On 21 October the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme (MPHRP) and the Taipei Representative Office in the EU and Belgium signed a Memorandum of Understanding, under which Taiwan will donate €30,000 to a Piracy Survivor Family Fund (PSFF), administered by MPHRP, an ISWAN programme, on behalf of the Contact Group for Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS). The Memorandum was signed by Representative Kuo-yu Tung at the Taipei Representative Office in Brussels, and Mr. Tom Holmer, MPHRP Programme Manager.

The Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme (MPHRP) joins the CGPCS stakeholders in expressing their gratitude to Taiwan for this generous donation. Mr. Holmer said "we are delighted to receive this greatly appreciated grant from the Government of Taiwan to the Piracy Survivor Family Fund, which recognises the suffering of the hundreds of seafarers and their dependents who have been the innocent victims of Somali Piracy and have received no or only very limited support since their attack. It will provide a major contribution to relieve some of their resulting financial hardships as they endeavour to rebuild their lives. We look forward to being able to report on positive outcomes as we work with these seafarers over the coming months."

The PSFF was established by the CGPCS under the EU Presidency, in 2014, to provide financial assistance to seafarers affected by Somali piracy and to their families. It fulfils a crucial role in the rehabilitation of piracy victims: since 2006 it is estimated that more than 4,000 seafarers have been held hostage by Somali pirates and that as many as 80,000 have been subjected to an attack. On their return home, many face continued indebtedness as a consequence of the total or partial loss of their wages during their detention, as well as acute health problems. Bereaved families also have similar needs.

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19th October 2015

Andy Winbow, the recently retired Assistant Secretary-General and Director, Maritime Safety Division at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has joined the board of the International Seafarers Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) as a trustee.

Andy said "I am really pleased to join the board of ISWAN. It is an organisation that focuses on the wellbeing of the seafarer and I feel it has the potential to engage more organisations, maritime companies and individuals in its aim to improve the welfare of ships' crews."

Per Gullestrup, the Chairman of ISWAN said "we are privileged to have Andy join the board. He has a long and distinguished career at the IMO and as a seafarer. He will be able to bring a lot of experience and knowledge to ISWAN. I am looking forward to working with Andy on the ISWAN board."

Among his many achievements Andy directed international initiatives relating to passenger ship safety post-Costa Concordia and developed and implemented the systems and procedures for the receipt and evaluation of information communicated to IMO by the 144 Parties to the STCW Convention.

Andy is a Fellow of the Nautical Institute, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, and a Master Mariner.

Oct 08, 2015

Organisations representing the global shipping and oil industry have announced that the size of the 'High Risk Area' for piracy in the Indian Ocean has been reduced and issued new advice to merchant ship operators.

This reduction to the High Risk Area is in response to the ongoing containment of pirate attacks in the Indian Ocean, but a group of shipping and oil industry organisations (BIMCO, International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), Intercargo, INTERTANKO and the Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF) stressed that a serious threat remains and that correct reporting and vigilance remains crucial.

The reduction of the High Risk Area takes full account of recent shipping industry experience, and follows extensive consultation with governments through the diplomatic Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, and military naval forces, including NATO, Combined Maritime Forces and EU NAVFOR, which continue to provide vital protection to shipping.

The new industry advice, which takes effect from 1 December, changes that currently contained in the latest edition of Best Management Practices for Protection against Somali Based Piracy (BMP 4), which is jointly produced by the industry group.

The amendment to BMP 4 that relates to this issue can be downloaded via each shipping organisations' website (as can BMP4) – a direct link to it on the ICS site is here.

In summary:

• The area previously classified as "high risk" now forms only a part of the area called the Voluntary Reporting Area (VRA);

• Ships entering the VRA must still register with the Maritime Security Centre for the Horn of Africa (MSCHOA) and report to the United Kingdom Marine Trade Operations (UKMTO) to be monitored during transit;

• Pre-transit risk assessments should take into account the latest information from both the Voluntary Reporting Area and High Risk Area.

The industry associations further emphasised that in view of the continuing high risk of pirate attack, shipping companies must continue to maintain full compliance with the BMP and be vigilant in their voluntary reporting on piracy incidents, sighting of potential pirates, and any suspicious activity – as this provides crucial intelligence on risk levels in the area.


Original press release available here


13th October 2015

118 inspectors working for the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) have gathered in Panama City, Panama this week for the ITF worldwide inspectors' seminar (WWIS).

The entire inspectorate network is brought together every three years to develop new skills and plan for the delivery of ITF objectives.

Inspectors are union officials working on issues related to the ITF flags of convenience campaign in ports all over the world. Their role is to ensure seafarers have decent pay, working conditions and living conditions. They do this by carrying out inspections on ships calling in their ports. They also assist with actions to protect seafarers' rights.

Chair of the ITF seafarers' section, Dave Heindel, said: "We're pursuing fairness and justice for seafarers everywhere and in that pursuit inspectors are our soldiers. They have unique access to seafarers and unique knowledge about the challenges involved in a life at sea. Our mission this week is to strengthen the inspectorate further, to facilitate joint working and particularly at this point to build the campaigning capacity of the inspectorate network."

New inspector Heikki Karla from the Finnish Seafarers' Union, who joined the ITF last year, summed up the importance of the role of inspectors: "Ship owners have gone from simple and stable 'making a profit' to 'trying to maximise the growth of profit through cost cutting and so-called optimising.' It is always the seafarer who pays the price.

"The only way for seafarers to have decent pay and conditions is through a sound system of collective bargaining, which respects human rights and takes into account the nature of work at sea.

"The problems I see on board underline the need for spreading information and getting the seafarers to demand what belongs to them without fear of losing their jobs. We need to provide the information, support seafarers and make ship owners respect agreements and respect seafarers."

Access more information on the ITF inspectorate

Access more information on the ITF seafarers' section and the flags of convenience campaign

Are you a seafarer with thoughts on your welfare? Do you want the chance to win an iPad Air?

Our colleagues at the ITF Seafarers Trust are running a survey, looking into the needs and wants of seafarers.

Participants of the survey will be entered into a draw to win an iPad Air (32GB).

The survey asks questions about port-based services, including seafarers' welfare workers, seamen's clubs or missions, internet access, and shore leave.

The survey should not take more than ten to fifteen minutes to complete.

Follow the link below for the survey:


"Social isolation among seafarers is less a problem than a fact. What makes it problematic is that social isolation is both a cause and symptom of a range of mental health conditions. And these conditions make it harder to both retain crew and maintain safety."

Dr.Olivia Swift's article Social Isolation of Seafarers highlights the key points on this topic, illustrating various means to alleviate the issue, as well as underlining what support is currently available.

The issue of social isolation among seafarers is common, and has been researched and documented in the past. However, ISWAN remains keenly aware of the problem, partly due to the nature of some calls received by the SeafarerHelp team. ISWAN is keen to lay the foundations for a discussion of the possible ways to alleviate the causes and symptoms of social isolation, including seafarers, welfare providers and shipping companies in the debate.

Download the link below for the full article.

Please contact Caitlin Vaughan for any further comments or information This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

A new report designed to identify key areas of concern for women seafarers was the centrepiece of a recent meeting on the health and wellbeing of women working at sea, to be held in London. The new Women Seafarers' Health and Welfare Survey is a joint initiative by the International Seafarers' Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN), the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF), the International Maritime Health Association (IMHA), and the Seafarers Hospital Society (SHS).

The report of the Women Seafarers' Health and Welfare Survey was launched at the meeting on 17 September and can be seen in full at http://bit.ly/1NwhbCg. Its executive summary appears below.

Among the findings of the survey, which was completed by 595 women seafarers, are that:

• Nearly half of all respondents reported joint/back pain, and stress/depression/anxiety were the two biggest health challenges they faced.
• The biggest issue preventing women seafarers accessing healthcare while at sea was lack of confidentiality
• Over half of respondents would welcome routine wellness checks

ITF maritime coordinator Jacqueline Smith commented: "This survey underlines how relatively little research there has been so far into women's working lives at sea. It helps fill those gaps and shows how much more has to be done for us to see the number of women at sea break out of the current and unacceptable one to two percent of the workforce.

"We particularly welcome the fact that the survey points to relatively inexpensive and easily instituted improvements that can help make that change possible: confidentiality, a focus on stress, [and] better health information."

Georgina Robinson, Health Development Manager at SHS said: "'Partnership working has meant looking beyond the development of health initiatives, to the advantages of collaborative working. By sharing expertise, resources and capacity, new approaches in assessing health have been promoted through active involvement of community members, welfare representatives and researchers in all aspects of this with action to benefit the community involved."

This is the introduction and executive summary of the new report:


It is estimated that 1-2% of the world's 1.25m seafarers are women, serving on some 87,000 ships, mostly in the cruise sector. Research suggests that they continue to face discrimination, and that there are areas where women seafarers' specific needs are often overlooked. Health is likely to be one such area, and there has been a growing concern among health and welfare organisations that medical handbooks and other literature aimed at women seafarers are outdated and fail to provide a gendered perspective to health or to consider health and related issues that are specific to women.

After recognising this possible gap in available health information and provisions which address health issues specific to women seafarers, representatives from IMHA, ISWAN, ITF and SHS designed an online pilot survey to find out how women currently working at sea view their health needs. This was conducted from the beginning of June 2014 for two months, and was completed by 100 respondents. After reviewing the questions and results, a revised survey was devised and conducted between December 2014 and April 2015. In addition to the survey, two focus group sessions were held in Cebu with 20 Filipina cruise ship workers. Focus group participants discussed their survey answers in more detail and gave useful insight into the most common health challenges reported by respondents. The responses received highlight a small number of areas where relatively simple and low-cost interventions might improve the health and welfare of women seafarers, as well as some complex issues which will need further investigation.

Executive Summary

An online survey of 595 female seafarers from 54 countries identified and prioritised perceived gaps in health and wellbeing provision. Participants were in the main under the age of 40, with those from non-traditional maritime countries being younger. European seafarers and those from the non-cruise sectors are relatively over-represented. The survey was supplemented by the findings of two focus groups for cruise staff in the Philippines. It is acknowledged that those studied may not be representative of all groups of women working at sea. However these results provide important new information and update findings from earlier studies.

Participants were asked to select their top three health challenges - 47% identified joint/back pain, while stress/depression/anxiety was selected by 43%. Joint/back pain was less commonly identified by those working on cargo ships or tankers than in those working on cruise ships. However, stress/depression/anxiety is the top health challenge in both sectors. This difference may reflect the higher proportion of rating participants from the cruise sector who had physically demanding jobs This is supported by the focus group participants, who felt their joint/back pain was linked not only to the weight of the objects they carry, but also the distance they have to carry them. Some 75% reporting joint/back pain, and 78% of those who experience stress/depression/anxiety considered that their health problems were connected to their work. Other common challenges were overweight/obesity issues (selected by 21% of respondents overall and 36% of the 51-60 age group), and heavy or painful periods (selected by 19%). Nearly a quarter of participants said they did not have any health challenges.

Problems with access to healthcare included confidentiality, selected by 37% of respondents working on tankers, 23% on cargo ship workers and 19% working on cruise ships. This is likely to be linked to concerns about job security. However, 50% of participants felt they had no difficulties in accessing healthcare on board or in port.
Nearly 40% of respondents said they did not have access to a sanitary bin on-board; however, there were notable variations across ranks and sectors. Access was usual in the cruise and ferry sectors (85%, 63%), but much lower elsewhere especially on tankers (27%).

17% of respondents identified sexual harassment as a problem, but nearly 50% of participants in an earlier pilot study said it was an issue; younger women reported this more frequently.

Recommendations include wide consultation on the need for further investigations, as well as the adoption of a range of relatively straightforward and inexpensive interventions. For example, the production of gender specific information on joint/back pain, mental health, nutrition and gynaecological complaints. In addition, the introduction of means for disposing sanitary waste for all female crew on all ships, as well as improved availability of female sanitary products on-board and in port shops worldwide.

For more details please contact

ISWAN project manager Caitlin Vaughan on email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Tel: 020 8253 0163

ITF press and editorial manager Sam Dawson on email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Tel: +44 (0)20 7940 9260.

A briefing meeting has been arranged to present the findings of the 2015 Women Seafarers' Health and Welfare Survey, and to prompt interactive discussion between stakeholders on how to address the issues raised.

The study has been a joint initiative of the International Maritime Health Association (IMHA), International Seafarers' Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN), International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) and the Seafarers Hospital Society (SHS)

The meeting will take place on September 17th 2015 16:00 - 19:00 at the ITF House in London. Dr Tim Carter is the Chair.

The agenda and main findings can be viewed here.

Please register for the event using the form below

For more information contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


ISWAN's relay team of Per Gullestrup (Chair of Trustees), Torbjorn Husby (Trustee) and Roger Harris (Executive Director) completed the Olympic Distance in the London Triathlon on Saturday 8 August in a time of 3hr 8 minutes. Torbjorn swum 1500 meters, Per cycled 40 kms, and Roger ran 10kms.

Roger said "It was a hot afternoon but we were overtaking teams with people half our age in them". The team finished in 261 place out of 403. The team are already looking at entering the 2016 event with the target time of below 3 hours. They are also going to challenge other organisations in the maritime industry to enter.

The team aim to raise £4000 for ISWAN. To sponsor them please go to http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/iswantri

The boards of the International Seafarers Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) and the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme (MPHRP) are pleased to announce the moving of the activities of the MPHRP into ISWAN. A transfer agreement was signed by both parties on 3 August 2015. ISWAN will now be responsible for all the activities of the highly respected MPHRP. The move to ISWAN will enable the programme to develop under the auspices of a well-established international seafarers' welfare organisation that is registered as a charity.

The programme will continue to support the seafarers and their families who are affected by piracy. While piracy attacks off the coast of Somalia have significantly decreased, attacks are on the increase in South East Asia and continuing in the Gulf of Guinea. The MPHRP programme will concentrate on these areas while still supporting seafarers who were held for years in Somalia. The programme will seek to develop constructive and positive relationships with existing and new industry partners.

ISWAN has already appointed a new programme manager, Mr Tom Holmer, to lead the MPHRP in this new phase of its development. The programme in South Asia will continue while an immediate priority will be to secure funding to continue the programme in South East Asia and Eastern Europe.

Peter Hinchliffe, speaking on behalf of the MPHRP Board said "The MPHRP Board decided some time ago that the best way to provide the very best long term stability for the support of seafarers and their families caught up in the appalling acts of piracy in the Indian Ocean and in Somalia was to find a permanent home under the umbrella of an existing and highly respected seafarers' charity. Attacks on merchant ships and seafarers are still happening and we must ensure that the MPHRP is there to support seafarers if they are attacked and to prepare them for passages through high risk areas."

Jon Whitlow, Secretary of the Seafarers Section of the International Transport Workers Federation said "We are pleased that the programme can now continue as part of ISWAN. The ITF will play its role, with other industry partners, to ensure that piracy, with its devastating effect upon seafarers and their families, is not forgotten about."

Per Gullestrup, Chairman of ISWAN and former Managing Partner of Clipper whose ship CEC Future, and its crew, was hijacked off Somalia and held for 71 days said "I am delighted that the programme is coming into ISWAN. MPHRP has done outstanding work in the past and I believe ISWAN is the right organisation to take the programme forward. We look forward to working with current and new partners on developing MPHRP."

Other key industry partners involved in the MPHRP, such as the International Chamber of Shipping and the International Maritime Bureau, fully support the move of the programme into ISWAN.