The Apostleship of the Sea was founded in Glasgow, Scotland in 1920. At this time Britain had one of the largest merchant fleets in the world, employing many thousands of British seafarers. The Apostleship of the Sea ran large seafarers’ hostels in all the major port towns where seafarers could stay while their ships were in port, often for weeks at a time. Hundreds of volunteers from the local parishes were involved in providing hospitality and entertainment for seafarers in these hostels, which were always full.
Then globalisation and the drive for greater profit margins, combined with technological advances, changed the face of international shipping forever. Ships became larger, ports moved down river, and turnaround times for ships in port were reduced dramatically. Crews also became smaller, and were increasingly recruited from developing world countries where wages were lower. Owners registered their ships under so-called flags of convenience to avoid stringent regulatory controls.
Today’s seafarer is no longer in port for a few nights, but often only for a few hours. In these changed circumstances they no longer need the reactive welcome of a hostel, but the pro-active outreach of a ship visit to assess practical needs, backed up by a modern drop-in centre inside the docks.
These centres are equipped with email terminals and telephones to facilitate contact with loved ones back home whom they may not have seen for nine or even twelve months. They are a place to relax for an hour or so, to have a drink and have a chat with other seafarers who may be using the centre. They provide a chance to stock up on essential items needed for their next stretch at sea.
While the nature of our work has evolved, our founding belief that every seafarer deserves fair working conditions, respect for their human rights and the very best we can offer remains at the heart of what we do.
Stella Maris – Our Lady, Star of The Sea
‘Stella Maris’ is the name by which many seafarers also know the Apostleship of the Sea. This is because ‘Stella Maris, Star of the Sea’, is an ancient title for Mary, the Mother of God, traditionally used by seafarers and others associated with the sea. Just as seafarers have traditionally depended on the stars for navigation, so they trust in the protection and guidance of Our Lady, Stella Maris is the patron of the Apostleship of the Sea.