Today's International ShipMasters Association traces its history to Buffalo,
NY where the Excelsior Marine Benevolent Association was formed in 1886, set
up to provide financial assistance to the family of a deceased local captain.
In addition to providing financial support to disabled members, or in case of
death, to their beneficiaries, the organization provided educational opportunities
for the improvement of navigational skill and allowed Great Lakes ship masters
to have a voice in the formation of safety and navigation rules and regulations.
The association was soon embraced by most Great Lakes shipmasters, and other
branches, or lodges, formed around the Lakes. The first convention was held
in Buffalo in 1891 and the Grand Lodge was officially established. In 1893,
at the third convention in Port Huron, Michigan, with nine lodges represented,
the organizations's name was changed to Ship Masters' Association. A growing
Canadian presence was reflected in another name change in 1917 to International
While ISMA no longer has a benevolent fund, its purpose is still to unite shipmasters
and promote safety of navigation.
|Since its beginnings, ISMA has enjoyed a respected and fruitful relationship
with vessel company management and governmental bodies. ISMA functions as the
representative of all Great Lakes mariners. Through meetings, committees, newsletters,
and communication between members, ISMA informs and educates its members on
issues of vital concern to mariners. And through ISMA, mariners of all levels
have a collective voice when critical decisions on maritime affairs are made
by government. ISMA plays a cooperative role with the Canadian and US Coast
Guards and various other maritime organizations and associations.