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."

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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.

The International Chamber of Shipping recently released the following statement on the crisis of migrants crossing the Mediterranean :

The merchant shipping industry – which in the past 16 months participated in almost 1,000 migrant rescue operations in the Mediterranean – welcomes the decision by EU leaders to triple resources of the Triton operation. The shipping sector similarly supports the commitment of EU Member States to deploy additional operational means, including vessels and planes, to achieve this objective at relatively short notice. But the fact that operation Triton remains within the mandate of FRONTEX, the EU border agency, raises serious questions about the extent to which these efforts will fully ensure the immediate prevention of further loss of life, which should be the absolute priority.

In Brussels, Patrick Verhoeven, Secretary General of the European Community Shipowners' Associations (ECSA) commented: "EU leaders have agreed to increase resources and assets available for search and rescue operations, within the mandate of Frontex. Laudable as these efforts are, they still fall short of the scale and mandate of last year's Italian operation Mare Nostrum, which saved hundreds of thousands of people in 2014. What is needed immediately is a similar, EU-led, large-scale search and rescue mission, able to operate far from the EU territorial waters, which is where most of the accidents involving migrants take place."

Commenting on the operational capabilities of Triton, Peter Hinchliffe, Secretary General of the London-based International Chamber of Shipping said: "We understand that the resources of Triton can be deployed in international waters when called upon by national Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres, but it remains highly doubtful whether they can rapidly reach areas near the Libyan coast, where most incidents tend to occur. It seems that merchant ships, which are not best equipped to rescue hundreds of people at a time, will continue to be called upon frequently to respond to requests for assistance. A clear mandate for humanitarian rescue operations by EU States still appears to be outstanding."

 

On June 25, we will celebrate the fifth Day of the Seafarer. This day was instituted by the International Maritime Organization to recognise the importance of seafarers for our world. The Day of the Seafarer provides a great opportunity to raise awareness about life at sea, but also engage and grow support for seafarers' welfare.

For this year's day of the seafarer we are proposing that seafarer welfare organisations around the world :

1. Share, promote or create social media content promoting the Day of the Seafarer. Using your own material, but also that created by the IMO, NAMMA, ICMA and other strategic partners, we hope to contribute to making the Day of the Seafarer a seafarers' welfare 'event' online.

2. Organise and promote 'day of the Seafarer' events at all seafarer centres. Possible events could include an 'open house', inviting the local community to meet with seafarers. You could also invite the local mayor, elected representatives, and local press. The event can be used to promote the work of the seafarer centre and win new supporters Events do not need much planning or budget, but should connect local communities with the realities of seafaring life in some meaningful way!

Let us know what are you doing and we will add it to the global map.

 

 

In 2014 Futurenautics Research undertook the largest and most comprehensive survey of the provision, requirement for and usage of crew communications systems in the maritime industry.

The huge success of the research project, with almost 3,000 respondents from more than 30 countries, and the very high level of interest from all sides of the maritime industry has meant that Futurenautics Research are undertaking a follow-up survey.

The survey is a concise but in-depth multiple choice online for serving seafarers only. As in 2014 the full dataset and analysis will be published in a report that will be available free for digital download.

We believe that the publication of the full research findings will benefit seafarers and the wider industry by giving a full picture of the current connectivity facilities provided at sea, allowing companies and seagoing staff to benchmark provision by sector and across the industry.

We are encouraging all seafarers to particpate in the survey - please click on the following link:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/2015CrewConnectivity

 

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The 2015 International Seafarers' Welfare Awards – showcasing excellence in the provision of seafarers' welfare - will take place on 9th June at the International Maritime Organisation in London.

The shortlists for the awards have been announced by the International Seafarers' Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN):

Shipping Company of the Year (sponsored by Garrets): AET Ship Management, Anglo Eastern Ship Management, Eidesvik, Hamburg SUD, JO TANKERS and Stolt Tankers

Port of the Year: Brunsbuttel Ports (Germany), Halifax (Canada), South Carolina Ports Authority (USA), Port of Sydney and Botany (Australia) and Ulsan Port (Korea)

Seafarer Centre of the Year (sponsored by Wrist Ship Supply): Seafarers' Center of Beaumont (USA), Seafarer Centre Bremerhaven (Germany), Duckdalben International Seamen's Club (Germany), MtS Newcastle (Australia) and Odessa Seamen's Home (Ukraine)

The Dr Dierk Lindemann Welfare Personality of the Year (sponsored by the International Chamber of Shipping):
Individuals: Chirag Bahri (India), Joseph Chacko (India), Sharon Emerson (USA), Maike Puchert (Germany) and Gary South (Australia)
Organisations: Associated Marine Officers and Seamen's Union of the Philippines (AMOSUP),
Hunterlink Recovery Services (Australia), National Union of Seafarers of India (NUSI) and Trinity House (UK)

The Seafarer Centre of the Year, Port of The Year and Shipping Company of the Year were all nominated directly by seafarers. The award for the Dr Dierk Lindemann Welfare Personality of the Year is nominated by seafarers, welfare organisations or self-nominated.

This year the Dr Dierk Lindemann Welfare Personality of the Year has been split into two categories – one for individuals and one for organisations. The award is named after Dr Dierk Lindemann who was instrumental in the adoption of the MLC in 2006 serving as Managing Director of the German Ship owners' Association and Ship owners' Group Spokesperson at the ILO.

The winners will be announced at a high profile awards ceremony hosted by the International Maritime Organisation in London on 9th June 2015. The Secretary General of the IMO, Mr Koji Sekimizu, will present the awards.

Roger Harris, ISWAN Executive Director, said: "These awards are about celebrating the work of those companies, organisations, and individuals that go the extra mile to ensure the health and well-being of seafarers. We are honoured to be holding the awards event at the International Maritime Organisation in June."

The judging panel for the awards is Mr Masamichi Morooka President of the International Shipping Federation and International Chamber of Shipping; Steve Cotton General Secretary the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF); Fr Bruno Ciceri, Chairman of the International Christian Maritime Association (ICMA) and Rose George, author of the award winning 'Deep Sea and Foreign Going: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry that Brings You 90% of Everything'.

The Awards are generously funded by the ITF Seafarers' Trust and the headline sponsor is Inmarsat. The awards' media sponsor is Crewtoo.

Further information about the awards can be found at www.seafarerswelfareawards.org

Capt. Joshua Bhatt and the crew of the CS Caprice, a ship of the Campbell Shipping Company Ltd, based in the Bahamas, was called upon in October to rescue 510 migrants and bring them to safety in Italy. The CS Caprice story highlights the plight of hundreds of thousands of migrants, but also the humanity and kindness of seafarers who under significant and challenging conditions respond to this crisis every day.

The Seafarers' Trust provided core funding for the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme (MPHRP) launched in September 2011 when maritime piracy was at its peak, with many seafarers subjected to serious attacks by pirates and armed robbers.

Trust funding enabled the MPHRP to make a significant contribution to the welfare support of seafarers, and their families caught up in and affected by such attacks. In addition, the MPHRP has achieved considerable recognition in the industry and contributed to the higher focus on harm to seafarers arising from acts of piracy.

The Seafarers' Trust funding for core operations was for three years and ends in March 2015.

Although there has been a significant reduction in piracy incidents, more particularly those emanating from Somalia, the Trust has determined it would be wrong for the wealth of experience built up by the MPHRP to be lost by the ending of the programme. Acts of piracy remain in different regions at a level that need to be addressed.

The Seafarers' Trust has decided to provide new funding to the MPHRP. The Trust believes that with the drop off of incidents emanating from Somalia the Programme will need to refocus its work. The Trust also wishes the MPHRP to develop plans to become part of an existing charitable structure, such as ISWAN, by the end of 2015.

David Heindel, chair of the trustees of the Seafarers' Trust, commented: "The MPHRP has done some good work for the benefit of seafarers and their families who have experienced considerable trauma. While Seafarers' Trust funding was for a finite three years, the trustees believe that the MRHRP deserves the opportunity to continue its good work despite the sharp reduction in piracy incidents since 2011. However, we feel the time is right for the Programme to move under the umbrella of an existing, established charity by the end of the year, and the continued support of the Trust and the new funding is to encourage this. We believe being within an existing charity, such as ISWAN, the MPHRP humanitarian response work will be capable of being continued in the long term."

Kimberly Karlshoej, head of the Seafarers' Trust, commented: "Although the numbers of seafarers being held hostage for long periods of time has fallen, the psychological and physical trauma of seafarers affected by piracy is still a reality. The Trust will continue to ensure the health and welfare of seafarers are prioritised by keeping MPHRP's knowledge and framework in place for the seafarers and their families to receive assistance where and when it is needed."