International Seafarer Center: Home Away From Home

The International Seafarer Center provides spiritual respite and access to small comforts for all properly documented crew members visiting the Port of Brownsville since 1974.

The center is led by Chaplain Andreas Lewis, who worked at the center as a chaplain’s assistant from 1981 to 1986 under the guidance of Reverend Will Aten.

Since taking over the center in 2009, Chaplain Lewis has made it a point to board all liquid, bulk and break-bulk cargo vessels calling on the Port of Brownsville, with assistance from the port’s Harbor Master’s Office.

As part of the center, the chaplain meets individuals from all around the world and learns about their lives. Mariners frequently share noteworthy stories about their travels.

“We’ve had a ship come in where a seaman came and showed me, ‘see where that bullet hole is? That’s where pirates shot at us.’ These guys face many dangers depending on what routes they take. We hope that they stay safe and can find ports like this one,” Lewis said.

With the support of the Brownsville Navigation District (BND) Board of Commissioners, the International Seafarer Center went through many transformations and evolved into a comfortable nook for seafarers.

“We had tremendous help through the BND Commission. We had an old trailer located on the entrance of Foust Road and we got rid of that. The commissioners helped move the center into this building, which opened in 2012,” Lewis said.

All properly documented seamen are welcome at the center. The well-equipped facility provides mariners the opportunity to relax in the lounge area or play pool, use the center’s computers and fix a hot meal or drink with the available appliances. Mariners can seek counsel with Chaplain Lewis or partake in a religious service held inside the center’s chapel.

“SIM cards are the most popular item requested by mariners,” Lewis added. These cards can be introduced into any cellphone and help offset the costs of international phone calls to family and friends.

Shore excursions are a regular benefit offered and coordinated by Chaplain Lewis, including area restaurant visits, shopping trips, or just a day away from the routine responsibilities of life at sea. Visiting mariners, can experience the sights and sounds of Brownsville.

Visits to the Seafarer Center are free, with operating income generated by contributions of visiting vessels, local churches, the sale of SIM cards and donations to offset transportation costs. Oversight of the facility is the responsibility of a six-member board.

The center is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sundays from 3 to 10 p.m. with the courtesy of one hour’s notice.