6th April 2017

The first network of HIV-positive seafarers has been launched in the Philippines, with technical and financial support from the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) and its union AMOSUP.

Positibong Marino Philippines has been formally registered as a self-help and support group for HIV-positive seafarers. It will work with the ITF, its unions and the Joint Manning Group (JMG) in the Philippines to defend the rights of HIV-positive seafarers, who find it difficult to get employment because of their health status. AMOSUP has welcomed the network by giving it office space in the union’s Manila office.

Jebsen Gamido, chairperson of the new network, said: 'I have been HIV positive for seven years, having got the virus before sailing for the first time as deck cadet. Over the years, I have faced so many challenges to getting employment on board ship. That’s why I am committed to build this network of HIV positive seafarers in the Philippines to provide mental and legal support to all HIV-positive seafarers, irrespective of their nationality.

'We will challenge the stigma and discrimination around HIV/AIDS and fight for our rights, especially in the Philippines, where employment discrimination based on HIV status is prohibited by law.

'The ITF has been with us from the beginning and we hope they will be with us while we grow to be a strong network to fight injustice and harassment and defend our rights.'

ITF maritime co-ordinator Jacqueline Smith welcomed the network and praised Jebsen Gamido for his dedication and hard work. She added that the ITF was committed to keeping seafarers healthy and happy and to remove the stigma and discrimination that workers with HIV/AIDS continue to face, and would continue to support Positibomg Marino Philippines with pride. She said she also hoped other union and health activists would be inspired by its example.

Follow the network on Facebook using @Positibong.MarinoPhil.

Download the ITF’s wellbeing app for seafarers, which contains a wealth of information about HIV/AIDS.

Find out more about how ITF unions are tackling HIV/AIDS.

ISWAN responded quickly when we heard that a ship, the Aris 13, had been hijacked off the coast of Somalia on Monday 13 March. Chirag Bahri, ISWAN’s South Asia Regional Director and piracy survivor, made immediate contact with the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), the piracy reporting centre, to obtain more details of the ship and crew. As soon as the eight crew were confirmed as Sri Lankan, Chirag contacted the local welfare responders in Colombo, including the ITF Inspector, Ranjan Perera. Chirag also made contact with the local crewing agency.

ISWAN was in close touch with John Steed of Oceans Beyond Piracy who is based in the region and has expert knowledge of Somali piracy. He kept ISWAN informed of developments as the situation progressed.

The SeafarerHelp team in the ISWAN office were briefed about supporting the families of the hijacked seafarers and they soon began to receive calls from one of the wives of the seafarers. The situation became tense during the period of captivity when threats were made to the crew by the pirates as the ship was being surrounded by the Puntland Maritime Police Force (PMPF). Thankfully, the crew were released after a few days without a ransom being paid.

This incident shows that piracy has not gone away and the industry, including the welfare organisations, still needs to remain vigilant. Chirag and the SeafarerHelp team responded quickly and appropriately and we will continue to offer support to the crew and their families when the seafarers return home after their ordeal.

30th March 2017

Last week, two members of the ISWAN team visited two ships at the Port of Ipswich to get a feel for life on board and talk to crew members about SeafarerHelp, our free helpline for seafarers.

Rhea from the SeafarerHelp team and Amy, our Digital Media Communications Intern, met Paul Keenan of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) for the visit last Tuesday. As the ITF’s Inspector for the North East, Paul was an ideal guide to show us round, greeting the captains of each ship and gaining their permission for a tour onboard.

We visited two cargo ships of different sizes, each with predominantly Russian and Ukrainian crew. The captain of the larger ship chatted to us about how he had always worked at sea, and how he enjoys visiting ports in the UK which do not work throughout the night. We took a trip down from the bridge to the engine room, and then the captain showed us the cabins and galleys for the officers and ratings. Here we met three crew members, who told us about their duties on board and explained how they use social media site VK to keep in touch with family and friends back home.

The comparison between the two ships was interesting – both were carrying timber, but the smaller ship had a significantly smaller engine and less cabins for the smaller crew of seven. It was also an impressive 32 years old, and there were far fewer steps to climb up to the bridge than on the larger ship! We enjoyed seeing the various contraptions used on board to keep objects in place in rough waters, including straps around the washing machine, hooks on the fridge door and bars around the stove top.

Our time at the Port of Ipswich was an enjoyable and enlightening experience, and we would like to thank Paul Keenan from the ITF, as well as the captains and crew of the ships we visited, for accommodating us.

Zay Yar Lin won the ISWAN Photo Competition 2017 with his stunning photograph (below) of a seafarer painting a ship’s handrail. Zay Yar Lin spoke to us about his winning photo and working at sea, and offered some advice for other seafarers who enjoy taking photos – photography is an excellent hobby for seafarers wanting to relieve stress and be creative.

Congratulations on your winning photo, Zay Yar Lin! Tell us a bit about yourself and your life as a seafarer.

I'm from Myanmar and I live in Yangon, Myanmar. I work as a Chief Officer at a chemical tanker company (MTM Ship Management Co. Ltd). As I'm the head of Deck Department, I am in charge of Safety, deck maintenance and cargo operation and also responsible for navigation duties. Apart from working time at sea, I love to take photos of seafarers working on the ship. I don't like being away from the family when I'm on board the ship.

How did you hear about the ISWAN Photo Competition 2017?

I just saw the ISWAN Photo Competition 2017 on Facebook shared by one of my friends.

Tell us about your winning photo.

I took this photo from the bridge wing which is uppermost deck of the ship. I used to bring my camera on the bridge while at sea to take spontaneous moments around the ship and at sea. The ship was sailing in Gulf of Mexico near United States of America and I was on the bridge deck when I saw this seafarer painting the ship hand rail. Actually, it was a spontaneous moment. When I noticed this seafarer’s painting job on the ship's red deck and the beautiful whirling blue sea, I couldn’t resist taking this spontaneous moment. Luckily, the sun was on low altitude and the sun lighting was very good enough to see the beautiful shadow of the seafarer. I took three or four photos until I got this final shot.

What was your reaction when you found out you had won?

I felt surprised and very happy to know that I had won the Winner. I just talked to my wife and shared happiness of this success.

What do you enjoy about photography?

I believe Photography helps people to see and feel. I love taking pictures that tell stories.

How do you plan to use your prize – a GoPro HERO5 Session camera?

I want to use this GoPro HERO5 Session camera to learn underwater photography.

Do you have any top tips or advice for any other seafarers who enjoy taking photos as a hobby?

Photography is the art of imagination and creation. Try to imagine first and be creative to make photos. Never forget about lighting and composition.

To view the rest of this year’s finalists and overall shortlist, visit our Flickr page here.


The International Seafarers’ Welfare & Assistance Network (ISWAN) is an international charity promoting seafarers’ welfare worldwide, and we directly serve seafarers and their families by providing a 24-hour helpline, SeafarerHelp.

We rely on charitable grants and donations – to help us assist more seafarers in distress, you can donate now on JustGiving or Virgin Money Giving.


Below: Winning photo by Zay Yar Lin

Wining photo by Zay Yar Lin

Friday 3rd March

After careful consideration, our judging panel has chosen the winner of the ISWAN Photo Competition 2017, along with five runners-up.

We are delighted to announce that Zay Yar Lin from Myanmar is this year’s winner with his eye-catching photograph (pictured) offering a unique perspective of a seafarer painting a ship’s handrail, taken from the bridge wing above.

Our five runners-up are: Albert Veloria and Alvin-Patrick V. Occeño, both from the Philippines, Johannes Bargmann from Germany, Peter Cornelissen from the Netherlands, and Zaw Myo Kyaw from Myanmar.

ISWAN would like to congratulate our finalists, whose photos will feature in future ISWAN publications. A GoPro HERO5 Session will be awarded to the winner, and the runners-up will receive a selection of goodies from ISWAN.

The winner, runners-up and remaining shortlisted entries can be viewed here.

20th February 2017

After a fantastic response from seafarers around the world, we are delighted to announce the shortlist for the ISWAN Photo Competition 2017.

This year’s competition received over 600 photographs giving a fascinating insight into the daily life of a seafarer, from duties such as maintenance, inspections and drills, to on-board exercise sessions and leisure activities including shower parties on deck and barbeques.

Entries were submitted by a total of 152 seafarers of at least 18 different nationalities across four continents, demonstrating the diversity of this often-overlooked profession. Amongst the entrants were six female seafarers and a range of positions from ordinary seaman to chief cook to master.

The judging panel will now decide on the winner and runners-up from the shortlisted photographs and the result will be announced in the upcoming weeks.

The shortlisted entries can be viewed here.

16th February 2017

InterManager, the trade association for in-house and third party ship managers, together with The Warsash Maritime Academy, recently presented the results of its fatigue study, Project MARTHA, to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). The report highlights growing levels of both physical and mental fatigue in seafarers, particularly amongst Masters and Watch Keepers.

According to the report, results indicate that as voyage length increases, fatigue and stress increase and motivation decreases. This has not only safety implications on board due to poorer performance, but also long-term physical and mental health effects on the seafarer. These results are timely considering the subject of mental health and wellbeing amongst seafarers being particularly topical.

Speaking at the presentation last month, InterManager’s Secretary-General Capt Kuba Szymanski urged the maritime industry to take notice of the findings as the industry recruits aspiring seafarers. Addressing IMO delegates and invited guests, Capt Syzmanski said: ‘Our people are our assets and we need to develop a strategy whereby shipping is once again seen as a career of choice for tomorrow’s young talented people.

‘There is no avoiding the fact that the global fleet is increasing and more manpower is needed. However, we are demanding more from current seafarers rather than recruiting even more cadets into the market. Attracting new seafarers and retaining them will test the industry, but we cannot ignore these findings in making the industry an attractive place for aspiring seafarers.’

The full report can be downloaded here.

7th February 2017

ISWAN and fellow welfare organisations met with Maritime Industry Authority Administrator Marcial Amaro III in the Philippines yesterday to discuss new welfare provisions for seafarers.

Organisations including Sailors' Society, Mission to Seafarers Family Network and Apostleship of the Sea – Manila joined ISWAN in meeting with the administrator, who expressed his support for the new welfare project, to be called ‘MARINA Seafarers Welfare Service’.

The project was drafted into the Memorandum of Agreement in order to formalise it, and will officially open next week.

Roger Harris, Executive Director of ISWAN, said: “This is an important initiative that will improve seafarers’ welfare in the Philippines. We are grateful to MARINA and the other partners for setting up this new key service that will benefit seafarers and their families”.

For further information, please contact ISWAN at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

7th February 2017

The ITF Seafarers’ Trust has released the main findings of its Port-Based Welfare Services Survey 2016, in which a total of 957 seafarers took part.

Access to shore-based welfare facilities is a key component under the Maritime Labour Convention of 2006 (Regulation 4.4). The objectives of the survey included to document the frequency of service use by seafarers and measure trends between 1996, 2006 and 2016 results. The survey also aimed to understand the importance, priorities and concerns of seafarers as to the provision of port-based welfare services, as well as any associations between respondents’ age, rank and type of ship.

The Summary Report summarises the survey’s findings along with the key conclusions drawn on internet access, access to shore leave, welfare workers and Seamen’s Clubs.

Roger Harris, Executive Director of ISWAN, said: “ISWAN welcomes this study which gives us valuable insight into the importance of port-based welfare services to seafarers. The results reaffirm the vital need for strong partnerships across the shipping industry to ensure the highest quality services for seafarers in port. This is a key aim of ISWAN’s International Port Welfare Partnership Programme (IPWP) which will be formally launched in September 2017.

This Survey from the Seafarers’ Trust and a recent study on Port Levies systems in North America by NAMMA help to show the areas which need most attention from projects such as the IPWP.”

The full report can be downloaded here.

We were delighted to welcome ShipMoney to our network of members at the end of 2016. Greg O’Connell, Business Development Manager, spoke to us about the company’s current focus of work and commitment to seafarers’ welfare.

For more information about becoming an ISWAN member, please contact us here.

Can you tell us about ShipMoney’s services and company values?

We are rather unconventional in our business approach. Our culture has been developed to lead with the ‘Why’ are we in business followed by the ‘How’ and ‘What’ rather than the conventional methodology i.e. What, How and Why. At our core is the ‘CAUSE’ challenging the conventional expensive methods of foreign exchange and cash management issues for the seafarer and ship owner providing alternatives delivering consistent time and cost savings and becoming a customer-champion-company.

Which areas of seafarers’ welfare and wellbeing do you think ShipMoney can make a positive impact on?

Seafarers’ welfare and wellbeing in my opinion can be rolled into one large dynamic
as they both impact the logical and emotional aspects for our crew. Our seafarers perform at a very high level and the common denominator is that they provide financially for their families whilst at sea. Their salaries either in full or part are made available to the family and it is our mission to ensure that the seafarer gets as much of their money as they possibly can by removing the large and expensive institutions that hitherto have penalized crew.

What prompted ShipMoney to join ISWAN? What do you hope to gain from ISWAN membership?

I have witnessed personally over the years the great work ISWAN performs for our industry. All too often, again in my opinion, we have the capacity to dilute, usually unintentionally, the effort the seafarers deliver in performing their duties and the emotional burden it takes to be away from their families and friends ashore. For these reasons, ShipMoney wants to be involved with ISWAN not only to continually promote ISWAN to our clients but to also be in the position to give something back, and we look forward to working towards this with ISWAN in the near future.

Are there any current initiatives or projects that are helping to improve the lives of seafarers that you’d like to talk about?

A number of crew mentioned to us that ‘it’s expensive being a seafarer’. They wanted the opportunity to transfer money home or shop online without leaving their vessel/port all within a competitively priced, intuitive and transparent platform. We listened to their requests, provided the right instruments and we are delighted to see thousands of crew monthly optimizing e-commerce sites, transferring money all from their vessel or alongside which ultimately continues to improve their work life balance.