The crew of the locally owned St. Jude tuna vessel were recently interviewed by Fox 13 news. They share about the challenges of docking at Seattle's Fishermen's Terminal and being unable to leave their boat due to US visa restrictions.
The majority of our work at the Seattle Seafarers Center is focused on crews of container and cargo ships, but we occasionally receive requests from local fishing vessels as well. In 2022, the owner of the St. Jude contacted our team asking if we could send a priest to facilitate a mass service onboard. The Fijian and Samoan crewmembers were interested in celebrating mass, but did not have visas to leave the ship. Fr. Mac Murray, one of our faithful volunteers, was able to visit the weekend after Thanksgiving and lead a service onboard. The crew were very grateful and even sent him home with some tuna.
We heard again from the St. Jude this past fall - the crew still did not have US visas, and they were wondering if there was any way we could help them come ashore. We consulted with the International Transport Workers' Federation, but we were unfortunately unable to help them get off the boat.
The crew of the St. Jude are among many international seafarers who lack US visas and are denied shore leave in Seattle. It is a real challenge for these crewmembers to spend weeks or even months at sea, and then be unable to step foot on land once they reach a US port. Our team at the Seattle Seafarers Center does our best to provide onboard services such as SIM cards and shopping deliveries to these crewmembers, as well as advocate for greater access to shore leave.