This month, the Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI) begins reopening its renovated International Seafarers’ Center in Port Newark, N.J. In addition to a substantial hospitality center for the Port’s maritime workforce, the three-story building presents a new home for several important SCI programs, closely integrating them with the activity of the largest container terminal complex on the East Coast.
Attorneys for SCI’s Center for Seafarers’ Rights, who provide professional legal services for seafarers around the globe, will now operate from the third floor of SCI’s new International Seafarers’ Center in Port Newark. SCI also moves its Christmas at Sea “Knitting Room,” the assembly point for knitted gifts collected for mariners throughout the year, from lower Manhattan to the third floor of the Center, giving volunteers opportunity to connect with the mariners they serve.
SCI’s 18,000-square-foot Center provides the maritime community with access to Internet, telephones, recreation, food services, and conference rooms. In 2009, the Center (then still under construction) served 37,980 seafarers, truckers, and port workers.
The Rev. David M. Rider, SCI’s President and Executive Director, sees tremendous potential in this new accommodation of programs at SCI’s Center. Chaplains, attorneys, administrators, and volunteers work in the same building, collaborating on issues in tandem. “The Center integrates SCI’s ministry,” he said, “It’s a ‘super-center’ for mariners.”
Rider also believes that the new Center more closely assimilates a land dwelling world with a seafaring one. “Traditionally, society has regarded with mystery the industrial area of the port set away from the city center. We have often characterized the area ‘down by the docks’ as a shady, unwelcoming place.” SCI’s Center aims to change that view, according to Rider.
The Center offers one of the only spots accessible to the general public in the secure areas of the port. A giant east wall made of glass provides a panoramic view of cranes and container ships, and inside the Center, SCI hosts a great deal of maritime commerce activity with people from all over the world.
Noting hospitality as one of SCI’s trademarks, Rider said, “SCI opens its Center in Port Newark to lay bare the amazing work of seafarers, shining a light on their generous spirit and dedication. We’re putting a mixture of people face-to-face and reminding each other of the valuable connections on which we depend.”