Meet the Mariners We Serve

“I am the seafarer who makes the mall interesting.”

If the label of a consumer product says it was made in another country, it probably arrived in America on a transoceanic container ship. Ocean-going vessels transport more than 90% of all imports to the United States, including the most interesting finds at the mall—the latest smartphones, clothing trends from top designers, sporting goods, and cosmetics.

Seafarers operate the large container ships that carry products to the United States from ports around the globe. The efforts of this highly skilled workforce ensure that what you’ve noticed on this year’s fashion runway or in the pages of a magazine will be available on store shelves when you’re ready to buy. 

“I am the mariner who lights up your home.”

 Coal-burning power plants generate more than half of the electricity used in the United States, and towboats traveling up and down the nation’s river systems transport around 20% of that coal. That means the lights are on in roughly one out of ten American homes thanks to the inland river transportation industry.

Inland river mariners navigate the country’s waterways transporting other commodities—such as grain, iron, steel, and petroleum—via towboats. These towboats push multiple barges (flat-bottomed floating containers) lashed together to form “tows.” A typical tow consists of 15 barges, each of which can efficiently carry up to 1,500 tons of cargo.

“I am the mariner who helps feed the world.”

With every year’s harvest, American farmers net billions of dollars for the nation’s economy, distributing high-quality grains to countries around the globe. And inland waterways transport more than 60% of the United States’ grain exports.

Inland river mariners play an important role in safely transporting America’s bounty. Their hard work allows cargo to move economically and efficiently, keeping America competitive in its trade with other nations. Mariners’ efforts and skills enable US farmers to distribute food for the world.

“I am the seafarer who lets you stream the latest movies in dazzling HD.”

Consumer electronics account for about 30% of the trillion dollars of imports to the United States each year. Much of the latest gadgetry is produced in overseas manufacturing plants.

Americans can credit seafarers for meeting their burning desire for technology. Without the hard work of mariners, many of the things we take for granted (like televisions, cellphones, computers, gaming devices, and other electronic gadgets) might be unobtainable by the average person.

MEET THE FOLKS behind maritime commerce, a trillion-dollar-per-year industry that drives the global economy. Seafarers and inland river mariners who work on the world’s oceans and on the American inland river system sometimes go unnoticed, but their efforts make a big difference in our world.

The Challenges

Mariners encounter many dangers and difficulties unique to their profession. For mariners, working conditions remain remarkably similar to what they were when SCI was founded in 1834: piracy, limited access to shoreside services, and isolation. The needs of the average seafarer have also evolved with the growth of maritime commerce. Today’s mariner works in a relentless environment, experiencing problems relating to 21st-century technology, economic demands, and security concerns.

These men and women function as part of an international merchant marine. Without mariners’ service agencies like the Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI), no other far-reaching, formal support infrastructure would exist for these hardworking people. SCI performs a critical role, providing mariners with the assistance they need far from home and acting as their advocate when they need help.

The Institute

The Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI) serves the hardworking men and women laboring on the world’s oceans and inland rivers. With their work, these individuals fuel the global economy and make our way of life possible as they spend months at sea or on rivers away from their families, friends, and homes.

With close relationships to governments and industry, SCI has shaped its support services to meet the challenges facing today’s mariner. From the provision of hospitality services at our Centers to operating the world’s only full-time and free legal aid program for merchant mariners, training mariners on world-class simulators used in SCI’s maritime education centers, and even delivering handknit holiday gifts for mariners, SCI provides an indispensible array of services to mariners working around the world.

Get Involved

Because the Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI) serves a diverse population of mariners, we value the varied contributions of supporters.

SCI depends upon financial assistance in order to continue serving so many people. If you would like to make a donation in support of SCI’s work, click the green DONATE button on this page.

Every day, volunteers of varying ages and abilities assist SCI as we work around the world. Some people volunteer through regular visits to SCI centers; others serve in their own churches or homes. There are many ways volunteers can contribute to the work of SCI. Learn more here.