Intern Aaron Remulla, left, and staff member Marriah Vinson Tronvig are ready to greet visitors to the Seafarers’ Friend Portland Welcome Center. An open house at the center will be held Saturday. Mikayla Patel / The Forecaster

The nonprofit Seafarers’ Friend is opening a Portland Welcome Center on Commercial Street to provide services, hospitality and support to crews of cargo ships and now cruise ships.

The nearly 200-year-old faith-based organization, with locations in Boston; Portsmouth, N.H.; Searsport and Portland, will hold an open house at the new center in the Baxter Building at 305 Commercial St. from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday.

Loki, the Seafarers’ Friend Welcome Center dog, at the new facility on Commercial Street. Mikayla Patel / The Forecaster

“We’ll offer folks the opportunity to come see the work we’re doing,” said Marriah Vinson Tronvig, a staff member at the center. “We want to have visibility and to connect with as many folks as possible and get feedback from seafarers.”

The new facility will have a package center where seafarers can collect deliveries, a library, gaming room and wifi. It will serve coffee, tea and snacks and provide space for socializing.

“We want to give them support, listen, let them share their stories and talk about their hardships,” said the Rev. Tom Kircher, chaplain coordinator of Seafarers’ Friend. “We also offer SIM cards, take them shopping and just give them ways to take care of themselves and their families.”

Previously, the center has primarily catered to crews of cargo ships, but with more space and resources will be able to better serve cruise ship workers as well.


Tronvig said she’s heard a lot of excitement and anticipation from crew members of ships that dock regularly in Portland about having a space specifically for them that’s so close to the port.

“We’re excited to now be a part of the Portland waterfront community,” she said.

Seafarers’ Friend, which has operated in Portland for about 30 years, historically has sent representatives to board docked vessels to visit crews and offer resources and support that way. The new center gives crew members a break from being on the water and also encourages them to explore the Old Port and downtown.

Kircher said that often times seafarers will simply go to places like the mall or department stores they’re familiar with to pick up supplies they need, but he hopes the center’s location in the Old Port will inspire them to do some of their shopping downtown.

Working at sea is challenging and a profession few people understand, Kircher said. Seafarers’ Friend offers tailored support for those workers whose lifestyles are so unique.

Cargo ship crew members can be away from home for six to 10 months of the year, he said. “Many of them do it for their families and children. It’s a big sacrifice and even if we can’t fix everything for them, we can do whatever we can to help.


“They’ll find a welcome place to set them at ease,” he said. “I’m hoping when they come to the center they can sit and connect with families and it can be a place to help them stay strong,” he said.

External support is important, he said, because many seafarers aren’t willing to confide in fellow crew members as they’re all facing similar struggles.

“Our reason for being is to provide support,” he said, “and anything we can do to help them relax, even just for an hour.”

Tronvig said she’s seeking out more volunteers to help the center run smoothly. Many of the seafarers they work with are from the Philippines, she said, so folks who speak Tagalog are especially needed.

The busy season tends to run from July to October, she said, so they look forward to being fully operational for that time.

“We feel strongly that Portland can be a place where seafarers can have a safety net,” Kircher said.

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