Seafarers facing legal problems can now obtain immediate information concerning their rights, wherever they are in the world, with a new app  launched by Seafarers' Rights International (SRI) after three months of user testing.

Deirdre Fitzpatrick, Executive Director of SRI said: "Seafarers need tangible support 24/7. There are many good companies and maritime administrations who provide seafarers with assistance and support with regard to their human rights. However where that is not the case, this app will provide a lifeline for seafarers. The app has been designed to operate offline so that seafarers can access information at all times. It is compatible with iPhone, iPad, Android and Blackberry devices.

The app has a unique 'Find a Lawyer' tool which gives immediate access to a database of lawyers around the world who have signed up to the SRI Charter - a statement of good practice in the provision of legal services to seafarers - and who may be able to offer assistance to seafarers facing criminal prosecution."

Brian Orrell OBE, Chairman of the Advisory Board of SRI said:
"It is important that the work of SRI gets directly to seafarers. This is why this practical advice is now being made available on an app, and we are also producing on-line education materials free of charge for seafarers to raise their awareness around subjects relevant to their working lives. This education will ensure that seafarers' rights are real and meaningful for them."

The app can be dowloaded from here

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Typhoon Haiyan 1

Typhoon Haiyan - known locally as Yolanda - hit eastern Samar Island at 4.40am local time on 8th November last year.

It caused a storm surge – a wall of water – that was 25 feet high in some areas, including in the town of Tacloban.

Reports regarding Haiyan's windspeeds vary but the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration – the relevant government authority - has said that when it made landfall Haiyan had sustained winds of 147mph and gusts of 171mph.

If the figures are correct then Haiyan WAS NOT the strongest tropical storm to ever make landfall but it WAS the deadliest Typhoon in the history of the Philippines, a country hit on average by more than 20 tropical storms a year and prone to both earthquakes and volcanoes.

Over 14 million people were affected across 46 provinces.

The city of Tacloban, home to more than 220,000 people, suffered more loss of life than any other area of the Philippines.

Five million people saw their homes severely damaged or destroyed (550,000 houses destroyed and an additional 580,000 houses were severely damaged).

The Government of the Philippines said the storm resulted in over 6,201 deaths with over 1,785 people reported missing.

Behind the figures there are tens of thousands of individual human stories of people losing children, parents, and loved ones in the most appalling of circumstances.

When news started to come through about the devastation caused, the maritime industry was quick to respond.

Companies, both shipping and ship management, began to mobilise their resources. One initial response was to find out more information from the affected areas and to set up helplines for seafarers who were away at sea. Companies began compiling lists of seafarers who lived in the areas hit by the typhoon. Some crewing agencies began to send their staff from Manila to find out if their seafarers were safe, injured or missing.

Outside of the country there was a real need for seafarers to call back home to find out if their family and loved ones were safe. ISWAN helped to organise an appeal with the help of Intermanager, ICS and others. Very soon we had enough funds to distribute to seafarer centres all over the world for free calls for Filipino seafarers.

Shipping companies and others also began to provide free phone calls and internet services for seafarers.

Seafarer Thx Letter Edited 2

After a few days it soon became clear that the typhoon had caused widespread devastation resulting in many casualties and the destruction of homes, schools, hospitals and businesses. Maritime Companies, unions, and welfare organisations started to organise relief efforts when the full extent of the effects of the Typhoon were known.

There is a job to be done to pull together the full information about how companies, unions, and other organisations responded and what they did – and are still doing – to assist those affected by the typhoon.

Companies - shipping, ship management, crewing and associated maritime - raised and donated significant sums of money for relief and reconstruction.

Many companies organised fundraising and donated to funds to relief organisations, such as the Philippines Red Cross working in the affected areas. Others used the funds raised to directly assist their seafarers with financial and material support. Some companies funded the re-building of homes, schools, and hospitals.

The ICS also donated funds as well as helping to co-ordinate help and assistance. Intermanager galvanised its members and other to assist and sought out donations for maritime associated companies.

As well as funds companies assisted in moving relief supplies to the affected areas as well as providing personnel. Companies also assisted training schools that had been damaged and helped cadets whose families had been injured or killed. Many companies raised hundreds of thousands of US$.

Maritime trade unions also responded. AMOSUP's training ship the Felix Oca, was used in conjunction with the Norwegian shipowners was used to deliver relief supplies. The ITF Seafarers Trust donated US$160,000 to PSU and AMOSUP. Both unions over the following months carried out relief and reconstruction work and continue to do so. AMOSUP for instance sent medical teams to Cebu to assist as well as conducting assessments for longer term relief & reconstruction.

Welfare organisations such as Stella Maris, Mission to Seafarers, and Sailors Society also quickly responded to the typhoon. As well as providing free phone calls for seafarers back home the welfare organisations also provided emotional and pastoral support to seafarers in foreign ports who were anxious about their families back home.

So while a lot has happened over the past year more still needs to be done.

Many seafarer families lost their livelihoods so there is a need to help these families get back on their feet by providing training and small loans.

Reconstruction continues. Many more new homes need to be built to replace those destroyed by the typhoon. While many homes have been completed many more are needed. And they need to be built faster. I realise that there are many complexities involved including logistic problems and issues around land ownership but families are still living in temporary and makeshift housing.

Funds raised for reconstruction need to reach the communities for where it is intended. More needs to be done to ensure that there is closer scrutiny so corruption and profiteering is minimised. Local politics should not get in the way of reconstruction efforts.

There are many lessons to be learnt from the maritime industry's response :

  • There is a need for co-ordination and partnership working – co-operation not competition
  • Work with people on the ground and local communities
  • Involve national or local NGO's with experience of disaster relief and community development

Let's not forget – the cameras have gone away but the challenge to rebuild lives still remains.

The new edition of the ISWAN Seafarer Centre Directory has been printed and is now being distributed to nearly 400 seafarer centres around the world. Thanks to a generous grant from the ITF Seafarers' Trust, ISWAN has been able to update the directory in hardcopy and online here, with an added geo-map of centre locations that will make it easier for the seafarer to find the centre.

The directory is also available as a downloadable pdf at the foot of this page.

The directory includes 429 bona-fide seafarer centres, all operating for the welfare of seafarers. It lists available facilities, contact details and opening hours, and it continues to be extremely valuable to seafarers looking for their nearest centre. Many centres are able to offer free or cheap Wi-Fi, refreshments, recreational facilities and friendly supportive staff; all of which can be a great comfort to seafarers who have been at sea for long periods of time.

A total of 60,000 copies of the directory are being printed and distributed to centres, welfare workers and a number of ships with the help of Wrist Ship Supply. The directories have been printed in the UK, India, and the Philippines. We estimate that over 250,000 seafarers will be able to make use of the new directory.

For more information about the new edition of the seafarers' centre directory, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

A new video for seafarers on the Ebola virus has been produced for seafarers. There is also a free training package for every seafarer. See here for download.

The International Seafarers' Welfare Awards 2015 were launched on 10 November 2014. For seafarers, the backbone of the industry, welfare services and facilities can be a life line when working away from home for long periods of time.

These awards recognise excellence in the provision of welfare services by shipping companies, welfare organisations, ports and individuals - on ship and ashore. They showcase good practice in the industry, and highlight the commitment and dedication shown by many - in the service to seafarers.

With nominations now open, we encourage seafarers to recognise those that have shown them exceptional service this year. We urge seafarers to nominate for the award categories: Seafarers' Centre of the Year; Shipping Company of the Year; Port of the Year; and The Dr Dierk Lindemann Welfare Personality of the Year.

The winners of the 2014 International Seafarers' Welfare Awards were:

  • Shipping Company of the Year: Wallem Ship Management
  • Port of the Year: Port of Antwerp (Belgium)
  • Seafarer Centre of the Year: The Flying Angel, Fremantle (Australia)
  • The Dr Dierk Lindemann Welfare Personality of the Year: Fr Paul Noel (Durban, South Africa)
  • Judges' Special Award: Apinya Tajit (Sri Racha, Thailand)

Roger Harris, Executive Director, International Seafarers' Welfare and Assistance Network said "Seafarers make a massive contribution to all of our lives. Without them global trade would grind to a halt. They deserve to have excellent welfare services and facilities wherever they are in the world. These awards recognise the considerable efforts that organisations and individuals make to improve the lives of seafarers."

The International Seafarers' Welfare Awards 2015 will be held at the International Maritime Organisation in London on 9 June 2015 and will be presented by Mr Koji Sekimizu, Secretary General of the IMO. The awards are organised by the International Seafarers' Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN), and supported by the International Chamber of Shipping, International Transport Workers' Federation; International Christian Maritime Association; International Labour Organisation; the International Maritime Organisation.

Sponsors of the awards include Crewtoo, Wrist Ship Supply, and Garrets.

The awards are funded by a grant from the ITF Seafarers Trust.

Nominations close on 2 February 2015.

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The rescue of all persons in distress at sea – including illegal migrants – is an obligation under international maritime law, as well as being a long established humanitarian duty, says the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and ISWAN member. ICS is the global trade association for commercial ship operators, whose ships are currently involved on a daily basis in the rescue of refugees at sea in the Mediterranean.

Whatever may be decided by policy makers in EU Member States, the legal and humanitarian obligation of merchant ships to provide assistance to anyone in distress at sea will remain unchanged, says ICS.

Commenting on new reports that some European Union Ministers have expressed concerns that search and rescue operations have acted as a 'pull factor' for illegal migration, encouraging people to make dangerous crossings in the expectation of rescue, ICS notes that merchant ships are legally required to rescue persons in distress at sea by the UN International Maritime Organization's Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS), to which virtually every maritime nation is a Party.

Under SOLAS, and the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue, the obligation of the ship Master to render assistance is complemented by a corresponding obligation of IMO Member States to co-operate in rescue situations, thereby relieving the Master of the responsibility to care for survivors, and allowing individuals who are rescued at sea in such circumstances to be delivered promptly to a place of safety.

The shipping industry is therefore very concerned by reports that the new EU Frontex operation 'Triton' will have a third of the budget of the current Italian 'Mare Nostrum' operation which it replaces, that its primary focus will be border control, and that search and rescue operations may be reduced in international waters.

It will clearly be much more difficult for merchant ships to save lives at sea without the adequate provision of search and rescue services by EU Member States. Moreover, whenever a ship performs its legal and humanitarian obligations, it will continue to be incumbent on EU Member States to ensure that those who are rescued can be readily disembarked at the next port of call, even when they may lack documentation.

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The Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme (MPHRP) has welcomed the news that seven Indian Seafarers who have been held hostage since their ship, the MV Asphalt Venture, was hijacked in the Somali Basin on 28 September 2010 have been released and are safe in Kenya.

The 1991-built, Panamanian flagged, 3884 dwt., general cargo ship "MV Asphalt Venture", with a crew of 15 was hijacked by Somali pirates on 28 September 2010. In April 2011 the vessel with 8 of her crew was released while the remaining 7 Indian seafarers were detained ashore.

Following lengthy negotiations, the release of these men was arranged after a modest payment was made to cover the logistical and transport costs of the group holding the men.

Preparations are now being made for their return to India in the next few days. Their families have been informed.

Chairman of the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme (MPHRP) and ISWAN trustee, Peter Swift, commented as follows: "After more than 4 years in captivity we are delighted for them and their families after the terrible ordeal and hardship that they have suffered. The tremendous efforts and generous support of all those who helped to secure their release and safe return are greatly appreciated, including the team at Holman Fenwick Willan who stepped in on a pro bono basis to help make this happen."

30 seafarers and fishers are still held hostage by Somali pirates, some for more than four and a half years and the others for more than two and half years. It is thought that the pirates hold these men in the mistaken belief that substantial money can be raised to pay a ransom, whereas, in fact, working to free these people are charitable organisations with very limited resources. The United Nations and the international maritime community have called for their prompt release and for support and assistance to be given to them and their families.

Advice for travellers from the World Health Organisation (WHO)

 WHO advice

 

Further information is available on the IMO website and also on the WHO website

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Kimberly Karlshoej, leading shipping figure has been appointed as new Head of The ITF Seafarers' Trust, a major funder of seafarers' welfare. 

Kimberly Karlshoej is well known as a founder and, until recently, Director and Programme Officer of The TK Foundation, the Trust named after her father, J Torben Karlshoej, who founded the Teekay Corporation. She has also worked as a consultant to a number of maritime charities and has been an executive board member of the World Maritime University.

In Kimberley's words, "Shipping is a low-profile industry, and to the wider public, seafarers are practically invisible. There is a clear and pressing demand for programmes that can effectively alleviate their unique welfare needs. I am honoured by this appointment, and delighted by the opportunity to take the ITF Seafarers' Trust's important and ambitious work forward."

David Heindel, Chair of The ITF Seafarers' Trust stated: "This job attracted an incredible field of candidates. It is heartening that there are so many skilled and passionate people out there either working in this field, or hoping to. In the end, we chose Kimberly because of her obvious passion for seafarers' welfare and her record at The TK Foundation, which is rightly known for its pioneering work."

Steve Cotton, ITF General Secretary and Trustee of The ITF Seafarers' Trust, added: "We are proud of what the Seafarers' Trust does and I know that we will be prouder still of what it will achieve under Kimberly's highly experienced stewardship."

From Denmark, Kimberley Karlshoej qualified as a nurse and psychologist before helping set up the TK Foundation in 2002.

ISWAN warmly welcome the appointment and looks forward to working with Kimberly when she takes up the post.

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MPHRP's Assistant Programme Director, Hennie la Grange and Regional Director for South Asia, Chirag Bahri met with the 7 Bangladeshi seafarers of ex MV Albedo at Bangladesh Marine Academy in Chittagong on 21st October 2014.

These seafarers were earlier held in captivity of Somali pirates for about 1300 days and were rescued due to the efforts of the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme (MPHRP), its partners and UNODC in June 2014.
At the session on 21st October, the seafarers were counselled by Dr Helal, psychiatrist based in Dhaka, during the day long meet at the Academy. The crew looked cheerful and were positive towards their new life and said that their families are also very happy now and indeed relieved. One of the seafarer's father presented a 'shirt' to Chirag Bahri as a mark of respect and gratitude for helping the families during the crisis period.

Most of the seafarers have plans to go back to sea and were reassured of humanitarian support by the MPHRP team so as to be able to appear for their examinations and looking for future jobs on board vessels. The Government of Bangladesh had earlier extended financial support to all these piracy affected seafarers and have pledged to support them with documentation and other related issues.

MPHRP believes that the seafarers who were held hostage by pirates, if provided with good support from their families, close relatives, friends, shipping companies, welfare organisations and their own national Government, will recover from the trauma sooner and will be able to join ships again to resume their normal working life.

MPHRP South Asia thanked the Government of Bangladesh and especially Mr Sajid Hossain, Commandant of Bangladesh Marine Academy, for the humanitarian support to the seafarers and families during the captivity period and post release.

There are believed to be 37 seafarers still held by pirates in Somalia. It is important that they are not forgotten.

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