In 1920, Catholic port ministry was conceived and developed in Glasgow, Scotland, by Rev. Donald Macintosh, Arthur Cannon, and Peter Anson, who were concerned about the lack of witness the Church was showing aboard ship. Two years later they approached Pope Pius XI, who bestowed his blessings on the ministry and encouraged the Apostleship of the Sea to extend its mission to the oceans and shores of all the hemispheres.

In every major country, a bishop serves as the AOS episcopal promoter, overseeing the work of the national director. It is the director’s responsibility to coordinate the chaplains’ efforts and to assist them in developing their ministries. Additionally, the national director’s office serves as a communication center that produces a newsletter (Catholic Maritime News in the United States), establishes and maintains rapport with organizations protecting seafarer’s interests and appeals to the diocese for port chaplains.

Each country hosts an annual conference. Tying all these national conferences together is the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People. Because the Apostleship of the Sea’s “parishioners” move around the world, it is necessary that their pastors be in touch with one another. The World Congress held every five years, mandated by the Apostolatus Maris (Apostleship of the Sea) office, ensures this connection between countries and disseminates the pontifical council’s policies.

All Christian denominations have in common a love of seafarers and a desire to share the word of God. Under the title of the North American Maritime Ministry Conference, the Churches meet annually to consider ways to better the lifestyle of sailors.

This larger forum advocates a program of shared prayer, exchange of ideas and a spirit of cooperation. Special interdenominational committees are formed to update the legislative and judicial bodies about seafarers’ rights that have been neglected or violated.