A health survey of nearly 600 women seafarers conducted by IMHA, ISWAN, ITF & SHS* has highlighted a continued issue with access to sanitary bins on board. This was documented as a serious concern for women seafarers over ten years ago by the International Labour Organization (ILO,2003) and yet 40% of survey respondents this year still lack access to a sanitary bin on board. That figure is even higher for women working on tankers where only 27% of respondents have access, or for those working on cargo ships where only 38% do. Nearly 85% of survey participants working on cruise ships do have access to a sanitary bin which is still disappointing considering there are many more women working in this sector than any other, and because cruise lines are likely to have a solution in place for their female passengers.

A private and hygienic disposal method on board all vessels could greatly help to alleviate the unnecessary anxiety and humiliation felt by many women seafarers during menstruation. According to the latest ILO figures (2003), 1-2% of the seafaring population are women, and around 94% of them are working on passenger ships. The few who work on other vessels are likely to be the only female on board and often have to ask their male colleagues about how to dispose of sanitary items which can be embarrassing and uncomfortable. Here are some comments from survey participants which illustrate this:

These [sanitary bins] are rarely available and it's embarrassing to mention (Offshore)

Only [given] sanitary bag after request (Cruise ship)

Disposal is also a real issue - there is no advice or guidance at all on which segregated garbage bin to put them in. It's a taboo subject and yet every female animal in the world has periods (Tanker)

Biggest issue I have faced whilst working at sea. In no other job would a female employee be faced with such a ridiculous concern as to how to dispose of sanitary products. Passing said products to the almost undoubtedly male fourth engineer for disposal in the incinerator has been suggested by some Masters, other suggestions have been to just dispose of in plastic or paper waste bins. This is also a concern as on many occasions during lifting operations where garbage is being landed ashore the garbage has lost containment and spilled on to deck, should sanitary products be part of the garbage that was to be spilled, as the only female on board most ships I work on, it would no doubt be a humiliating experience. In this day and age this should no longer be an issue (Tanker)

I don't really know where I should throw away women stuff (Cargo)

Can't flush sanitary products and no bins specified. Highly recommend this change to accommodate women on onboard (Tanker)

Women who are not given instructions on where to dispose sanitary items risk further humiliation if they mistakenly put products down the toilet and cause a blockage which is then dealt with by a male colleague.

A number of survey respondents also commented on their limited access to sanitary products on board, pointing out that it can be difficult to carry a large enough supply for a long contract. However, this seems to be the only option for many who have no way of purchasing items in port because they can't leave the ship or because they're not available for purchase. This issue was also observed in the 2003 ILO study of women seafarers which noted how even cruise ship workers can find it difficult to get hold of supplies because of having to rely on shops in passenger areas which may not always be available during rest times.

The project group responsible for the survey plans to work collaboratively with welfare organisations, shipping companies, ports, unions and government agencies to make long term improvements in these areas. The full analysis report is due to be widely circulated within the next few weeks and it raises several other health issues faced by women seafarers.

To make sure you receive the report, you can sign up to ISWAN's mailing list here, or contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you have any questions about the research. Visit here for some background to the research.


*International Maritime Health Association; International Seafarers’ Welfare & Assistance Network; International Transport Workers’ Federation and the Seafarers Hospital Society

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

It has been another another busy year for the helpline with a 53% increase in the number of calls to SeafarerHelp and a 19% increase in the number of seafarers assisted. In 2014 the SeafarerHelp team dealt with 1,920 new cases and helped over 7,710 seafarers. Since 2011 there has been a dramatic growth in the number of calls coming into SeafarerHelp and the number of seafarers assisted – there has been nearly a 270% increase in the number of calls and over a 250% increase in the number of seafarers helped.

The most common problems seafarers faced were upaid wages, problems with repatriation, contractual problems, sub-standard conditions on board and health issues. There were a lot calls requesting information and seeking employment.
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 worked hard in 2014, working every hour of the day and night and every day of the year assisting seafarers. We wish to thank our funders and other supporters for enabling us to provide this vital lifeline for seafarers all over the world."

Seafarers greatly value the service. One said "...your service is excellent ...my problem is solved". Another said "it was nice knowing that you were here for us when we needed help". In a follow up survey 83% of respondents felt that the SeafarerHelp service was either excellent or good and 89% said that they would recommend using it to other seafarers.

If you would like to support SeafarerHelp or need any further information then contact roger.harris[at]iswan.org.ukThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">

The SeafarerHelp website is at www.seafarerhelp.org

The Annual Review can be downloaded from the bottom of this 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
Facebook : www.facebook.com/seafarerhelp

Can you donate today to support SeafarerHelp? Thank you.

Make a donation using Virgin Money Giving



The International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) and Seafarers' Rights International (SRI) report progress being made on the urgent issue of the criminalisation of seafarers. This follows the positive reception from the IMO's (International Maritime Organization) Legal Committee to a paper co-sponsored by the ITF, the International Federation of Shipmasters' Associations (IFSMA), the Comité Maritime International (CMI) and InterManager.

The paper analysed replies by member states to a survey conducted by SRI on the implementation into their national laws of the IMO/ILO (International Labour Organization) Guidelines on Fair Treatment of Seafarers in the Event of a Maritime Accident. This followed an SRI survey of 3,480 seafarers that suggested that the human and other legal rights of seafarers contained in the Guidelines are often subject to violation, causing widespread concern among seafarers.

The paper was supported by 31 member states, as well as by the International Chamber of Shipping, the Nautical Institute, the International Salvage Union, the Cruise Lines International Association and the International Christian Maritime Association.
In response, the Legal Committee concluded that technical support and assistance should be provided by the IMO's Technical Cooperation Committee in order to facilitate the wide implementation of the Guidelines on Fair Treatment to improve conditions for seafarers, taking into account human rights issues. The Committee commented on the ITF and SRI's 'excellent work' on fair treatment of seafarers, 'underscoring the importance of the subject and its relevance to the retention and recruitment of seafarers and the progressive development of the shipping industry'.

Stephen Cotton, General Secretary, ITF commented: "We are very pleased with the explicit support and recognition we received from 31 states and the industry for our ongoing work on fair treatment of seafarers. It is crucial that we are able to use the Guidelines with a consistent approach so that we can call on them not just as guidelines but in a way that can ensure a systematic global rollout that means that all seafarers are treated fairly in whatever jurisdiction they might arrive in."

David Heindel, Chair of the ITF Seafarers' Section, commented: "The Guidelines are based on human rights standards and they have real teeth. The industry as a whole has a big job, not only to educate seafarers, but to educate governments on applying the Guidelines so that seafarers have legal protections in the event they face an investigation and possible criminal charges following an incident in the course of their work. This is a priority for the ITF and our work on the subject will continue in association with our industry partners and SRI".

Jacqueline Smith, ITF Maritime Coordinator, added: "Seafarers need support. They can be criminalised in countries where they don't know the legal system, they don't know the culture, they don't speak the language, and they are guilty until proven innocent."

Deirdre Fitzpatrick, Executive Director of SRI, concluded: "Our work on fair treatment is part of a major project that SRI has under way on the human rights of seafarers and fishers, a project involving judges, professors and law firms from all around the world. This work will lead to voluntary audits of interested parties and other guidance on potential breaches of human rights of all persons on board ships at sea. We are striving for a prosperous and efficient industry for employers and workers alike. This is underpinned by a solid understanding of rights and duties in the industry and we are committed to working to promote and advance all the rights of those working at sea."

To see the SRI Survey on Seafarers and the Criminal law visit here and to see relevant documents of the IMO Legal Committee on Fair Treatment of Seafarers in the event of a maritime accident visit here.

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The new Study published on 10 June 2015 finds:

• Southeast Asian piracy is especially dangerous for seafarers based on the quantity of
attacks and 90% boarding success rate. Nearly 3,600 seafarers were on board
vessels boarded by pirates in SE Asia.
• Gulf of Guinea piracy continues at unacceptable levels. There have been no piracy
prosecutions and there is a lack of effective cooperation between regional
governments and industry. Total economic cost estimated at $983 million for 2014.
• Collective efforts to address Somali piracy continue to dwindle, while there are
indications that pirate activity and intent remain. Total economic cost for 2014
estimated at $2.3 Billion.
• At least 5,000 seafarers attacked in Southeast Asia, the Gulf of Guinea, and Western
Indian Ocean in 2014.

In its fifth State of Maritime Piracy Report, Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP) analyzes the impacts of this crime during 2014 in the Western Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Guinea and, for the first time, in Southeast Asia.

OBP's analysis of pirate attacks in Southeast Asia documents a clear and reemerging threat
to seafarers. The study found that more than 90% of the reported attacks resulted in pirates
successfully boarding target vessels, and 800 seafarers were involved in incidents in South East
Asia where violence or the threat of violence was specifically documented.

In the Gulf of Guinea, the number of reported attacks remained within historic patterns.
However, the region faces a variety of challenges related to chronic under-reporting of incidents
and an absence of prosecutions. "We have observed that up to 70% of piracy-related incidents
in the Gulf of Guinea are never reported, so we currently lack a complete understanding of the
problem," says Pottengal Mukundan, Director of the International Maritime Bureau. "This also
makes it difficult to assess the extent of the threats seafarers face in this region."

In the Western Indian Ocean, OBP found that while naval mandates, recommended industry
self-protection practices and the size of the High Risk Area remain unchanged, the observed
commitment of naval assets and use of vessel protection measures such as increased speed and
rerouting by merchant vessels continued to decrease, resulting in the total economic cost
dropping by 28% in 2014. Alarmingly, the perceived reduction in the piracy threat has also
resulted in more foreign fishing vessels returning to areas close to the coast of Somalia. Alan
Cole, Head of UNODC's Global Maritime Crime Programme notes, "These provocations are
similar to those that triggered piracy off the coast of Somalia in the first place. We are already
seeing an upturn in regional piracy incidents since the beginning of the year."

Finally, the report recognizes that seafarers across the globe are the primary victims of
piracy and armed robbery at sea. A chilling example of this are the twenty-six high-risk hostages
from the Naham 3 who remain in pirate captivity in Somalia today, more than three years after
the initial hijacking of their ship. According to Admiral Sir James Burnell-Nugent, "The evidence
shows that piracy continues to be a world-wide threat to seafarers. There are specific contexts
that distinguish each region, but there is a common lesson in the need to address piracy through
cooperation, vigilance, and sustained effort by all actors across the maritime sector."

For further information and a copy of the report, please see here.

The winners of the 2015 International Seafarers' Welfare Awards were announced on Tuesday 9th June during a high profile ceremony hosted by Secretary General of the International Maritime Organization, Mr Koji Sekimizu at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in London.

The winners are:
• Judges Special Award : Rev'd Ken Peters, Mission to Seafarers Director of Justice and Public Affairs
• Judges' Posthumous Award: Mr Paul Karras, founder of Hunterlink Recovery Services
• Shipping Company of the Year: Eidesvik
• Port of the Year: Port of Halifax, Canada
• Seafarer Centre of the Year: Seafarers' Centre Bremerhaven
• Dr Dierk Lindemann Welfare Personality of the Year Award (organisation): National Union of Seafarers of India
• Dr Dierk Lindemann Welfare Personality of the Year Award (individual): Chirag Bahri (MPHRP)

The Welfare Personality of the Year Award is named after Dr Dierk Lindemann who sadly passed away on 17 March 2014. Dr Lindemann served as the Shipowner's Group spokesperson at the ILO and took a lead role in getting the Maritime Labour Convention adopted.

Welcoming participants at the award ceremony, IMO Secretary-General Koji Sekimizu, said the awards "are an excellent initiative to recognize excellence in the provision of welfare facilities and services for seafarers all over the world. I hope these awards will raise the profile of seafarers' welfare and encourage others to examine and improve their performance".

Commenting on the evening Roger Harris, ISWAN Executive Director, said: "The awards recognise excellent achievement and they inspire others to do more for the welfare of seafarers. We are particularly pleased that the awards are being held here at the IMO".

Photos of the awards will be uploaded to here.

This year's judges were Fr Bruno Ciceri, Chairman of the International Christian Maritime Association, Mr Steve Cotton, General Secretary of the International Transport Workers' Federation, Ms Rose George author of the award winning 'Deep Sea and Foreign Going: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry that Brings You 90% of Everything', and Mr Masamichi Morooka President of the International Chamber of Shipping.

The awards are generously funded by a grant from the ITF Seafarers' Trust. This year's sponsors are Inmarsat (headline), Garrets (Shipping Company of the Year), Wrist Ship Supply (Seafarer Centre of the Year) and ICS (Dr Dierk Lindemann Welfare Personality of the Year – organisation and individual). Crewtoo is the media sponsor of the awards. The awards are also supported and endorsed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) and the International Christian Maritime Association (ICMA).

RGH compressedPer 1Torbjørn Husby

A staff member and two trustees of ISWAN have entered the London Triathlon on 8 August to raise £4,000 for the vital work in providing support and welfare services for seafarers. Team ISWAN consists of Per Gullestrup (DEN), Chairman, Torbjorn Husby (NOR), Trustee, and Roger Harris (GBR), Executive Director. They are taking part in the London Triathlon (Olympic distance) as a relay team. Trobjorn will swim 1500m, Per will bike 40km, and Roger will run 10km.

Seafarers, who are responsible for transporting 95% of the world's goods, are frequently overlooked and forgotten about. Their lives are often tough and hard. ISWAN provides a lifeline for seafarers with its free and confidential 24 hour helpline, SeafarerHelp. ISWAN also provides health and other information to seafarers and works in support of frontline welfare providers.

One seafarer recently said 'it was nice to have you there for us, knowing you were there when we need help'. We need to raise funds to keep SeafarerHelp and the other projects of ISWAN going.

You can sponsor the ISWAN Team by going to their fundraising page at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/iswantri

Communications at sea and in port are the number one welfare concern of seafarers around the world, with loneliness cited as their worst enemy.

The issues facing today's seafarers were to the fore during the recent Seafarer's Welfare Conference, run in parallel with CMA 2015. The North American Maritime Ministry Association (NAMMA) along with the International Seafarers' Welfare Assistance Network (ISWAN) brought international seafarers' welfare personnel together with leading industry representatives at the event in March.

Shane Rossbacher, SVP Business Development, Inmarsat Maritime and Ken Hawkins, Executive Director, Mission to Seafarers Seattle, joined one session chaired by ISWAN, to discuss the impact of communications on life at sea.

Rossbacher pointed out that modern society has effectively added 'WiFi' to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. He joked that the most basic need expressed by Maslow's pyramid should, in the modern world, be battery life! Joking aside, the expectation of connectivity as a basic human need pervades the world on board vessels just as it does shore-side.

wifi-hotspotCrew welfare covers two elements: peace of mind and comfort. "In terms of peace of mind, Inmarsat has brought huge improvements to onboard safety. Set up as an intergovernmental initiative within SOLAS, continuous innovation in this area is still of the utmost importance to us and remains a fundamental driver of our business", explained Rossbacher. "Inmarsat's products now also address the element of comfort when talking crew welfare, with solutions offering voice and video calling, internet access, movies and entertainment. Inmarsat aims to deliver an on-vessel experience that is akin to that taken for granted ashore. This goal is closer to realisation with the launch of the new Global Xpress network, the first high-speed broadband network to span the world, representing a $1.6 billion investment for Inmarsat."

Hawkins agreed about the importance of communications to seafarers stating: "communications connect them to their world; every week I see a sailor call home on Skype and see their child for the first time." Hawkins drove home the point that it is not just about the seafarer's welfare but also those left at home - wives, children and other family members. With average periods away approximately nine months, regular access to communication eases the strain on relationships from all sides.

Hawkins however, raised concerns regarding the increased access to onboard connectivity, saying "communications provide the tether to their world, but I do worry about increased availability onboard vessels where crew already live an unstructured life. We don't want to see a repeat of what happened with gaming. Crew need sufficient rest as well as proper social interaction with colleagues." Rossbacher agreed, commenting: "Inmarsat is working closely with owners and sees a trend in limiting the time of day there is access to services, as well as another for content filtering."

WiFi keeps us connected but also has the potential to isolate us from each other. We often interact with our devices at the expense of real human contact; within the unstructured environment aboard a vessel this can encourage unsociable behaviour, leading to loneliness. However, Rossbacher described examples where the installation of Inmarsat products had a positive impact on crew interaction. "A Hong Kong shipowner recently requested our Fleet Media service on its vessels," he said. "Instead of making it available via WiFi in cabins, the owner wanted it within a social space in order to bring the crew together. It has been very successful. Inmarsat's range of solutions is fundamentally aimed at improving crew welfare, whether this is by increasing safety or efficiency, or tackling loneliness – both physically, by improving social interaction onboard, or by connecting crew with home and the rest of the world."

ICMA logo blue                 IMHA logo           ISWAN Logo CMYK NoStrap InBox

Three leading international seafarers' welfare organisations, the International Christian Maritime Association (ICMA), the International Maritime Health Association (IMHA), and the International Seafarers' Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN), are today calling on EU governments to recognise the key role of seafarers in the rescue of migrants at sea. They have sent a letter to all heads of governments urgently requesting that more resources are mobilised for search and rescue in the Mediterranean.

In the last seventeen months over 5,000 migrants have died attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea. Fortunately, merchant seafarers are responsible for saving tens of thousands of more lives. In 2014 seafarers aboard 800 merchant ships rescued 40,000 migrants. Their role in the large scale rescue of migrants should be recognised and commended.

However, EU governments are still relying on the kindness of seafarers and the legal obligations upon them to cope with a human tragedy of an unprecedented scale instead of committing sufficient resources to save migrants' lives. Merchant ships and crews are not equipped or trained to deal with large scale rescues.

Seafarers are often risking their own safety and security in these large scale rescues. They are also facing situations such as recovering bodies and dealing with sick or injured men, women, and children that may have an effect on them for which they may need counselling or other forms of support. Seafarers are no substitute for professionally trained search and rescue personnel and they must not be used by EU governments as an expedient way of ignoring a difficult problem on the doorstep of Europe.

The three organisations have called for the EU governments to take urgent action to commit more resources to saving lives in the Mediterranean and not to place merchant seafarers in an unenviable situation.

The letter can be downladed from below.

Crewtoo, the leading social media platform for seafarers, has launched the Crewtoo Seafarers Happiness Index to monitor important benchmarks of seafarer satisfaction on a regular basis. The inaugural report shows a seafarer satisfaction level of 6.42 on a scale of 1 to 10 about key issues including general happiness, contact with family, shore leave, wage levels, food, fitness and health, training, interaction onboard, workload, and access to welfare facilities. Data for the first report is based on surveys conducted in the first three months of 2015. Subsequent reports will be published approximately every three months based on surveys conducted on an ongoing basis. Crewtoo, founded in 2011, is part of KVH Media Group and KVH Industries, Inc., (Nasdaq: KVHI).

"It is all well and good to talk about seafarers and the realities of life at sea, but until now there has been very little confirmation as to how seafarers actually feel about their jobs", says Anneley Pickles, head of Crewtoo business development. "For us, it comes down to one fundamental issue: Are seafarers happy? We felt it vital to develop a means of measuring and reporting this issue, which led to the creation of the Crewtoo Seafarers Happiness Index".

The issues that concerned seafarers the most, as detailed in the first report, included the need for onboard Internet access, the risk of stress and fatigue from increasing workloads, and the lack of shore leave. For example, seafarers mentioned that Internet access onboard "makes life at sea easier" and a number of respondents expressed the concern that "if connectivity does not become common on vessels, the industry might be unable to attract any new seafarers in the future".

Crewtoo WC Comp image 150dpiCrewtoo began surveying its approximately 110,000 members in January, asking them to rate their satisfaction about life at sea using a scale of 1-10 with a score of 10 being the happiest, and 1 being the unhappiest. The Crewtoo Seafarers Happiness Index data includes responses from globally based crews, and answers were received from across all ranks and nationalities including seafarers from the Philippines, U.K., Poland, Croatia, Germany, U.S., Canada, India, and Turkey, as well as a number of African nations. The age of survey respondents ranged from 16 to the late 60s. Masters made up the largest proportion of responses by rank; some 11% of respondents stated that they were currently serving in the role of captain. The majority of responses were from seafarers working on bulk carriers and container vessels.

The Crewtoo Seafarers Happiness Index is designed to be part of an ongoing campaign to raise awareness about crews' opinions and to assist with the continual improvement of conditions onboard to retain and recruit seafarers. Quantifying and qualifying how happy people are with the various elements of their working life at sea helps to build a picture of the industry and of the successes, but also the issues and problems to be addressed.

"Satisfied, well fed, fit, and engaged seafarers are vital to the present and future of the industry", says Ms. Pickles. "Happy people stick around, happy people work well, they embrace challenges, they look to excel and share with others. In short, happiness matters and it needs to be measured, assessed, and understood. The lessons then need to be applied to ensure that we are looking after seafarers properly and responding to their wants and needs".

For a copy of the Crewtoo Seafarers Happiness Index report, please visit here.

Crewtoo are the media sponsor of the International Seafarers' Welfare Awards

A survey released by the ITF (International Transport Workers' Federation) highlights the need for continuing work on HIV/AIDS and wellbeing among seafarers.

Available here the report A broader vision of seafarer wellbeing: survey of ITF maritime affiliates on HIV/AIDS, health and wellbeing questioned 34 trade unions and 608 seafarers.

The results may be surprising. Despite all the work that has gone into education about HIV/AIDS, many myths about its transmission remain – including in one labour supplying country where only 17 percent of respondents believed condoms are effective in preventing it, and 46 percent believe it can be spread in food and drink. Other major findings came in response to the questions about general wellbeing, with many of those quizzed reporting worries about weight, depression and alcohol use. On average half of them were worried about their weight, while almost 60 percent experience back/joint pain at work. In one labour supplying country 75 percent know workmates who are depressed.

The new report follows similar ITF surveys in the civil aviation and ports sectors, but for the first time includes questions on general health and wellbeing, so as to achieve a holistic overview of seafarers needs and concerns, and in order to 'normalise' HIV/AIDS as something within the broader health context, rather than a cause of stigma and fear.

ITF maritime coordinator Jacqueline Smith explained: "We believe this is the most exhaustive current investigation into this subject, and we offer its findings to everyone concerned with the welfare of seafarers.

"We carried out this research to identify the needs and concerns of seafarers, and to show us how we can best address them within the ITF's longstanding and pioneering HIV/AIDS programme. The results speak for themselves, and we will – with the agreement of the ITF seafarers' section, which sponsored this survey – plan a comprehensive programme of action accordingly."

For more about the ITF's HIV/AIDS work please see here.