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 City, the Institute operates seafarers’ centers in Port Newark,[4] and maritime education facilities in Paducah, KY[5] and Houston, TX.[6]

Annually, its chaplains visit more than 2,400 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 the United Nations, the International Maritime Organization, the International Labour Organization and maritime trade associations.[7]

SCI instructors provide professional development and educational programs for inland, coastal, and deep-sea mariners using simulator training facilities at SCI-Paducah and SCI-Houston.[8]

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

Historical Highlights of SCI (1834-2011)[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

1991: SCI moves to new headquarters at 241 Water Street in New York City

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 assumes management of the International Maritime Center in the San Francisco Bay Area

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

Pastoral care and services[edit]

In the Port of New York and New Jersey, SCI chaplains visit thousands of vessels entering annually, providing needed services to crews and offering hospitality and pastoral care. Seafarers visiting SCI hospitality centers can access the Internet, phone their families at home, and enjoy a range of other amenities free of charge.[9]

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. Three full-time chaplains board towboats and offshore vessels to offer pastoral care and hospitality.[10]

Maritime education and training[edit]

SCI instructors provide professional development and educational programs for inland, coastal, and deep-sea mariners using simulator training at facilities in Paducah, Kentucky and Houston, Texas.[8][11]

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 human rights and government 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.[7]

Taking on a new dimension to advocacy, CSR has retained the services of psychologist Michael Garfinkle, PhD to conduct a study on the psychological impact of piracy on seafarers. The project is being coordinated by Dr. Garfinkle across the Seamen's Church Institute, the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and the New York Psychoanalytic Society & Institute.[12]

Christmas at Sea[edit]

With more than 4,300 knitters drawn from all 50 states, SCI’s Christmas at Sea provides over 20,000 hand-knit gifts to merchant mariners working on Christmas Day.[3][13] 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.[14]


SCI has an extensive physical archive collection located at Queens College, City University of New York.[15] The Institute has also digitized a portion of its archives.[16]


  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. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ Joe Walker, In times of economic struggles, focus stays on training program, Paducah Sun, Front Page, Business Section, Sunday, July 7, 2002
  6. ^ JENALIA MORENO, Waterway pilots try out new simulator, Houston Chronicle, May 11, 2001
  7. ^ a b "Center for Seafarers' Rights | The Seamen's Church Institute". Retrieved 2013-07-01. 
  8. ^ a b "Center for Maritime Education | The Seamen's Church Institute". Retrieved 2013-07-01. 
  9. ^ "Services & Ministry | The Seamen's Church Institute". Retrieved 2013-07-01. 
  10. ^ O'Dell, Les (8 October 2011). "Faith on the Water". The Southern. Retrieved 6 June 2012. 
  11. ^ Gauvin, Brian (December 2010). "Towing". Professional Mariner. 
  12. ^ Wilson, Lynette (2010-04-16). "Episcopal News Service - NEWS". Retrieved 2013-07-01. 
  13. ^ Schjonberg, Mary Frances (5 December 2011). "Video: Knitting for Christmas at Sea". Episcopal News Service. Retrieved 6 January 2012. 
  14. ^ Jenkins, Judy. "Unique holiday ministry helps keep river workers afloat". Evansville Courier & Press. Retrieved 6 January 2012. 
  15. ^ "SCI Joins Queens College Special Collections | The Seamen's Church Institute". 2011-10-14. Retrieved 2013-07-01. 
  16. ^ "SCI Digital Archives". Retrieved 2017-04-11. 

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