In September, I concluded my four year term as Chairman of the International Christian Maritime Association (ICMA).
While I remain on the Board, I handed over the reins to a new Chair and a reorganised leadership team. New eyes on historic work are always a good thing. I was reluctant to take the chairmanship on back in 2018 but, in the end agreed to do it – just for a year! Inevitably, that year became the maximum of four. In the end, I enjoyed it, not least because of the quality of the General Secretary, the delightfulness of the Board and the warm friendship of so many individuals from such a diverse group of member societies. Indeed I have felt proud and privileged to have been able to serve in this small way.
I absolutely believe in the ICMA project. Now 52 years old, it has done a huge amount to inspire, support and encourage common and collaborative working. In this, it has been transformational. Faith-based Christian societies, many now of venerable age, make up the bulk of front-line port-based maritime welfare across the world. Once the reality was of “silo” working. Organisations worked in relative isolation, often operating from neighbouring buildings and effectively competing against one another. Now, while elements of unhelpful competitiveness still remain from time to time, the overwhelming picture is of commitment to partnership at local and international level.
It can be a joy to see, particularly in action at the front line. Effective partnership, however, takes constant and intentional energy. It can never be taken for granted. ICMA provides a forum for its 28 member societies, large and small, to build friendship and understanding, both organisational and personal. It provides a collaborative advocacy voice, not least through its recognised teams at the International Labour Organisation and the International Maritime Organisation. Its training courses offer the opportunity to learn together. It provides a collective voice across the industry for its members and indeed promotes strong partnerships within the whole maritime welfare sector.
In my time as Chairman, the pandemic and the current Ukraine conflict have provided huge challenges for us all, and it has been essential to learn from each other and support one another. Such collaboration is good for seafarers and ensures the very best use of our precious resources. For the Christian organisations, strong ecumenical working is also a Gospel injunction and responsibility!
During my stint as Chairman, we held a memorable ICMA World Conference in Taiwan in 2019. Attended by almost 300 delegates, it was a wonderful opportunity both to address core issues and to further grow the friendship and goodwill which was so tangible throughout the meeting. No one present at that event could fail to appreciate the extent and depth of partnership working across the societies and the progress made in 50 years. Seafarers need that joined-up working, and the industry demands it.
I am proud of all the work ICMA does. Long may it continue. It has a great history and, I am sure, a great future. However, it can only fulfil its vital aims if we all remain unstintingly committed to the best in partnership. Partnership certainly remains a core value of The Mission to Seafarers and features prominently in our strategy.