 years there have been many initiatives and much more coordination, and AOS has improved its presence in this field by providing specific training for the chaplains. A mutually beneficial teamwork/partnership could be envisaged between the chaplains onboard and the local parishes in the ports of call. The initiative must come from the visiting chaplains, as access on board cruise ships is strictly regulated. In many cruise terminals services and welcome are well organised and much appreciated by the crews and hospitality personnel.
Question no. 12
Do you see the needs for Seafarer support increasing in the future?
The general agreement is that given the current situation of the maritime industry, the needs of seafarers for support are definitely increasing. This is due to emotional, spiritual and physical requirements. Security issues, shorter stays in ports, less crew, mean more work, mixed crews make it difficult for seafarers to interact and adjust, hence the increased need for our pastoral presence.
Question no. 13
With the Fishing Sector and the newly formed “AOS International Fishing Committee”,
what do you feel should be done in priority to support the fishers and fish workers?
AOS has traditionally been very much involved with fishing communities. Much of the work is being done by local parishes and local groups of volunteers, and this is a good thing. The aim of AOS is not to replace them but to empower them and be a resource for the local parishes and initiatives so that they can increase/improve their outreach.
• We have still to find the best pastoral way to reach out to them.
• The “AOS International Fishing Committee” should be more visible and proactive and organise seminars, meetings and training.
• Traditional and artisan fishing communities all over the world are suffering and at risk. It is urgent to raise the global awareness of the plight of fishers and to make the voice of fishers heard, especially those of traditional and artisan fishermen.
• There is no agreement on the causes of the depletion of fishing stocks (over fishing, pollution, illegal/unregulated/unreported fishing etc…)
• The traditional and coastal fishing areas must be made sustainable, and the traditional fishing grounds must become protected zones
• Empowerment of fishers is an important task. Capacity building is a priority in order to organise the fishermen in networks and associations and train them to live and work in solidarity.
• Safety problems of small-scale and artisan fisheries have received low priority. The consequences of fatalities have dramatic consequences on dependants
For regional comments please refer to the full paper
Question no. 14
As in the Fishing Sector there are usually small communities and often isolated, how do you feel we could best carry out the mission of the Church and support these fish workers?
To carry out this mission, do you feel that AOS chaplains need specialised training?
There is general agreement that the pastoral care to fishers is at the heart of our apostolate. Many are intimidated by this sector. It is more difficult to work with fishers, their situations are more complex, hence the need for well trained, wise and experienced chaplains. The frequent transfer of Chaplains further hampers the work.
We must know the fishers and show empathy to them in spite of the fact that fishing communities are often closed ones and difficult to know as they differ greatly from region to region. The more important thing is “to be with them”, but it is difficult for a chaplain in a large merchant port to be at the same time minister to the fishing communities in remote and distant areas. The needs of fishers are different from those of seafarers. It is the role of the Bishop to inform the local pastors that part of their role is to minister to these communities.
The empowerment of local leaders is usually done through regular visits, seminars, spiritual accompaniment and the creation of fishers, wives and children’s associations. Campaigning the Government authorities on issues of security, fishing method and on the necessity of ratifying and implementing existing conventions. As foreign crews working on fishing vessels are increasing, also is the number of foreign fishers operating from foreign ports, who need our pastoral care.
Question no. 15
Does fishing constitute an important professional activity in your area?
What type of fishing takes place in your region (industrial, artisanal, traditional)
In practically all areas fishing constitutes an important professional activity. All types of fishing exist but vary according to region. According to the latest FAO figures there are 41 millions persons working in the sector of fishing and aquaculture.
Many practice this profession because they have not found any other gainful way to earn their living and provide for their families. In many countries they have no social status or professional recognition and are socially marginalized. They are exploited and have little opportunity to better their situation and to educate their children. They are the poorest of the poor.
In 2004 aquaculture has accounted for 43% of all fisheries products and the growth of aquaculture (8.8% per year since 1970) is for the moment compensating for the loss of fish stocks. Both aquaculture and capture fisheries, however, seem to have reached their maximum potential.
It is to be noted that globalisation has intensified the tension between traditional/coastal and industrial fishing.
Question no 16
a) Are there fishers' associations/organisations in your area?
b) Are you in contact with them?
Many of the contacts are being maintained by local parishes. AOS has potentially an important coordination/resource role, helping in the setting up of national, regional and international networks, and it is important to establish contacts with theses parishes. There are many AOS chaplains and members holding offices or engaged in associations and campaigns in favour of fishers. In some regions, there is a strong AOS presence.
Question no. 17
Do local Parishes/communities get involved?
With their odd and long hours of work and also because of the remoteness and marginalisation of fishers’ communities, many parishes find it difficult to establish planned and systematic contacts with fishers. However there are some contacts through Caritas, the Catholic Social service and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. AOS can help raise this awareness in the parishes through a network of parish contacts and by promoting Sea Sunday celebrations.
Regional Coordinator: Fr. Cyrille A. Kete.
The Africa Atlantic Region is well represented at this Congress.
AOS is, in varying degrees, active and present throughout the region. The following countries have a seafarers’ centre either managed by AOS such as Senegal, Ivory Coast (Abidjan and San Pedro in construction), Benin, Congo, or by another Church/mission: Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana, Togo, Nigeria, Cameroon.
Generally there are good ecumenical relations among chaplains and pastoral agents. These good relations must also be developed in countries where other missions existed before AOS. In all these countries, according to their possibilities, the Chaplains do their best to respond to the needs of seafarers. They organise ship visiting, hospitality in the centres, counselling, shopping in the city, visit to dentists and doctors, to cyber cafes, hair dressers, etc. But the welfare work structure needs to be strengthened and for this support is essential.
In addition to the chaplains, representatives of the unions affiliated to ITF are always ready to help especially when the rights of seafarers are at stake. All our efforts are geared towards making sure that the seafarers are well looked after.
The Regional Coordinator has been able to visit 11 countries of his region. But, given the geopolitical situation and the lack of funds, it has not been possible, unfortunately, to convene a regional meeting.
• The existence of some seafarers centres and above all the presence of pastoral agents and chaplains, helped by volunteers.
• Whenever the local and port authorities support our Apostolate, the seafarers are sure to find a friendly support and help whenever necessary.
• Ecumenical cooperation constitutes a great force and a providential chance for the Apostolate.
• Our main weakness is the poor or non-existent welfare facilities ( lack of buildings and transport). Also sometimes there are no financial resources to hire personnel. If the chaplain has no material means for his ministry, then everything is very slow.
• A few ports have chaplains and, in general, they are priests who also have parish responsibilities.
• Unfortunately there are sometimes misunderstandings among ecumenical partners, but the interest of seafarers should always come first.
• There is little local specific training available.
• Unemployment and a feeling of hopelessness among local seafarers.
• Regarding fishers, we have little contact with them and no structured pastoral plan
• The West Africa Regional Welfare Programme by ITF-ST and ICSW.
• Whenever there are signs of encouragement from the Episcopal Conference.
• Initiatives to develop positive and harmonious relations with Port Authorities, Shipowners and Agents.
• The setting up of Port Welfare Committees.
• Good relations with our ecumenical partners and Trade unions. ICMA brings a new dimension to our pastoral work.
• When the partners in ministry do not agree on pastoral objectives and initiatives.
• A wrong idea of globalisation, which makes it one sided and only benefiting the interests of one group, for example the ship owners and agents.
• The ISPS code is a serious threat to the welfare of seafarers.
• Harassment at work, no social justice.
• Also the fact that the levies paid by the ships in port for welfare work seldom go to the missions or the Port Welfare committee.
• Infidelity and divorces, hence family problems.
• HIV/ AIDS.
• Also civil unrest or wars has hindered considerably the progress of our pastoral work.
• Take stock of what already exists, and try to develop it.
• Enrol new collaborators and volunteers.
• Ensure with the authorities that the subsidies for seafarers welfare go to the right persons, who have at heart the welfare and respect of seafarers’ rights.
Ad interim Regional Coordinator: Fr. Xavier Pinto, C.Ss.R.
The AOS Gulf States Region is in the process of being constructed but there has been no Regional Seminar held prior to the XXII AOS World congress. As of now the countries, where AOS starts to be active are Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates [UAE].
Preliminary contacts are ongoing in the other countries. Since 2004, Fr. Xavier Pinto, C.Ss.R, has been appointed “ad interim” Coordinator for the Gulf States. The ecumenical relations with Mission to Seafarers are especially cordial and has facilitated the launching of AOS. The recruitment of volunteers has been made possible thanks to the cooperation of the local churches and to an information campaign.
The AOS was inaugurated by H.E. Paul Hinder, ofm cap, in the port of Fujairah, UAE on 16th June 2006. A civic Inauguration too was held in presence of H.E. Mohamed Al Kindi, the UAE Minister for
Water and Environment. Prior to this, training sessions for 40 volunteers were conducted in March 2006 and in June 2006 just before the Inauguration, Fr. Michael Cardoz was appointed the first Chaplain of the Port.
On 18th February 2007, H.E. Bishop Camillo Ballin, M.C.C.I., has named Fr. Theodosio Fernandes “priest in charge” of AOS in Kuwait.
A training programme for 50 volunteers has already been conducted (Sept 18-20 2006) and they have begun in earnest to visit ships and meet seafarers who come to the Church for Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of obligation.
• The support of the Bishops.
• The port chaplain in Fujairah has a good team of collaborators drawn from different nationalities and seafaring departments.
• Priests in charge of AOS appointed in Kuwait and in Fujairah.
• There are already many existing parish based activities, AOS has yet to find its place.
• All ports do not have a Catholic parish nearby.
• Have to start from scratch to explain the AOS, as most have never heard about it before.
• Since Seamen’s Clubs and facilities already exist in places like Fujairah and Jebel Ali, train the new volunteers to reach out according to the AOS spirituality.
• Good ecumenical relations with Mission to Seafarers.
• “Leaven in the dough” method to be adopted by lay people.
• Respect the Religion of all, yet reach out in their confessional needs.
• Fear of the volunteers that they may ‘loose their jobs’.
• The caution : “we don’t know what the government will say”.
• Collaboration of all linguistic groups when only some are seen to be beneficiaries of the Apostolate.
• Establish the AOS in Kuwait before year end 2007.
• Meet the Clergy individually to gain support for the idea and the vast possibilities of reaching out to people on the move through AOS.
• Initial meeting of information to people in Jebel Ali.
• Initial information visits to at least three more countries /ports of the region in 2007.
Regional Coordinator: Fr. Xavier Pinto, C.S.s.R.
The Region of South Asia has four countries: India (12 harbours); Bangladesh, Chittagong (1); Pakistan, Karachi (1) and Sri Lanka, Colombo (1). In each of these Major Ports the AOS presence is prevalent in the Port chaplains appointed by their respective Bishops. All the chaplains are also Parish Priests, with 75% of them being in charge of the Parish Schools.
Thanks to the generosity of friends and well wishers, AOS in South Asia was able to reach out to Tsunami victims in India and Sri Lanka.
• Designated chaplains in almost all the major ports in the Region.
• Easy access of the coordinator to all countries of the region.
• Recently awarded communication facilities by ITF-ST to AOS South Asia.
• Ongoing Networking with the following: Pakistan-India Peoples Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD) involved with the release of fishermen from both sides of the border.
• ICSW Seafarers Welfare development program.
• The Chaplains have too many different responsibilities.
• Fishing communities still to be taken on board for full time attention.
• Lack of pastoral care for seafarers and fishers families.
• The Tsunami highlighted the plight of fishing communities.
• The ICSW regional welfare development plan has facilitated the creation of Port Welfare Committees and is a benefit to the Region.
• Too many port chaplains in India are transferred without notice or reference to the national director.
• The volatile security situation in Sri Lanka affects the entire region.
• The ongoing tension between India and Pakistan governments .
• Unemployment, discriminatory practices against Christians who are denied employment because of their faith, corrupt practices in order to get work.
• Longer hours of work and longer contracts but same pay, short turnarounds and shore leaves.
• Escalation of violence onboard.
• Very difficult to get compensation in case of death and missing at sea.
• The chaplains in each port need to recruit more volunteers and train them so as to be part of the AOS chaplaincy team. The Regional Coordinator has such sessions available.
• The ICSW Regional Welfare development plan for South Asia and the creation of Port Welfare Committees have the potential to improve significantly the quality of welfare services to seafarers.
Regional Coordinator: Mr. Ted Richardson.
The Oceania Region is well represented at this Congress with twenty delegates from Australia and New Zealand. Unfortunately, the political problems in many of the Island nations in the Pacific Region make it quite difficult for the Apostolate to take root there.
Significant progress has been made in Australia and New Zealand with closer ecumenical cooperation and the development of many Port Welfare Committees. Many of these Port Welfare Committees are finding new and innovative ways of providing funding and welfare services for seafarers.
It is worthwhile to note that the seafarers’ lives are continuously changing and the emphasis is now on communication and transport to shopping centres and supermarkets. This, in itself, poses problems, with seafarers having as little as an hour to an hour and a half ashore.
We have unfortunately noted a decline in safe shipping. With a large increase in seafarers suffering injury, being abandoned in ports, and wages being withheld and even double bookkeeping still take place.
Seafarers are still de-humanised by the general population and are not recognised for their contribution to our countries’ welfare.
Even yachting which was always seen as a gentleman’s sport has a dark side. Seafarers from Pacific Islands have been recruited with promises of wages, food and accommodation, and then put outside the gates of the yachting club when they arrive and told to find their own way home and if they need help to contact the Church.
• More recognition of AOS by the maritime industry and their willingness to get involved.
• The continuing development of Port Welfare Committees.
• The introduction of the Eastern Rite Catholic Clergy to the ministry.
• The number of volunteers who work in our seafarers’ centres overall have remained steady.
• The centres and their services are up to date, with modern computer terminals.
• Funding from the ITF Seafarers’ Trust
• The lack of involvement of the Clergy in this ministry.
• Complacency by the Committees and an overall frustration from not being able to recruit volunteers to this service.
• Some centres have a focus on financial viability, rather than ministry, and this, in itself, creates an atmosphere that is not conducive to ecumenical co-operation or comforting for seafarers. It is then difficult for volunteers to want to work in this situation.
• Chaplains in many ports are taking a more active role in encouraging their parishioners to support the AOS and the Stella Maris Centres.
• Centres are being established in the smaller outlying ports of Australia and New Zealand.
• More ecumenical involvement with other Churches.
• A larger focus on “industry chaplaincy” rather than limit it to seafarers’ Port Chaplain.
• Lobbying Governments for financial support for existing seafarers’ centres and for developing new centres.
• We lack diversified sources of funding to help provide the infrastructure to our ministry for the various Ports. We need more promotion of the “Sea Sunday” Appeal to fund this ministry of the Church.
• The drop off of young people in the ministry.
• The lack of Clergy to visit and counsel seafarers. This does not mean that Lay People cannot do the service, but there is a need for sacraments and spiritual direction from Priests (and religious) not only for the seafarers but also for the chaplaincy team.
• On a Regional basis, Australia remains the only source of income to support the regional work. The re-establishment of Lae in Papua New Guinea and the opening of a new Centre in Wewak have seen the Australian National Office provide seed funding, equipment and training.
• Pentecostal groups are using similar names as AOS: “Apostles of the Sea” in Brisbane.
• For the seafarers and fishers the main problems are: job security, piracy, shore leave and access to medical treatment, low salaries, loneliness, exploitation and harassment at work.
• Health and hygiene are the emergent problems of the future.
Concluding his report Mr Ted Richardson, Regional Coordinator, writes:
“In conclusion, I feel that the work of the Apostleship of the Sea in Oceania continues to grow stronger because of the commitment and dedication of the members. It is important to keep our ministry in the focus of Church life and on pastoral care. A good deal of our Church community does not know that we exist.
We represent one of the greatest unseen and unrecognised global families in our seafarers. Although we continue to develop and use new technology to aid seafarers in their life away from their families, we lack in one great area and that is, to tell our story to our Church.
Our challenge for the future is to become a focal point of pastoral care of the people of the sea in the wider community, not just on Sea Sunday but all year round. If we are to make a real change in the lives of seafarers, then the world needs to understand who seafarers are and what perils they face.”
National Directors have a difficult task, their main role is to encourage the work for the spiritual and social needs of seafarers and to support the volunteers and members.
NORTH AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN
Regional Coordinator: Fr. Lorenzo A. Mex Jimenez.
The North America and Caribbean Region, up to now, has been composed of Canada, Cuba, Mexico, the USA and the English/French/Dutch speaking islands of the Caribbean.
USA: AOS-USA exists in 51 dioceses and is active in 61 ports, along the Pacific, the Gulf, on the Great Lakes and the Atlantic coasts. There is also one river chaplaincy. A special service is the Cruise Ship Priest Programme, which makes available priests of good standing to minister in cruise ships. There is a Bishop promoter and a National Director and 96 chaplains and pastoral agents ( 55 priests, 22 deacons, 2 religious brothers, 1 religious sister and 16 lay people). Regular annual national conferences are held.
Canada: AOS-Canada is growing and takes care of 60% of ships which berth in Canadian ports, with regular visits and celebrations. The centres offer legal aid and all the usual services.
Mexico: There are centres in the 5 major ports and others in preparation. Much of the pastoral work is oriented towards the human promotion of seafarers and their families.
The Caribbean: There are locally some AOS activities but there is no regular communication with the Region
• The Ecumenical nature of the work. Most chaplains operate from ecumenical centres. There are good relations and coordination.
• AOS active in deep water ports, among the fishing communities as well as inland waterways.
• Regular visits and celebrations on board.
• Relations with authorities and socially motivated organisations.
• The network and dynamism of volunteers.
• Lack of support, financial and otherwise, from the diocesan authorities.
• Lack of chaplaincy personnel.
• Chaplains have too many other responsibilities.
• Difficulty of seafarers to express themselves to officers, agents, etc
• The Federal rules for port security (TWIC) in the USA.
• No or little contact with Cuba and the Caribbean.
• AOS recovering after severe damages caused by hurricane Katrina.
• The Internet and Website.
• New opportunities to minister to cruise ships, recreational navigation and sailing.
• In Canada less ships on the Eastern seaboard and more ships in the Western ports, due to the increased commercial links with China.
• The newly opened or planned Stella Maris Centres.
• Renewed efforts to liase with the Caribbean countries.
• Not enough cruise lines have joined the cruise Ship Priest Programme.
• Proselytism of sects.
• Some centres are too routinely operated and there is no plan to change or take new initiatives.
• Not cooperating with other institutions (NGOs and Universities, for example).
• Scarcity of volunteers among the laity.
• Lack of equipment (vehicles, computers etc.).
• Increase in port activities.
• Addiction to drugs and alcohol.
• Overexploitation of fish stocks.
• Support all existing AOS chaplaincy teams
• Establish contacts and dialogue with country of origin of visiting catholic seafarers
• Increase and develop our contacts and access to maritime training facilities and academies.
• Campaign for the ratification of MLC 2006.
EAST-SOUTH EAST ASIA
Regional Coordinator: Fr. Bruno Ciceri, C.S.
Countries composing the region are: Philippines, Taiwan, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia.
• The region is composed both of highly developed and underdeveloped countries.
• While being the main supplier of seafarers and fishers for the whole maritime/fishing industry, in certain countries of the region seafarers are unemployed, they have no job security and very low salaries.
• It is the centre of the fishing industry both at the artisan and industrial level and yet IUU (illegal, unregulated and unreported) fishing is a very serious problem.
• In many countries the Ports’ Authorities priority is business and not welfare.
• Regular visits and celebrations on board.
• Involvement with maritime schools.
• Involvement with seafarers families.
• Course for lay ministry on board.
• Strict implementation of ISPS Code.
• Ecumenical cooperation is not yet fully developed and sometimes can be difficult.
• AOS is not one of the priorities of the local Church and Bishops.
• Very few full time port chaplains; the majority of them have several other responsibilities
• Financial sustainability of the Centres is a constant problem.
• Difficulties in the transition from foreign missionaries to local clergy.
• Very little or difficult exchange of communication and of information within the region.
• Very poor knowledge of English of port chaplains and volunteers.
• ICMA Regional conference and ICSW Conference in September 2007 to strengthen the ecumenical cooperation and develop a strategic plan for the region.
• Projects to start AOS in countries in the region.
• The ministry to fishers.
• Parishes with an active AOS within the port area.
• SMT Training by ICMA.
• Exchange of personnel.
• Lobbying and advocacy
• Fast turn around of vessels and new terminals far from the city centre.
• Ever increasing amount of paper work after working hours leaves less and less time to go ashore, hence more fatigue and despondency.
• Mixed crews cause loneliness and a lot of tension because of misunderstandings.
• The exploitation of seafarers and fishers coming from poorer countries.
• Lack of replacement of ageing personnel (Chaplains and pastoral Agents).
• Little consideration for the material/spiritual welfare of seafarers and fishers.
• Lack of volunteers.
• Lobbying and advocacy in regard to ratification of Maritime Labour Convention, 2006.
• Strengthen the ecumenical cooperation at the ICMA regional level.
• Develop a strategic plan starting with the regional ICSW conference.
CENTRAL and SOUTH AMERICA
Regional Coordinator: Fr. Samuel Fonseca Torres, C.S.
Latin America has 45 ports that are very dynamic from a commercial standpoint. They are distributed throughout the Caribbean Sea, the Pacific Ocean, and on rivers and lakes of the region. At the last World Congress held in 2002, we received reports from only 5 Stella Maris Centers in the whole region (Buenos Aires, Santos, Rio de Janeiro, Puerto Cabello, Montevideo). At present, this number has grown considerably and we already have AOS Seafarers centres in 18 ports.
In some centres, accommodation is available for seafarers who come for professional training courses. Many centers have facilities for recreation, a transportation service, a telecommunications room (international calls, Internet), money exchange, bar service, fast food service, and guided excursions. Among the pastoral services, a broad range of religious activities is available, namely counseling, confession and Holy Masses.
Thanks to the help and support of international Organizations more than 150 volunteers and some fifteen chaplains in the region, have been trained and were able to participate to many national and international meetings that have made possible the exchange of valuable experience for the development of this apostolate.
At present, AOS is being reactivated and expanded in many ports in Venezuela, Colombia and Brazil. Several requests have come from other countries that have also shown interest in starting or restarting AOS.
• Growing awareness of bishops and ecclesiastical authorities regarding the reality and need for AOS.
• Regular training of pastoral agents and volunteers. A highly committed team is behind this on-going formation.
• The opening of new centres in important ports that are commercially very active.
• Good relations and in some cases agreements with port and labor-union authorities that are giving great support to several centres.
• Continuous programming of activities that are attractive for the seafarers.
• In some cases a truly ecumenical collaboration with other Churches.
• The availability of printed material and publications/bulletins.
• The constant support of international bodies like the ITF and the ICSW for the development of many projects in the whole region.
• There are few chaplains and religious available for AOS.
• In some ports, obtaining entrance is not easy.
• The administrative work needs to be streamlined.
• The Churches do not have the economic capacity to offer the financial support to centers, especially in the beginning while they are trying to become self-financed.
• The lack of volunteers.
• Deficiencies in the use and mastery of the English language.
• The lack in some centers of transportation services.
• The opening of new centers with clear plans for viability, growth, and expansion.
• The possibility to make contact with the local communities and involve them with the pastoral and ecumenical work of AOS.
• The good relations with most of the promoter Bishops, NGOs and governmental representatives in the whole region.
• The support received through international bodies like the ITF and the ICSW.
• Having a Website/Internet service through which we can know and reach out to a greater number of people.
• Encouragement and endorsement for the pastoral care of the sea on the level of Bishops’ Conferences throughout Latin America.
• The reactivation of maritime trade in the South American continent.
• In some countries the lack of continuity/permanence of chaplains and project directors blocks the development.
• The scarce economic resources available to achieve the objectives.
• The availability of few human resources truly committed to work in the mission.
• Improvement and adaptation of some centres for the training of chaplains and volunteers with a view to establishing new centres.
• Adaptation of the larger centers in order to offer a broader range of possibilities with regard to recreational, sport, cultural, social and religious activities.
• Reach out to the public at the already existing centres in order to get the community itself involved.
• Maintain a network of contacts with all the Stella Maris Centres around the world.
• Increase the number of publications with up- to- date information about centres.
• Strive for continuity, through the same chaplains and volunteers in the implementation of projects so as to not interfere with their progress.
• By the end of 2007, give all those engaged in the mission the opportunity to improve their English.
• Training personnel for the pastoral care of crews from cruise ships.
• The inclusion of Mexico in the region.
Regional Coordinator: Fr. Edward Pracz,
This region embraces the Atlantic Ocean, the Caspian and the Black Sea with the Azov Sea, the Mediterranean, the Irish, the North, the Baltic and the Norwegian Seas and the Barents. As Pope John Paul II said on 2 May 2004, “Western and Eastern Europe are the two lungs of Europe… while the Western part works at a rather stable pace, the Eastern part undergoes turbulence full of opportunities and threats”.
These last years, there have been drastic political changes, the removal of the iron curtain, more and more European countries have become members of the European Union.
• Good ecumenical collaboration and trust in AOS.
• Structured AOS teams at Port, Regional and National levels.
• Daily newspapers and newsletters are distributed in a wide variety of languages.
• Distribution of Bible and other printed religious materials.
• Sunday Mass broadcasts to seafarers on board and for their families ashore.
• In some countries, regular celebration of the Holy Mass for seamen and their families in the maritime churches.
• There is still quite a large number of sailing priests; some of them are employed as regular crew members.
• Lay Eucharist ministers on board.
• Onboard celebrations/prayer groups by laymen.
• Little religious instruction/culture among seafarers.
• Scarcity of priests available for Eucharist celebration in some parts of Europe.
• Need for better knowledge of English language.
• AOS through witnessing is called to be the human face of globalisation in the maritime world.
• Maritime Labour Convention 2006.
• Well structured diaconal services in many countries in Europe.
• Growing and systematic ship visiting.
• Good cooperation of AOS with local /coastal parishes specially in connection with fishing communities.
• Co-operation between French, Spanish and Portuguese AOS regarding fishing issues.
• New appointments of AOS chaplains, ministers on board.
• Chaplaincy on cruise ships and in ports of call is being more developed.
• Yachting and pleasure sailing are becoming more important
• Support from volunteers including professionals such as doctors or lawyers.
• Celebration of Sea Sunday and pilgrimages of the People of the Sea to international and national shrines.
• Shift from moral principles to materialistic attitudes in many post-communist countries.
• In the fishing industry, lack of security (individual and collective); hours of work are not respected.
• Management of fishing resources: much hardship caused by fishing quotas.
• Lack of international cooperation regarding retirement benefits and social security for seafarers who have worked under foreign flags.
• In merchant shipping: second registries (e.g. RIF).
• Little contacts with the families of seafarers/fishers.
• Drug addiction.
• Shore leave, harassment.
• The negative impact of globalisation.
• Cooperation with ICMA to ensure an AOS presence in Scandinavia.
• Real opportunities to establish AOS centres in Saint Petersburg and Kaliningrad.
• Maritime ministry training and English language courses.
• Make the Sports and Conference Centre in Kashuby a venue for training, exchange of experience and generating a spirit of understanding and co-operation between West and East.
• Strengthen the recent initiatives regarding: cruise ship ministry, networking, AOS International Website, Communication and Ship Tracking.
• Need for clear AOS identity, visibility (to Seafarers and Church).
• Important to identify and support onboard leaders.
• Appropriate training and support to build port, regional and national AOS teams.
INDIAN OCEAN and SOUTHEAST AFRICA
Regional Coordinator: Mr. Jean T. Vacher
The region comprises South Africa, Tanzania, Mozambique, Kenya, La Reunion, Madagascar, Seychelles and Mauritius. The main ports are to be found on the mainland and Eastern Coast of Africa, and in the Indian Ocean Islands.
South Africa: With the support of the Bishop promoter and national Director, AOS has been relaunched and chaplaincy teams appointed in all the major ports.
Mozambique: There is an ecumenical project to start a seafarers’ centre there. The Catholic Church will support the project.
Mauritius: In Rodrigues, a diocesan AOS director has been appointed and a pastoral plan is in preparation.
• Good ecumenical collaboration.
• In some ports regular ship visiting.
• All the islands share the same language and culture.
• The solidarity network with fishers.
• Support from Church authorities.
• Well structured national offices.
• Where there is no reliable contact person it is difficult for AOS to take root and develop.
• Language/communication difficulties between the islands and mainland Africa.
• For historical, political, and cultural reasons, lack of solidarity between countries of the region.
• Construction of new centres thanks to ITF grants.
• Wherever there is support from all stakeholders in the port.
• New developments and modernisation of the ports of the region (e.g. Seafood hub).
• Growing demands from cruise ships and yachting personnel.
• New fishing boats to enable fishers to fish offshore.
• Being on the maritime routes between Asia and Africa.
• HIV/AIDS and health related problems.
• Lack of social security.
• No safety at sea, resulting in many accidents/deaths.
• Unemployment among professional seafarers.
• Shore leave for seafarers.
• Ports becoming more difficult of access.
• No funds to run the seafarers centres.
• Encourage inter cultural and inter religious encounters.
• Develop solidarity network among port stakeholders.
• Increased support from Church authorities.
• Financial self-sufficiency.
• Appointment of AOS chaplain/representative in all ports of the region.
• Consolidate ship visiting.
• Implement HIV/AIDS awareness program.
• Promoting Sailing Chaplains.