Seamen's Church Institute of New York and New Jersey

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The Seamen's Church Institute (SCI) of New York & New Jersey, founded in 1834[1] by Charles Sherman Haight Sr.[2] and affiliated with the Episcopal Church, serves mariners through education, pastoral care, and legal advocacy. With a budget of over $6 million,[3] SCI is the largest, most comprehensive mariners’ agency in North America. Headquartered in New York, NY, the Institute operates a seafarers’ center in Port Newark,[4][5] and maritime education facilities in Paducah, KY[6] and Houston, TX.[7]

Annually, its chaplains visit more than 1,600 vessels in the Port of New York and New Jersey and along American inland waterways.[3]

SCI provides free legal advice for merchant mariners worldwide and advocates for their rights to the United States Government, including the United States Congress, the Department of Homeland Security and the US Coast Guard, as well as other governments, the United Nations, the International Maritime Organization, the International Labour Organization, and maritime trade associations.[8]

SCI instructors provide professional development and educational programs for inland and coastal mariners using simulator training facilities at SCI-Paducah and SCI-Houston.[9]

SCI's Christmas at Sea program annually provides more than 20,000 hand-knit gifts to mariners at the holidays.[3]

Historical Highlights of SCI (1834-2018)[edit]

1834: SCI is founded at a meeting of the Young Men’s Auxiliary Education and Missionary Society

1844: SCI builds the Floating Church of Our Savior to provide a place of worship where seafarers could feel comfortable and welcome

1868: SCI builds its first mission house at 34 Pike Street in the bustling New York Harbor

1898: The Christmas at Sea program begins

1899: The beginnings of Maritime Education at SCI

1908: Franklin D. Roosevelt joins SCI ’s Board, on which he remained until his death in 1945

1913: SCI opens the doors of its 13-story building at 25 South Street in downtown Manhattan

1917: The Institute begins training merchant marines for World War I

1920: Janet Lord Roper begins running the Missing Seamen’s Bureau

1924: SCI opens an emergency homeless shelter for seafarers affected by the shipping industry’s economic downturn

1961: SCI dedicates its International Seafarers’ Center in Port Newark, NJ

1982: The Center for Seafarers’ Rights is established

1997: The Institute opens CME–Paducah in Kentucky, the first training facility of its kind for America’s inland river mariners

1998: Ministry on the River begins, the only full-time pastoral care service available to mariners working on America’s inland river systems

2001: SCI dedicates CME–Houston, a facility for maritime training in the Port of Houston

2009: SCI launches groundbreaking study on the psychological effects of piracy

2011: SCI changes Ministry on the River to Ministry on the Rivers+Gulf to reflect the expanding scope of this ministry

2011: SCI sells its headquarters building at 241 Water Street and transfers its archival collections to CUNY Queens College on permanent loan. The collections are housed at the College and open to researchers, in addition to serving as teaching resources for archives students in the Graduate School of Library and Information Studies.

2013: SCI hosts first Mountain Challenge fundraiser team race over 25 miles of rugged terrain in western Maine

2014: SCI moves to current headquarters at 50 Broadway in New York City

2016: SCI CME broadens its service offering to mariners through a new online Health, Safety and Environment e-learning program

2017: SCI conducts its first two-day Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) workshop for shore-side personnel in the inland river industry at its Center for Maritime Education, Paducah, KY

2017: CME becomes the first maritime training center in the United States to receive ISO 9001 certification for its quality management system

2018: SCI celebrates the 120th anniversary of the Christmas at Sea program by launching the 1898 Society, a planned giving initiative for volunteer knitters

Pastoral care and services[edit]

In the Port of New York and New Jersey, SCI chaplains visit thousands of vessels annually, providing practical services to crews and offering hospitality and pastoral care. Seafarers are offered free transportation services to and from their vessel, enabling them to visit local shopping areas. Those who visit the SCI International Seafarers' Center in Port Newark can access the Internet, contact their families at home, and enjoy a range of other amenities free of charge.[10]

SCI's Ministry on the Rivers and Gulf (MOR+G) program reaches out to mariners and maritime workers on the inland waterways and in the Gulf of Mexico. Two full-time chaplains and more than a dozen part-time volunteer river chaplain associates board towboats and offshore vessels to offer pastoral care and hospitality.[11]

Maritime education and training[edit]

SCI instructors provide professional development and educational programs for inland and coastal mariners using simulator training at facilities in Paducah, Kentucky and Houston, Texas.[9][12]

Policy, advocacy and law[edit]

SCI's Center for Seafarer Rights (CSR) is the world's only free legal-aid program for merchant mariners. Available for consultation at any time, CSR mediates between parties to reach a resolution acceptable to everyone, often referring individual mariners to pro-bono law firms for assistance. Working with seafarer advocacy and international groups from around the world, CSR has been instrumental in improving safety and security for mariners, as well as implementing new standards relating to stowaways, piracy, repatriation, medical care and shore leave.[8]

Taking on a new dimension to advocacy, in 2012 CSR published guidelines on "The Psychological Impact of Piracy on Seafarers".[13] This has been followed by various studies on health and wellness among seafarers and inland mariners,[14] including the introduction of suicide intervention training in 2017.[15]

Christmas at Sea[edit]

With more than 1,200 knitters drawn from all 50 states, Canada and Europe, SCI’s Christmas at Sea program provides over 20,000 hand-knit gifts to merchant mariners working over the Christmas holidays.[3][16] Begun in 1898 during the Spanish–American War, Christmas at Sea relies on SCI chaplains who distribute gifts to international seafarers, inland river mariners and offshore workers in the Gulf of Mexico throughout the holiday season.[17]


SCI has an extensive physical archive collection located at Queens College, City University of New York.[18] The Institute has also digitized a portion of its archives.[19]


  1. ^ Rousmaniere, Leah Robinson (1995). Anchored Within The Vail, A Pictorial History of the Seamen’s Church Institute. Seamen's Church Institute. ISBN 0-9643657-0-7
  2. ^ "C. S. HAIGHT DIES".
  3. ^ a b c d "AR & Newsletters | The Seamen's Church Institute". Retrieved 2013-07-01.
  4. ^
  5. ^ Smothers, Ronald (2004-09-12). "RONALD SMOTHERS, Port's House of God Goes Green, The New York Times, New York and Region, September 12, 2004". Port Newark; Newark (NJ): New York Times. Retrieved 2013-07-01.
  6. ^ Joe Walker, In times of economic struggles, focus stays on training program, Paducah Sun, Front Page, Business Section, Sunday, July 7, 2002
  7. ^ JENALIA MORENO, Waterway pilots try out new simulator, Houston Chronicle, May 11, 2001
  8. ^ a b "Center for Seafarers' Rights | The Seamen's Church Institute". Retrieved 2013-07-01.
  9. ^ a b "Center for Maritime Education | The Seamen's Church Institute". Retrieved 2013-07-01.
  10. ^ "Services & Ministry | The Seamen's Church Institute". Retrieved 2013-07-01.
  11. ^ O'Dell, Les (8 October 2011). "Faith on the Water". The Southern. Retrieved 6 June 2012.
  12. ^ Gauvin, Brian (December 2010). "Towing". Professional Mariner.
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ Schjonberg, Mary Frances (5 December 2011). "Video: Knitting for Christmas at Sea". Episcopal News Service. Retrieved 6 January 2012.
  17. ^ Jenkins, Judy. "Unique holiday ministry helps keep river workers afloat". Evansville Courier & Press. Retrieved 6 January 2012.
  18. ^ "SCI Joins Queens College Special Collections | The Seamen's Church Institute". 2011-10-14. Retrieved 2013-07-01.
  19. ^ "SCI Digital Archives". Retrieved 2017-04-11.

Other references[edit]

External links[edit]