New video from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority on the importance of the Maritime Labour Convention 2006.

Friday 10 October 2014

The seafarer centre in Fremantle, Australia is helping crew affected by a fire aboard the world's largest cattle carrier.

The Ocean Drover caught fire in Fremantle Port close to the seafarer centre on Thursday morning. One crew member is in a critical condition in hospital after trying to fight the fire. Some of the seafarers were taken to hospital suffering from smoke inhalation. Fr Denis Claughton from the Mission to Seafarers seafarer centre is visiting the seafarers who are in hospital.

Many of the crew are being looked after by the seafarer centre who are feeding and housing them. More than 45 of the crew are affected by smoke inhalation. Col Brown from the seafarer centre said the crisis was stretching them to the limit but they are coping.

ISWAN has offered assistance through its Seafarers Emergency Fund. There were no animals on the ship when it caught fire.

ISWAN runs SeafarerHelp the free 24 hour helpline for seafarers. It is a lifeline for seafarers. The helpline runs everyday of the year including Christmas and New Year's Day. The SeafarerHelp staff speak the main seafarer languages including Filipino, Hindi, Russian, Mandarin Chinese, Turkish, and Arabic. Last year we dealt with over 1250 cases involving nearly 6500 seafarers and their families.

This is a typical case that our staff deal with :

A chaplain in the Philippines contacted SeafarerHelp to report that the wife of a Filipino seafarer had contacted him and told him that her husband had suffered a work related spinal injury on-board a ship in Argentina and had been taken to hospital for surgery. The chaplain asked the SeafarerHelp team if we would contact someone in Argentina and get them to visit the seafarer in hospital so that the seafarer's wife could be given an update on his condition.

The SeafarerHelp team contacted the Apostleship of the Sea in Argentina and they agreed to visit the seafarer in the hospital. In addition a Filipino speaker from the SeafarerHelp team was able to make direct contact with the seafarer and they established his medical situation and passed the information to his wife, keeping in regular contact with her. Following his surgery it took a few weeks for him to be fit enough to travel and he was repatriated, with a nurse as escort, to the Philippines.

Following his repatriation the seafarer remained in regular contact with the SeafarerHelp team reporting on his recovery, which was expected to take from six to twelve months, during which time he could not work. He expressed his gratitude to the team for the help and support they had given him and his wife. In view of his injury and the amount of time he could not work he asked the SeafarerHelp team about claiming compensation. The team referred him to the ITF in the Philippines who helped him with his claim for compensation.

Although we receive grants for our work we still need to raise funds to ensure that we can meet the needs of the seafarers and their families who contact us. You can donate today to help keep the vital SeafarerHelp service running.

Make a donation using Virgin Money Giving


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This article first appeared in the October edition of the Telegraph & is published here with the kind permission of Nautilus International (an ISWAN member)

Unions welcome evidence that inspections are starting to combat ships flouting 'bill of rights'

The introduction of the Maritime Labour Convention is making a big difference for seafarers around the world, unions say. They have welcomed evidence that the port state control inspectors are now clamping down on ships contravening the requirements of the seafarers' bill of rights.

One year after the MLC entered into force, Nautilus said it is pleased to see an increasing number of ships now being detained for breaching the rules — and, in a case last month, being banned from one country's ports.

The Liberian-flagged containership Vega Auriga was barred from entering Australian ports for three months on a 'three strikes and you're out' policy. The ship had been detained on three occasions since last July by the Australian Maritime Safety Agency for deficiencies related to the payment of crew wages, inadequate living and working conditions, and poor maintenance. It was subsequently detained again upon arrival in New Zealand.

And last month a Panamanian-flagged bulk carrier was detained in the port of Southampton with deficiencies including invalid seafarer employment agreements, as required by the MLC.

The Turkish-owned El Condor Pas was also found to be under-manned and to be operating with no lookout at night, with a serious breakdown of International Safety Management Code implementation onboard.

The 33,476dwt vessel had fallen foul of the current three-month concentrated port state control inspection campaign on hours of rest. Checks to verify the crew members onboard revealed that the third officer was recorded as an AB on the crew list.

However, the officer was not undertaking AB duties — and was instead standing the 8-12 and 20-24 watches, even though the ship's records showed that the master was standing this watch.

Checks also found that a cadet was listed as an OS on the crew list, and no other OSs were onboard — with the vessel under-manned by one AB and two OSs. And the seafarer employment agreements were found to be invalid, as they had expired almost three weeks before the inspection. El Condor Pas was cleared to sail three days after the detention when a further inspection showed that the deficiencies had been rectified.

Nautilus International Council chairman Ulrich Jurgens, the port state control officer who detained the 13-year-old ship, said he said he and his colleagues had found a total of 14 deficiencies onboard and shortcomings including damage to an access ladder and the radio aerial, corrosion of the crane limit switch — plus, very importantly, the inability of the crew to carry out a satisfactory fire drill.

'As a PSC inspector I have to work according to the rule of law,' he pointed out. 'My role is to ensure that visiting vessels comply with statutory provisions. The focus of the inspection is to ensure the ship is safe.

'Identifying defects or even detaining a vessel also ensures that shipowners operate on a level playing field and that compliant owners do not suffer a business disadvantage to the less compliant ones,' he added. 'The latter, however, also benefit as inspections help them to bring their vessel up to internationally recognised standards.'

El Condor Pas was not a wreck, Mr Jurgens stressed. 'She just had operational deficiencies which made the vessel unsafe and basically unseaworthy. A missing lifeboat or a hole in the hull are obvious deficiencies. However, there are others which are less visible but equally important.

'In this case, the key issues were: the lack of compliance with SOLAS on safety management issues; the lack of compliance with STCW on manning and watchkeeping matters and, last but not least, a further lack of compliance with MLC on hours of rest and terms and conditions,' he explained. 'These present both safety, social and economic risks and disadvantages to seafarers, shipowners and the public.'

Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson commented: 'It is very reassuring to see the MLC starting to bite and ships being stopped because of crew-related deficiencies.

'Owners who compete on the back of exploitation not only present unfair competition, but also unsafe competition and we hope that cases such as this will send a strong message to the industry that this is no longer tolerated.'

International Maritime Bureau statistics indicate that maritime crime off the coast of West Africa is trending toward an escalation in violence. These statistics show that the number of casualties (wounded and killed) in the first 9 months of 2014 is significantly higher than the total number for all of 2013. A recent Oceans Beyond Piracy study found that in 2013 over 1,200 seafarers faced criminals who succeeded in boarding vessels in West Africa and nearly 300 of these seafarers were held hostage.

It is against these worrying factors that Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP) and the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) held a panel discussion on the effects of West African piracy and maritime crime on seafarers in London on 23 September. The panel discussed the complex models of West African piracy and the ways in which flag States, seafarer Nations and advocacy groups are addressing the problem. Panelists included Admiral Sir James Burnell-Nugent of OBP, Mr. Pottengal Mukundan of the IMB, Mr. Douglas Stevenson of Seamen's Church lnstitute, Mr. Peter Swift of Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Program and Mr. Tim Hart of Control Risks.

The panel emphasized the importance of consistent reporting of crimes in understanding the degree to which ,seafarers off the coast of West Africa undergo violence or distress, as the IMB estimates that nearly two-thirds of such attacks go unreported.

"Piracy and armed robbery at sea in the Gulf of Guinea is not a new issue, but an increase in the operational range of pirate groups means a greater number of seafarers are facing an increased risk" says Tim Hart.

Unlike off the coast of Somalia, where pirates have been discouraged by navies and private security companies, West African pirates are undeterred by regional navies and more willing to engage with security personnel. Due to the complex models of maritime crime off West Africa, seafarer welfare is often of little concern to the attackers. Furthermore, trends indicate a worrying increase in kidnap-for-ransom cases.

"A common misperception is that piracy and other violent crimes at sea represent victimless crime. In reality, however, many seafarers suffer from physical or psychological abuse, and the impact on them can be severe and long-lasting as well as on their families," says Peter Swift.

In order to better understand the impact of the violence, major flag States, including Liberia, the Marshall Islands, St. Kitts and Panama have agreed to provide detailed, but anonymous, information to be compiled by the IMB.

This is consistent with the information provided by these same flag States in the Declaration Condemning Violence Against Seafarers related to acts of Somali piracy. Additionally, this effort will now be supported by the major seafaring nations, whose seafarers are disproportionately affected.

"We commend and thank these States for taking action to improve the safety of seafarers and see this as a first step towards mobilizing a more effective response to these crimes and hope that others will join them in the near future," says Admiral Sir James Burnell-Nugent.

According to Pottengal Mukundan, Director of the IMB, "The information provided for crimes off Somalia helped to give us a more complete picture of the maritime crime problem and has assisted companies and states to identify policies that best support seafarers. We expect this will be the case with West Africa as well."

The significant increase of lethal violence and kidnapping off the West African coast underscores the importance of seafarer advocacy groups, including the Seamen's Church Institute and Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme, which are constantly identifying the most effective ways to deliver the assistance that they, provide to the victims of these crimes. "We must step in to protect the seas' most valuable resource: the human beings who live and work on ships," says Douglas Stevenson of SCI.

Seafarers concerned by piracy can contact SeafarerHelp, the free 24 hour helpline run by ISWAN.

Seafarer centres around the world provide vital services for seafarers day in and day out. Here is just one example of the way a Mission to Seafarers centre in Australia helped a seafarer who suffered a life changing accident.

In July 2014 AB Mahesh Kumar lost his lower leg in a mooring accident in Port Hedland, Australia. Swift help came from paramedics and Mahesh was air lifted by a helicopter to the South Hedland hospital. In response to this terrible accident the Port Hedland Mission to Seafarers Chaplain, Garry South, attended the vessel within 3 hours of the event. Garry's exemplary help given to the ship's crew and master was very much appreciated. Garry's full attention was focused on Mahesh who was suffering severe post event depression that caused concern for his well-being. Garry carried out his duties by serving both Mahesh and the crew as he moved between hospital and ship.

After the ship had sailed Garry continued to visit Mahesh daily until he was repatriated some 10 days later. During this time Port Hedland MTS Senior Chaplain Alan Mower responded to the event and initiated a support fund for Mahesh via Facebook. The centre became aware of the significant ground swell of public awareness that Facebook generated as well as local port user and union responses. As a result, an amazing AUD$43,000 (US$38,000) was raised in just one month. This was an incredible amount coming from a small port community of some 15 to 20 thousand people.

On the 15 September both Chaplains Alan & Garry travelled to India to present the proceeds to Mahesh and his wife Sruthy. An event was held in the conference room of the Royal Bombay Seaman's Club and supported by the Honorary Secetary manager Capt Nairn Hiranandani and Assistant Manager Benjamin Rayappa. The event was attended by several clergy from the Bishops office & Cathedral, local union representatives, officials from the manning company Anglo Eastern Ship Management Capt Deepak Correa ( General Manager Bulk Pool) and Naresh Jagtiani ( Deputy GM Fleet HR). Several other Seaman's club officials and representatives from the local press also attended. Mahesh, wife Sruthy, brother Rajesh, and his Mother & Father were there to receive the funds. Approximately 20-30 in all attended the small ceremony.

Despite the significant amount raised by the fund, Mahesh will also receive a greater amount in compensation for the loss of limb. This will enable him and his wife to set up a small business that will secure the future of the family.

This is an example of how welfare workers and chaplains around the world go out of their way and beyond the call of duty to serve seafarers who need their help.

At its Executive Committee and Annual General Meeting in Copenhagen on September 20, 2014, the International Christian Maritime Association, and ISWAN member, was pleased to announce the appointment of a new General Secretary – The Very Rev Richard Kilgour presently serving as Provost of the Episcopal Cathedral in Aberdeen, Scotland. Mr. Kilgour will begin in January 2015.

Fr Bruno Ciceri Chairman of the ICMA Executive Committee welcomed the news as 'a significant first step for ICMA in implementing its strategic plan over the next four years'.

On appointment, Mr Kilgour will bring combined personal experience in serving as a British Merchant Navy officer, with a life in ordained ministry and ecumenical mission in major industry. In recent times Mr Kilgour has been involved in planning seafarer's welfare ministry in Scotland with The Mission to Seafarers Scottish Council, and also the governance of The Scottish Episcopal Church at national level. As a senior churchman in his cathedral post he has been involved in Scottish - USA links with Aberdeen and organising contributions to the ecumenical life of the churches in the city.

On the prospect of leading ICMA Mr Kilgour has said, 'At a time where challenges to meet the welfare needs of seafarers are continually increasing, the ICMA membership organisations provide welfare services for Seafarers and Fishers at the point of need across the world. As our membership organisations are often the only local agency of human 'first response' for those in need, we must continue to share skills, knowledge and resources. We strive to build and grow essential and productive partnerships with welfare agencies for work of common concern for seafarers with particular reference to the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006'.

Roger Harris, Executive Director of ISWAN, said 'ISWAN warmly welcome the appointment of Richard to the post of General Secretary of ICMA. We look forward to working with him and developing closer working relationships with ICMA for the benefit of seafarers' welfare worldwide.'

AMSAThe Australian Maritime & Safety Authority (AMSA) has issued a direction to the container ship Vega Auriga (IMO 9347786) that prohibits the ship from using or entering any Australian ports due to repeated breaches relating to seafarer welfare and maintenance of the ship.

The Vega Auriga has been detained by AMSA on three occasions since 25 July 2013 with repeated concerns for the welfare of the crew including improper payment of wages, inadequate living and working conditions and inadequate maintenance resulting in an unseaworthy and substandard vessel.

General Manager of AMSA's Ship Safety Division, Allan Schwartz said vessels entering Australian ports must ensure they meet minimum international standards. "Vessels that do not meet such standards, including standards for the welfare and treatment of crew, pose an increased risk to seafarers, safe operations and the marine environment," he said.

"Seafarer welfare is just as important as the proper maintenance of ship equipment, and an integral part of safe operations. A failure in either system could lead to serious accidents."

Australia is a signatory to the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 and AMSA takes its responsibilities for ensuring compliance with all international safety conventions seriously.

"Seafarers live a tough life under even the best of circumstances, spending many months at sea away from family and friends," said Mr Schwartz.

Those minimum standards are applicable to the 1.4 million seafarers who live and work on international ships.

The direction will remain in place for three months.

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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