Our Heritage

Founded in 1856 the Mission to Seafarers had its origins 20 years earlier with the Rev John Ashley visiting ships at anchor in the Bristol Channel. Struck by their isolation and need, he turned down a parish appointment to set up a ministry to seafarers, naming it the Bristol Channel Mission.

Rev. john Ashley, c. 1870

In 1839 he purchased a specially designed ship, the Eirene, fitted the main cabin with a chapel for 100 people, allowing him to expand his ministry. In 15 years, he visited 14,000 ships and sold more than 5,000 Bibles. He also provided care to countless people in the greatest need.

Rev. John Ashley’s cutter Eirene, Bristol Channel c. 1843. Drawing by James Holland

John Ashley’s work soon inspired Anglican ministers in other ports, so it was decided in 1856 that there should be one organisation to coordinate and grow this work. It was named the Mission to Seamen.

During the course of the nineteenth century, the Mission to Seamen spread into other UK ports, then into Canada, Europe and South-East Asia. As it developed it became the first organisation to help with the physical and spiritual wellbeing of ship crews in many places.

The Mission to Seamen flag, New Zealand, c. 1898

In Australia, seafarers were arriving in the colonial ports in large numbers and it was in these growing towns that the first Missions were established: in Melbourne, Victoria in 1858; in Sydney, New South Wales in 1881; in Hobart, Tasmania in 1895; and in Brisbane, Queensland in 1927.

The Mission to Seamen moved with the growing Australian export trade to the ports of Western Australia and began operating in Fremantle in 1947, Port Hedland in 1971, and Dampier in 1978.

In the year 2000 the name was changed to the Mission to Seafarers and now is one of the largest port-based welfare operators in the world. We provide services in 200 ports 365 days a year across 50 countries.

Around Australia, there are 22 ports where the Mission to Seafarers operates.

Through our global network of chaplains, staff and volunteers, we offer practical, emotional and spiritual support to seafarers through ship visits, drop in centres and a range of welfare and emergency support services.

Our logo is the image of the flying angel and is recognised by seafarers around the world as a sign of care, support and friendship no matter where they come from, what they believe, or where they are going.

Revelation 14:6 ‘Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language and people.’

History of Dampier

History of the Port