News and Blog

Time to prepare for Christmas

Saint John Seafarers’ Mission, Inc.
Christmas Program – 2016

Each year during the Christmas season, the Saint John Seafarers’ Mission provides gifts to the seafarers who are visiting our port. These gifts are packaged with the goal of giving items of necessity, with “a little something extra”, at a time when these men and women are feeling the loneliness of being away from their families. In 2015, with help from many groups and individuals, the Seafarers’ Mission distributed 263 Christmas packages to 12 ships, during the Christmas season. The crew members were pleased! They were also very appreciative of the gifts and the fact that they were being thought of, during this special season.

Ideas for items you could include in a Christmas package:
• Toiletries: shampoo, shave cream, tooth paste, tooth brush, dental floss, mouth wash, body wash, deodorant, disposable razors, lip balm, comb, hand lotion, kleenex
• Warm Items: gloves, socks, scarf, toque
• “A Little Something Extra”: Playing Cards, Game Book, Pen, Canada souvenir (pin/magnet/key chain), Candy (individually wrapped), Chocolates, Chocolate bars, Halloween sized bags of chips, pkg. gum, etc.
• Christmas card

Note: Please do not wrap individual items or the packages. We ask this because port security controls, in the US and Canada, impose a responsibility on us to scan the contents of any parcels before they go aboard ships (to assure Security that the packages are risk-free).
If you would like to be part of our Christmas Program but don’t want to do a ‘package’, another option would be to donate some of the above items, earmarked specifically for Christmas or to donate money for the program (tax receipts will be issued).

Also, note: We generally have a shortage of gloves, shampoo, deodorant, shave cream, hand lotion, lip balm

Approximate sizes of ‘packages’ we use:
​- medium size shoe box
​- Christmas bags = 12” (h), 10” (w) and 5” (d)

Without help from others, we could not provide these gifts. If you are interested in supporting this project, you may drop your Christmas donations at the Mission (92 Tilley Lane, Saint John) between Monday – Thursday (12:00pm – 5:00pm). If you need someone to pick up your items, please call Bev at (506) 635-1731 to make arrangements or email ​
Saint John Seafarers’ Mission, Inc.
( A Registered Canadian Charitable Organization – Reg. # 11913 2413 )

Balsa 85 to return to Saint John

The Balsa 85 is on her way up the east coast. She is due in on Sunday morning July 17. She was last hear in April of 2015. During that call the majority of her crew was hospitalized due to food poisoning. See our story in our archives. About a month ago one of the crew visited the port aboard another Balsa Vessel. He reported good health with a very thankful heart.

What a magazine can do


Often when I visit a ship I will drop a half dozen random magazines in the crew quarters or the ships office. They get picked through by the men and are a popular give away. Sometimes I question certain magazines as to the relevance for the average seafarer.

Today on my return visit to a ship the first officer had turned to a page in Zoomers magazine to a picture of a person with shingles. He then showed me his own neck which had an outbreak of some sort.

I said that I would take him to a pharmacist to see if we could get some help. I thought it might just be acne. We headed out with the Van packed with shipmates to the Walmart. The rest of the crew dispersed with instructions how to find a cab back to the ship when they were done. I went with the chief officer to the Pharmacy. Paula asked a bunch of questions and after the two of us doing some careful listening she suggested that it might well be shingles! Fortunately the seafarer is due to be returned home after the next port. We asked him to see his Doc. as soon as he got home. She got some cream for him for the Itch and gave him some additional advice. I bid him Bon Voyage.

Thanks to everyone who donates magazines!

Another win for Saint John Seafarers Mission


Yesterday a seafarer came to our mission and related what had happened over the last few days. He had received word that his mother had passed away in the Philippines. He requested that he be repatriated according to the terms of his contract and the MLC 2006 provisions, “in a timely manner”. The sympathetic captain and an onboard superintendent contacted the company but the response was to wait until they went to New York. Even though NYC is only 2 days sail from Saint John, it could easily be several more days before he could go ashore. Ships entering New York often must wait in the anchorage. He is the youngest male of 11 siblings and they were waiting for him to return or at least know when he would return before they would begin making funeral preparations.

Clearly in his grief he was not able to function on board in a safe and productive manner. At the mission after hearing his story and spending some time in prayer in the chapel we called the regional ITF inspector who was enroute back to Halifax via train. Working together with the inspector we were able to contact the ship, the manning agency, the harbourmaster, the IC Inspectors and in only a few hours obtain the required documents for this man to be relieved from his duties and begin the journey home.

Unfortunately it is not unusual to have to activate such a large network of people just to see that something quite reasonable is done for a seafarer in need. If the company had not responded they may have faced delays that would have cost them much more than flying a man out of Saint John rather than New York. This is what Maritime Ministry does. It stands up for the vulnerable and those in need in the midst of what is sometimes a very heartless and profit driven system.

I was so pleased to get a call from the hotel last evening, for the man, saying that he had his ticket and would be flying out this morning at 05:00 for home.

Thanks to all who helped, especial Karl and the ITF; well done!

Eric Phinney
Chaplain – Saint John Seafarers Mission

Key Facts and Figures

Over 90 per cent of world trade is carried by the sea, providing work to 1.5 million seafarers. Shipping is a truly international industry: in today’s global market you might have a Greek-owned vessel, registered in Malta, with officers from India and a mixed crew from Thailand, Indonesia, Vanuatu, and the Philippines.

However, it is also one of the world’s most dangerous occupations, in 2014, there were 2,773 casualites. The rate of suicide for international seafarers is triple that of shore workers, and they are 26 times more likely to be killed at work.
The threat of piracy is also very real. Whilst it is on a general trend of decline (down 7% from the previous year in 2013) It is on the rise in specific areas: South East Asian waters, The Indian subcontinent and Bangladesh have seen 10% increases in piracy year on year (as of 2014). Over 40 seafarers kidnapped by Somali pirates have been held for over three years.

Volatile states have also had an impact on the shipping industry, in early 2015 a Greek tanker was bombed just off the coast by the Libyan Civil War.