Supporting seafarers in the best and worst of times

20th October 2023
Julia Cooper, Director of Operations, Seattle, and Revd. James Mosher, our Port Chaplain in Southampton, share their recent experiences of providing practical and spiritual support to seafarers.


For Julia Cooper, our Director of Operations in Seattle, August was a very busy time. Their cruise ship shuttle service run by the Seafarers Centre helped to transport no less than 1400 crew members over the course of the month!  The Centre has also made important progress in improving access to Terminal 30, a container ship terminal in Seattle with higher security. Previously, Julia and her team needed to email the agent of a visiting ship ahead of time to get permission to visit, but now at least two different agents are putting our Seafarers Centre staff on their permanent gate lists, so they no longer need to wait for approval to visit. This has helped in speeding up access, and they hope to get on the permanent gate list for additional agents and shipping companies.

The team has had some great visits with several OOCL ships at this terminal, which were difficult to visit before. What’s more, the crews of these ships did not have shore leave until recent months. Nowadays, it is a regular occurrence for an OOCL ship to request a ride to Costco, and the team is glad to help them shop for provisions for the ship and gifts for family back home.

One memorable ship visit from this month was on the Maersk Copenhagen. The visit coincided with a very special event—the captain’s birthday party! The cook baked and decorated a cake, and the whole crew gathered in the messroom to sing “Happy Birthday”. One of the officers even video-called the captain’s wife and kid so they could join the party. It was a festive occasion, and the team was glad to be able to celebrate with them.


It was on a Saturday evening when Revd. James Mosher, our Southampton Port Chaplain, received a call from a US cruise ship company to inform him that a seafarer had died on the crossing from America and that the captain had requested a chaplain in Dover, just a few hours ahead of the ship’s arrival time. This was no simple task. Revd. James was several hours away from Dover and had commitments the following day, including Sunday services, as well as the need to obtain security clearance at short notice.

Many of our colleagues face the challenge of juggling port chaplaincy with other responsibilities. However, as Revd. James noted, it can make a real difference to be able to speak to a friendly voice for advice and support—in this case, a colleague with whom he had spent time during his induction with The Mission—and their conversation touched on the importance of the ministry prioritising matters of life and death.

Revd. James was determined to go to Dover and was able to make his way through security to reach the ship the following day, at the same time as many passengers. As Revd. James notes that he felt a little out of place in his cassock and high-vis jacket among those about to embark on their holidays.

Despite it being a busy time for all on board, the ship’s captain greeted Revd. James, and they made their way to the deceased seafarer’s cabin.  The business of the ship stood still while Revd. James led prayers with the officers and crew for the soul of the deceased seafarer, as well as family, friends, and all those on the ship. Revd. James also joined the Captain for coffee in one of the ship’s lounges to discuss the impact on the crew before spending more time speaking and praying with other crew members. For those seafarers who call the ship their home, we are sure that Revd. James’ words, prayers, and support helped them feel like it was still a place of life and grace.

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