Over the past couple of weeks there have been two acts of extraordinary kindness and humanity by seafarers serving on the high seas. The lives of seafarers are hidden from the world's general public who largely are ignorant of the fact that seafarers are responsible for carrying 90% of the world's trade. These two selfless deeds need to brought to the attention of a wider audience by the worldwide maritime community.

The first act was the rescuing of 540 people in the Mediterranean by the crew of the MT Bonita. Just over a week ago they saved 360 migrants at sea and showed them great hospitality. On Tuesday, 12th August, the crew again assisted in another rescue operation. This time they picked up 180 people from a boat that was adrift in the open sea. The men, women and children were Palestinians, Syrians and Iraqis fleeing from conflict in the region. This is not an isolated example as seafarers around the world often rescue people at sea. What was different was the number of people involved and that they were migrants.

The second act was the collection organised by the master and crew of the MSC Vanessa for a seafarer who had been held for over three and half years by Somali pirates. An Indian Master, Capt Sukhvinder Bhamra, was sailing onboard when he received an email from Mr Abdul Gani Serang of the National Union of Seafarers of India (NUSI) on the hardships faced by Mr Aman Sharma, recently released from captivity after being held as part of the MV Albedo crew.

The Master and his crew started to collect money amongst the crew members of the ship. When he signed off, Capt Bhamra called Mr Sharma and informed him that he will try to collect about INR100,000 (USD1,650) from his ship's crew and will help him in the coming days. Mr Sharma has since received the first of this support: INR30,000 (USD500). The Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme (MPHRP) continues to support the freed crew of the MV Albedo. We must not forget the thirty eight seafarers and fishers still being held by pirates in Somalia.

Seafarers have tough and, often, dangerous lives. We all owe them a debt of gratitude for their role in ensuring that we can all live our everyday lives with fuel, food, and cars.

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Shore leave significantly improves seafarers' health and the safe and efficient operation of a vessel. The Seamen's Church Institute's (SCI) Center for Seafarers' Rights in the USA collected data pertaining to seafarers' access to shore leave for the thirteenth year in a row as part of its annual Seafarer Shore Leave Survey, asking port welfare workers in 27 ports across the United States to monitor seafarers' shore leave on vessels they visited during the last week in May. Results show the large majority of seafarers denied shore leave are denied it because they lack visas.

This year's survey was the first SCI has conducted since the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC, 2006) came into force. The MLC, 2006 was in force in 37 countries during the survey week. Standard A1.4 Section 5(b) of the MLC, 2006 requires shipowners to pay for seafarers' visas. Furthermore, flag states must verify shipowners' compliance with the MLC, 2006 recruitment and placement requirements, which include Standard A1.4 Section 5(b), before issuing a Maritime Labour Certificate. Ships registered in countries that have ratified the MLC, 2006 must have a Maritime Labour Certificate before they can sail. The survey showed that flag states are not enforcing the MLC, 2006 requirement for shipowners to pay for visas. Approximately 79% of the seafarers denied shore leave for lack of visa served on ships registered in countries where the MLC, 2006 was in force.

Even for some seafarers who have obtained visas, gaining access to areas outside the port can be expensive and strenuous. Many seafarers must rely on transport from local sources. Seafarer welfare organizations, like SCI, frequently provide free-of-charge escorted transportation, but at times terminal operators restrict access by these organizations to the docked vessels. Not all ports have seafarer welfare organizations; and in some terminals, seafarers must pay a private company—usually at great cost—to escort them instead.

The results of SCI's Seafarer Shore Leave Survey document terminal policies that affect chaplains' or seafarers' access and other restrictions preventing shore leave. The Report also offers observations on how to alleviate some of the issues. Download the complete survey results at the SCI website.

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Three global shipping organisations have issued guidance to their members on the risks posed to ships' crews calling in countries affected by the Ebola virus.

The ICS (International Chamber of Shipping), IMEC (International Maritime Employers' Council), and the ITF (International Transport Workers' Federation) urgently advise that on all such vessels:

1. The Master should ensure that the crew are aware of the risks, how the virus can be spread and how to reduce the risk.

2. The ISPS requirements on ensuring that unauthorised personnel do not board the vessel should be strictly enforced throughout the duration of the vessel being in port.

3. The Master should give careful consideration to granting any shore leave whilst in impacted ports.

4. The shipowner/operator should avoid making crew changes in the ports of an affected country.

5. After departure the crew should be aware of the symptoms and report any occurring symptoms immediately to the person in charge of medical care.

The advice is supplemented with information from the World Health Organization on the virus (available here www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs103/en)

A spokesperson for the three organisations commented: "Everyone is deeply concerned for those suffering from the Ebola epidemic and supportive of a coordinated world response to help them. We particularly applaud all those medical staff who are risking their lives to help. In the meantime we want to make sure that those in the world shipping industry play our part in ensuring the safety of crews visiting the affected countries, and minimising the risk of the virus spreading further."

Guidance Notes from the three organisations can be viewed here

Kenya is the latest country to have ratified the Maritime Labour Convention.

Over the past few months Ireland, Bangladesh, Argentina, Mauritius, Iran, and Belize have all ratified the convention. With Kenya's ratification this brings the total number of countries ratifying to 64.

Once a state ratifies it takes a year for the convention to come into force. The convention came into force just over a year ago for the first 30 countries that ratified.

Three major maritime countries – China, India, and the USA – have yet to ratify the convention. For the full list of countries that have ratified the MLC see here.

australian flag picturesThe newly formed Australian Welfare Seafarers Council, and member of ISWAN, has been holding a series of forums around the country.

Recently Western Australian seafarer welfare and industry forums were held with approximately 140 representatives from the shipping industry, unions, seafarer welfare providers and seafarers in Port Hedland (24 June 2014) and Fremantle (26-27 June 2014). The forums included discussion and updates on:

  • the Maritime Labour Convention one year on,
  • work of the Australian Seafarers' Welfare Council (ASWC),
  • STCW amendments and changes to Marine Order 3 / Marine Order 70 series, and
  • current ship inspection issues (MO34 – Solid Bulk Cargoes, MO32 – Cargo Handling Equipment, MO43 – Carriage of Livestockand MO41 - Carriage of dangerous goods).

AMSA has received excellent feedback on the forums to date, with responses identifying all topics presented of interest and considered valuable. Based on feedback forms received, the following were highlights for attendees:

  • Awareness of seafarer welfare issues;
  • Tremendous work of the seafarer welfare centres, with particular reference to the Port Hedland Seafarers Welfare Centre,
  • Discussions on mental health awareness and issues specific for the maritime industry
  • Fatigue analysis and management presentation,
  • Updates on cargoes issues and STCW Seafarer Certification were of particular interest and attendees found it invaluable to have AMSA on hand to answer any questions or queries specific to WA concerns.

Copies of the presentations from the forums can be found on the ASWC website here.

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The International Christian Maritime Association (ICMA) is seeking a new General Secreatry. ICMA are a member of ISWAN. The post is London based with significant domestic and international travel.

Are you passionate about the welfare of seafarers? Are you a dynamic leader seeking a mission? If so, the International Christian Maritime Association needs you! We seek someone, lay or ordained, to be the public face of the ICMA in the UK and worldwide, who is also capable of taking on the leadership and strategic management of the only international ecumenical group within maritime ministry.

Terms: Commensurate with the complexity and international dimensions of the role.

For an application pack for this role please contact ICMA at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

For general information please visit www.icma.as

Closing date for applications: 12 noon on Monday 11th August 2014

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ITF LogoFullThe International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) Seafarers Trust, one of the main funders of seafarers' welfare around the world, has moved to an online application process for grants.

A spokesperson for the trust said "It took us quite some time to set up the form in order to make it as easy as possible for applicants, but without sacrificing our need for exhaustive information. With the new form we have tried to obtain more information on how applicants intend to spend the funds making sure that the intended project is sustainable."

The trust will no longer accept paper applications. To find out how to apply for a grant for seafarers welfare and the criteria and terms and condition go to http://www.itfglobal.org/seafarers-trust/index.cfm and then 'how to apply'. The site will take you through the process and the guidelines to follow.

Further information is available at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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The International Seafarers' Welfare & Assistance Network (ISWAN) will be producing the updated Seafarer Centre Directory online and in hardcopy in September. The current version has proved extremely popular with seafarers and it has been distributed widely around the world over the past two years.

This year we will print and distribute 50,000 hard copies of the updated directory direct to seafarers around the world. We are printing the directory in the UK, India, and the Philippines. Another 10,000 pdf's of the directory will be downloaded from our website. We estimate that each directory has a readership of 4 seafarers so the total reach of the directory is 240,000 seafarers. We are offering selected organisations and companies the opportunity to advertise in the directory for £1,000 per full page and £1,750 for a double page spread. Members of ISWAN receive a 20% discount.

To see the pdf of the current directory please see here.

If you would like to advertise, or if you need any further information, then please do contact us This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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SeafarerHelp is the free 24 hour multi-lingual helpline for seafarers run by the International Seafarers' Welfare Assistance Network (ISWAN).

ISWAN have just produced the 2013 Annual Review for SeafarerHelp. During 2013 the SeafarerHelp team dealt with problems involving over 6,400 seafarers and their families. There was a 35% increase in the number of new cases handled by the SeafarerHelp team, and an increase of 47% in the number of seafarers assisted compared to the previous year. The most common problems seafarers faced were upaid wages, problems with repatriation, contractual problems, sub-standard conditions on board and health issues.

Most of the contacts that SeafarerHelp receives are referred on to specialist organisations for direct assistance. These include the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) and welfare organisations such as Mission to Seafarers, Apostleship of The Sea, and the Sailors Society. Other agencies who assisted included national embassies, harbour authorities, and medical service providers.

Roger Harris, Executive Director of ISWAN said "The SeafarerHelp team did a great job in 2013 working 24 hours everyday of the year assisting seafarers. We wish to thank our funders and other supporters for helping us provide this vital lifeline for seafarers all over the world."

One case where SeafarerHelp provided assistance was to the pregnant wife of a Ukrainian seafarer who contacted SeafarerHelp to complain that her husband had not been paid for over three months and that she badly needed the money to prepare for the impending birth of their child. We soon established that her husband and the rest of the crew had been abandoned in South Korea by the ship owner, and the caller's husband agreed for us to refer his case to the ITF. The local ITF inspector boarded the ship and arranged for it to be arrested by the local authorities. The ITF also arranged for the seafarers to be repatriated to their respective countries. However, the seafarers could not be paid their outstanding wages until the vessel was sold by auction. In the meantime, the seafarer was very happy to go home and saw the birth of his baby. A few months later he and all his colleagues finally received their outstanding salaries when the vessel was sold.

The SeafarerHelp service relies upon charitable funding for its continued existence. If you are able to financially support SeafarerHelp, then please contact Roger Harris at iswan[at]iswan.org.uk.

The Annual Review and the infographic can be downloaded from the bottom of the page.

Seafarers can contact SeafarerHelp 24 hours, 365 days per year, in the following ways:

  • Telephone: 00 800 20 7323 2737 (Toll free)
  • Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • SMS:+44 (0) 7624 818 405
  • Live chat: www.seafarerhelp.org

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