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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New facilities for cruise ships crew have opened in Helsinki, Kiel, and Liverpool. All have been opened by seafarer welfare organisations, working in co-operation with other partners.

In Helsinki the Finnish Seamen's Service and the Finnish Seamen's Mission have opened up a new drop-in centre for cruise ship crews funded by the ITF Seafarers Trust. The drop-in centre provides free internet service, phones, a shop, and transport. Refreshments are also being provided. The centre is open when there is cruise ship in the port. The centre is called 'the Cruise Crew Lounge Anchor'. The centre is based in a former souvenir shop in the port.

In Kiel, Germany, the German Seamans Mission has moved into the new seafarer lounge in the Ostseekai Cruise Terminal. The facility is for the use of ship crews and is designed to improve communication and offer advice to visiting seafarers. The idea of the Seafarers' Lounge, as with similar facilities in Hamburg and Venice, is to create a familiar environment and a place where seamen can meet in a personal and private atmosphere. The facility cost about 400,000 Euros and was made possible by support from the state of Schleswig-Holstein, the International Transport Federation (ITF) and the Port of Kiel. The lounge provides internet access, a small shop, an advice room, and a kitchen for seafarers.

In Liverpool the Cruise Terminal, in conjunction with Liverpool Seafarers Centre have opended up 'Crew Welcome Desk' located within the terminal. The 'Welcome Desk' will be manned by personnel from Liverpool Seafarers Centre who will be there to offer advice, support, information and directions to the Liverpool Seafarers Centre. Situated right in the heart of Liverpool Docklands, Liverpool Seafarers Centre extends the hand of friendship to thousands of seafarers every year. They are a charity operating a front line service to provide practical and emotional support for seafarers. In addition to a friendly face, crew newspapers, printed in a number of different languages will be provided by KVH Media Group, whose maritime group office is located in Liverpool. KVH Media Group is a leading provider of commercially licensed news, entertainment, and training content for the cruise line and merchant shipping industries, hotels, businesses and retail.

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MPHRP (The Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme) has welcomed the release and safe return of the remaining crew from the MV Albedo.

The remaining crew of the MV Albedo were released in early June after over three and half years being held hostage by Somali pirates.  Commenting on their arrival into Kenya on 7 June 2014 MPHRP chair, Peter Swift, said, "After 1288 days in captivity we are delighted for them and their families after the terrible ordeal and hardship that they have suffered. At the same time our thoughts are also with the family of the Indian seafarer who died in captivity and the families of the four Sri Lankan seafarers who are reported as missing after the vessel sank in July 2013."

The MPHRP are supporting these seafarers and their families back home with counselling sessions and ongoing medical care and treatment.

Download the special edition of the MPHRP Newsletter on the release of the MV Albedo crew at the botom of this page.

Watch the video of their release.

 

 

Comprehensive survey of seafarers by Futurenautics Research in association with InterManager, ISWAN, PTC, BIMCO and CrewToo finds access is an improving picture, but reveals certain sectors offering far poorer crew communications provision than others, with up to 30% of crew in some without access to a telephone.

Data allows ship operators to understand and benchmark provision across sectors and age groups; offers insight for suppliers into the changing requirements, habits and spending power of seafarers, and gives seafarers themselves the opportunity to have their collective voices heard across the industry. The full report is available to download at the bottom of the page.

With almost 3,000 respondents from more than 30 countries the 2014 Crew Communications Survey is the most comprehensive dataset available by which to measure access, costs, usage and future requirements of crew communications. Overall, access to crew communications is an improving picture, but with the MLC2006 now ratified by 61 countries and stipulating 'reasonable' access to communications at 'reasonable' cost, only 56% of seafarers claim to have access to communications facilities either always, or most of the time.

Provision varies considerably by sector however, with Container, Bulk and General Cargo offering the poorest levels of provision, where a good deal of the 6% of crew who never have access to crew communications work.

Telephone is still the most common form of crew communications service provision with 76% of seafarers on average having access, however in some sectors like General Cargo over 30% of respondents still have no access to a telephone.

With 77% of crew citing Internet access as the one free service they would choose if given the chance, perhaps the most encouraging finding is that Internet access is now available on average to 36% of all crew. Passenger and Offshore sectors where high penetration levels of VSAT and Inmarsat FleetBroadband systems exist are reporting close to 70% provision, with Container, Bulk Carriers and General Cargo lagging behind the industry with around 20% provision.

Perhaps surprisingly, almost half of the 36% reporting internet access are being provided it free of charge by ship operators. While this is very positive, this free provision is likely stemming from the highly complex charging structures communications suppliers provide to ship operators, making it difficult for them to implement pay-as-you-go internet access for crew. The survey demonstrated the same confusion amongst crew as regards what the communications services they access actually cost them per unit and confirms that complexity of charging could be acting as a brake upon usage—something suppliers should take steps to address.

On average respondents spend $134.00/month on crew communications whilst at sea, and spend $139.00/month whilst ashore, making the combined shore-based and sea-based crew communications market worth in excess of $2.6bn per annum. Despite the measurable improvement in access to communications, crew were equally split when asked whether access had improved in the last 2 years, possibly indicating that the improvements in speed and networks ashore mean the gap at sea continues to widen.

Only 25% of respondents cited using crew welfare facilities regularly - most likely linked to their ability to go ashore during port calls. For those using welfare facilities, most were doing so to use communications access to stay in touch with families and friends. Facebook remains the most popular website overall, with CrewToo the most popular maritime website amongst seafarers.

Despite concerns about MLC2006 the results of the survey suggest that rather than focussing on the dangers of non-compliance, operators should focus on new opportunities for improved operations, efficiency and margin which better access to connectivity for crew can drive.

The survey shows that seafarers represent a highly IT-literate workforce, the majority of whom believe that access to broadband at sea has impacted positively on safety and efficiency. Coupled with the range of personal devices being brought onboard, these findings suggest there are significant opportunities for ship operators to utilise technology more, and in more innovative ways to drive efficiencies and safety of operations.

The results also reveal that the level of access to crew communications is a factor for crew when deciding which operators to work for. 69% of crew indicated that this was a factor in their decision, with this sentiment highest amongst highly IT-literate crew—precisely those which operators need to attract and retain.

Access to crew communications is an improving picture, but it isn't good enough, and perhaps the key message from the 2014 Crew Communications Survey, is that this doesn't just disadvantage crew.

"Operators are recognising the operational efficiencies improved connectivity for vessels can deliver. One hopes that this clear evidence from seafarers of the additional benefits delivered by improving crew communications—not just with family and friends, but with colleagues and company—will encourage more to see the potential," said Roger Adamson, CEO of Futurenautics Research.

"The overwhelming message from this survey is that crew want to speak to, or see their loved ones on video, regularly and affordably. Addressing that one wish would mean a massive positive change in the lives of seafarers. The industry has the technology to enable that, and increasingly not simply a moral and regulatory, but a commercial imperative to deliver it."

Roger Harris of ISWAN said "Communications are the number one welfare priority for seafarers. There is alot in this report for seafarer welfare organisations to consider. One key finding is that seafarers are still paying a too large a proportion of thier monthly wages on communications both at sea and ashore."

The full report can be downloaded at the bottom of this page.

Members of ISWAN met in Venice at the end of May to discuss the past year and plans for the future. The meeting was hosted by the Port of Venice and jointly organised with the Friends of Stella Maris seafarer centre.

The meeting received a report from Roger Harris, the Executive Director on the main activities of ISWAN in 2013/14. Highlights from the report include:

  • ISWAN formally launched in April 2013 and has 12 staff and a turnover of £500,000 per year
  • New board of trustees in place with Per Gullestrup as Chair
  • Profile of ISWAN increased with events in London & New York involving the writer Rose George
  • Appeal for Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines raised over US$110,000
  • The International Seafarers Welfare Awards at the ILO in April were a great success
  • ISWAN gained 10 new member organisations over the year.

Roger Harris also spoke about the challenges facing ISWAN including securing funding for the future and building the membership.

The meeting also received a report on SeafarerHelp, the free 24 hour helpline. In the past year SeafarerHelp handled 1,257 cases involving over 6,400 seafarers. The main reason why seafarers call SeafarerHelp is problems with non-payment of wages, repatriation, and issues with contracts.

Other ISWAN projects discussed included the Training on Board, twinning, and port partnerships.

The meeting discussed developments including the increasing use of credit cards by seafarers and how to implement port levies for welfare.

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SCI NYCThe Seamens Church Institute (SCI) in New York have produced 2 new online guides for seafarers wishing to apply for US Visas for shore leave. According to the SCI, the United States is one of the few countries in the world requiring foreign crew members of commercial ships and airplanes to have a visa before they can go ashore.

One of the online guides is specifically for Chinese seafarers.

The online guides can be found on the SCI website here.

Please note, the SCI cannot answer any questions about visa applications.

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The International Maritime Organisation is again organising the Day of the Seafarer on 25 June to recognise the key contribution of seafarers to our everyday lives. The day will provide an opportunity to say 'thank you' to seafarers all over the world. For further information about how you can particpate in the day please click here.

 

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Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP), a project of One Earth Future Foundation, has launched the fourth installment of its annual reports detailing the economic and human costs of African maritime piracy. The study titled"The State of Maritime Piracy 2013" examines the costs incurred as a result of piracy occurring off the coast of Somalia, as well as in the Gulf of Guinea.

The study finds that attacks by Somali pirates are increasingly rare, and that, at between $3 billion to 3.2 billion, the overall economic costs of Somali piracy are down almost 50 percent from 2012. However, at least 50 hostages remain in captivity, held on average for nearly three years under deplorable conditions.

Regarding Africa's West Coast, this report is the first comprehensive attempt by any organization to quantify the total economic cost of maritime piracy in that region. Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea remained a significant danger in 2013, says the report, with levels perpetuated by a lack of open reporting and a lack of coordinated effort among stakeholders.

"The efforts of the international community and the shipping industry have considerably reduced the threat of Somali piracy," says Jens Madsen, one of the report's authors. "But we have yet to achieve the goal of 'Zero/Zero' – zero vessels captured and zero hostages held," he adds. The study finds that while the combined economic costs of suppressing Somali piracy are markedly down, there has only been a slight increase in the investment in long-term solutions ashore. Research also shows that the shipping industry increasingly relies on individualized risk mitigation, observed in the decreased use of some of the more expensive anti-piracy measures such as increased speed and re-routing. Shippers are also turning to smaller and less expensive teams of armed guards as the perceived risk of piracy is declining.

While attacks by Somali pirates have declined sharply, with no large vessels taken in 2013, there are still, however, at least 50 hostages in captivity, who have been held on average for nearly three years under deplorable conditions. At the same time, regional and local seafarers and fishermen in the region remain at high risk as pirates continue to target locally operated vessels to facilitate larger attacks.

Turning to maritime piracy off Africa's west coast, the study finds that a critical lack of reporting on both the piracy and maritime crime here makes analysis difficult. "Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea is fundamentally different to that taking place in the Indian Ocean," says Mr. Madsen. "We observe not only a high degree of violence in the attacks in this region, but also the lack of a mutually trusted reporting architecture and the constantly evolving tactics of West African piracy makes it extremely difficult to isolate it from other elements of organized maritime crime."

The report notes it is generally agreed the solution to piracy ultimately lies in building up capacity onshore, but it stresses that relatively little investment has been made towards sustainable solutions. "While I am encouraged that more money is being spent on longer-term solutions ashore, these still only represent the equivalent of 1½ percent of the total annual cost of the piracy," says Marcel Arsenault, Chairman of One Earth Future Foundation. "Until we have more economic opportunity and better governance ashore, we risk piracy returning to previous levels as soon as the navies and guards have gone home."

The report also notes, that while pirate attacks off Somalia have decreased, 54 seafarers are still being held by Somali pirates, some for over 3 years.

The full report can be downloaded from here

Douglas Stevenson, Director of the Centre for Seafarers' Rights, talks about the Maritime Labour Convention 2006

Maryanne Adams, who works for the Marshall Islands Registry, raised over £1350 for ISWAN. Maryanne ran the Brighton marathon in the UK and completed the course in under six and half hours. Maryanne said it was tough going although she enjoyed it. Maryanne visited the ISWAN where Roger Harris, the Executive Director, thanked her for her efforts. Roger said "We are deeply grateful for Maryanne's amazing feat and raising so much for the welfare of seafarers. This is the first time someone has run a marathon to fundraise for ISWAN."

Maryanne's fundraising page is still open at https://www.justgiving.com/Maryanne-Adams. Donations can be made by credit card and by mobile phone text.

We still need to raise funds to run our 24 helpline for seafarers, SeafarerHelp.

If you would like to fundraise for ISWAN please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..