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Thanking everyone in food supply chain? Don’t forget the seafarers. | READER COMMENTARY

The John W. Brown Liberty ship carried cargo during World War II. It's home port is Baltimore.
The John W. Brown Liberty ship carried cargo during World War II. It's home port is Baltimore. (Courtesy of Project Liberty Ship)

Ellen Valentino’s recent letter (“Everyone in the food and beverage supply chain deserves our thanks,” April 14) offers well-deserved thanks to the “manufacturing workers, farmers, delivery drivers, cashiers and grocery clerks who are keeping our stores stocked and food on our tables.” Let’s also remember long-distance truckers, railroad workers, and the seafarers working on cargo ships — many of whom I’ve been privileged to meet in my 16 years as a port chaplain.

Isolation is new for many of us, but missing family life is all too familiar for seafarers. Many routinely spend nine months away from home, most often Asia or Eastern Europe, in order to support their families. And some are enduring even longer periods on board during these stressful times. The pandemic has resulted in restrictions which make it difficult or impossible for those who have completed their contracts to disembark and fly home.

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Yet they continue to work long hours in stressful circumstances to keep our supply chain moving. What Baltimorean doesn’t know the landmark Domino Sugars sign? But vessels bring far more than sugar to Baltimore: frozen seafood, coffee, spices, and much of what we buy at big-box stores.

To those who don’t work in the port, seafarers as well as landside port workers remain mostly invisible. But we owe them our profound gratitude each time we sit down to a meal.

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The Rev. Mary Davisson, Baltimore

The writer is executive director and port chaplain for the Baltimore International Seafarers’ Center.

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