11 April 2018

A surge in armed attacks against ships around West Africa is pushing up global levels of piracy and armed robbery at sea, warns the International Chamber of Commerce's (ICC) International Maritime Bureau (IMB).

IMB's Piracy Reporting Centre recorded 66 incidents in the first quarter of 2018, up from 43 for the same period in 2017, and 37 in Q1 2016.

Worldwide in the first three months of 2018, 100 crew were taken hostage and 14 kidnapped from their vessels. A total of 39 vessels were boarded, 11 fired upon and four vessels hijacked. IMB received a further 12 reports of attempted attacks.

The Gulf of Guinea accounts for 29 incidents in 2018 Q1, more than forty percent of the global total. Of the 114 seafarers captured worldwide, all but one were in this region.

All four vessels hijackings were in the Gulf of Guinea, where no hijackings were reported in 2017. Two product tankers were hijacked from Cotonou anchorage in mid-January and early February, prompting the IMB PRC to issue a warning to ships. Towards the end of March, two fishing vessels were hijacked 30nm off Nigeria and 27nm off Ghana.

‘The hijacking of product tankers from anchorages in the Gulf of Guinea is a cause of concern. In these cases, the intent of the perpetrators is to steal the oil cargo and kidnap crew. The prompt detection and response to any unauthorised movements of an anchored vessel could help in the effective response to such attacks,’ commented an IMB spokesperson.

Nigeria piracy hotspot

Nigeria alone recorded 22 incidents. Of the 11 vessels fired upon worldwide, eight were off Nigeria – including a 300,000 MT deadweight VLCC tanker more than 40nm off Brass.

‘Attacks in the Gulf of Guinea are against all vessels. Crews have been taken hostage and kidnapped from fishing and refrigerated cargo vessels as well as product tankers. In some cases, the attacks have been avoided by the early detection of an approaching skiff, evasive action taken by the vessel and the effective use of citadels. The IMB is working with national and regional authorities in the Gulf of Guinea to support ships and coordinate counter piracy actions. The authorities from Benin, Nigeria and Togo have sent out boats in response to several incidents,’ said an IMB spokesperson.

Somali risk remains

One incident was reported off Somalia, where a product tanker was fired upon and chased by two skiffs around 160nm SE of Hobyo. At the end of March, a 160,000 DWT tanker reported being fired upon in the Gulf of Aden, while transiting within the Maritime Security Transit Corridor. The distance from land, sighting of ladders and firing upon ships continues to illustrate that the Somali pirates retain the capability and intent to attack merchant shipping in the wider Indian Ocean.

Indonesia

Indonesia recorded nine low level attacks against anchored vessels. Five bulk carriers reported actual or attempted attacks at Muara Berau anchorage in Samarinda, while waiting to load coal cargoes.

The full report can be downloaded below.

9 April 2018

Later this month, ISWAN’s Executive Director Roger Harris will present on the mental health of seafarers at a seminar on ‘The Future of Maritime Professionals’.

Regulations, enforcement of Conventions, technology, connectivity, social isolation and mental health all have an effect on today’s seafarer. The seminar, organised by The Nautical Institute London Branch, will focus on these topics and how they affect the future of maritime professionals.

Ahead of his presentation, Roger Harris said: ‘The mental wellbeing of seafarers is becoming an important issue and it is good to see that The Nautical Institute London Branch are highlighting it at their conference.’

The seminar will be held at the Novotel Hotel Bristol from 20th to 21st April 2018. For more information, visit The Nautical Institute’s website. The seminar programme can be downloaded below.

ISWAN’s SeafarerHelp is a free, confidential, multilingual helpline for seafarers and their families, available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Imagine that a member of your family is working away at sea. Now imagine finding out that they have been arrested with the rest of the crew. They are in prison in a different country and you have no way of communicating with them. This was the ordeal faced by the families of the crew of a cargo vessel, who reached out to SeafarerHelp for assistance.

On 3rd December 2015, the ship was arrested off the cost of Sicily for alleged drug smuggling. The 11 crew, made up of Ukrainians and Georgians, were arrested and imprisoned in Palermo, Sicily.

The wife of one of the seafarers contacted SeafarerHelp in January 2016. She and the other seafarers’ families had lost contact with their loved ones and were desperate for justice.

The SeafarerHelp team put the families in contact with a welfare service in the Ukraine for support. The team also got in touch with the lawyers working on the case in Sicily. The families were having difficulties sending money to the seafarers so that they could keep in contact with them whilst in prison. The families were also unable to communicate with the lawyers because they had no common language, so SeafarerHelp assisted here as well. The seafarer’s wife was very concerned about her husband’s health as he had pre-existing medical issues and had developed a suspected ulcer. The SeafarerHelp team contacted Stella Maris in Palermo who visited the seafarer in prison and agreed to support him and obtain the medicine he needed.

The SeafarerHelp team spent a lot of time liaising with the families and Stella Maris to keep them updated on the situation with the seafarers. After several court hearings, all but one of the seafarers, including the seafarer supported by SeafarerHelp, were released from prison. SeafarerHelp received a letter from the seafarer’s wife who thanked the team for their assistance and confirmed that the seafarers had at last been repatriated.

SeafarerHelp is not just a helpline for seafarers. If you are a family member of a seafarer and need assistance or support, contact us. All our contact details can be found at seafarerhelp.org. Make a note of our details or save them on your phone in case you ever need us.

We rely on charitable grants and donations for our work with seafarers. Help us support seafarers in need worldwide by donating at Virgin Money Giving or JustGiving.

28 March 2018

The Crew Connectivity 2018 Survey Report, sponsored by KVH Industries and Intelsat, shows digital transformation underway in the maritime industry.

Roger Adamson, Futurenautics Maritime’s chief executive officer, presented to a London audience yesterday the key findings from his research organisation’s newly released Crew Connectivity 2018 Survey Report, sponsored by KVH Industries, Inc. (Nasdaq: KVHI) and Intelsat S.A. (NYSE: I). The report is based on a survey of 6,000 serving seafarers, the largest sample to date to complete the wide-ranging questionnaire covering onboard attitudes to the digital transformation sweeping the industry.

According to the report, more seafarers than ever have access to connectivity: Some 75% of seafarers can now use the Internet at sea, which is a rise of 32% or over half a million more crew (520,000, to be exact) since the last survey three years ago. Futurenautics Maritime conducted the first survey in 2012, in an effort to provide data of value to the maritime industry.

'It’s our belief that collaborating and sharing information can accelerate the pace of transformation in shipping and maritime, and begin to understand and solve big problems,' says Mr. Adamson. 'The Crew Connectivity survey is a clear demonstration of that process in action.'

The report’s findings show a change in mindset among seafarers regarding many aspects of connectivity. Among the key findings:

  • 92% of seafarers reported that Internet access strongly influences their decision on where to work, up from 78% in prior years.
  • 95% of seafarers view connectivity as having a positive effect on onboard safety, an increase of 72% since the 2015 survey.
  • 69% of respondents view the increasing use of big data and analytics as a positive opportunity for their jobs in the next five years, versus 17% who see it as a threat.

Roger Harris, Executive Director of ISWAN, said: 'This important and timely survey shows that although the majority of seafarers now have good access to the internet while on-board, a significant number of seafarers still lack easy and cheap connectivity while at sea. The findings also provide an opportunity for the welfare sector to look at the future role of seafarer centres given that the report points to a be decreasing use of their facilities by seafarers.'

In addition to sponsorship by KVH and Intelsat, the report received support from leading maritime organizations BIMCO, Alpha Navigation, PTC, ISWAN and InterManager.

The report can be downloaded from the Futurenautics website, crewconnectivity.com.

Meet Ricardo Javier Finol Soto! Ricardo is an Ordinary Seaman from Venezuela in his first year as a seafarer and is studying for a master’s degree in his spare time. His crew is like his family and he teaches them English on board. We chatted to Ricardo about life as a seafarer.

What is your job on board and what does it involve?

Actually I am working as an Ordinary Seaman and an English teacher! But I am a lawyer with degrees in Maritime Law and a Maritime Student. My routine on board is teaching English to my Venezuelan friends because Maritime according to IMO is maritime language and I work in maintenance, paint, and clean vessels.

How long is a typical voyage, and how long do you spend at home in between voyages?

Normally 2 or 3 months (60-90 days) is a typical voyage. Around 1 or 2 months (30 – 60 days) [is spent at home].

How long have you been working as a seafarer?

9 months, I am young! I am 23 years old.

What made you decide to become a seafarer?

First, my grandfather and my father are marine merchant, it was the principal reason, but Venezuela, my first country, is a maritime country, and the place where I was born is Maracaibo [which] has a big Lake with a lot of petroleum, so I live in a Maritime city too. These reasons invite me to support maritime area. And I want it, I want to continue studying and of course sailing.

What do you enjoy most about working at sea?

First the silence, and how you can find peace observing the sea. Other thing is that you work in a group who is your maritime family; because I consider that the crew is a family that you don’t know.

Ricardo Javier Finol Soto 2

Ricardo (front row, second from left) teaching his Venezuelan crewmates English (photo: Instagram)

And what do you find most challenging?

Stay on board for months. Because you have to spend time working or making different things, change routines, etc.

What do you like to do in your free time on board?

Well I am studying a master’s degree in Management, so in my free time I am studying by distance learning. Also, I go to the gym, if I can find a guitar I play it or read articles or news.

What has been your biggest achievement at sea?

I consider that is to stay for 110 days on board and celebrate my birthday, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and other special dates.

What advice would you give to a seafarer about to embark on their first voyage?

Seafarers [are] a family. Sea is a place to grow up as a father, as a son, as a husband, is an opportunity to demonstrate our forces.

Do you have anything else you would like to share about life at sea?

Today life at sea is different; we have internet access, so you can show your experiences on board, and comment about it. Being a seafarer you can visit different countries, islands. You can have friends from different countries.

Would you like to talk to us about your life at sea? Do you have an interesting story to tell from your time as a seafarer? We would love to hear from you! Send an e-mail to Amy at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

20 March 2018

The International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network’s (ISWAN) free, confidential helpline for seafarers is now available on instant messaging app Viber.

In 2017, ISWAN’s SeafarerHelp assisted 8,862 seafarers of 92 different nationalities with concerns such as family issues, personal problems, unpaid wages, repatriation and health issues. ISWAN is keen to make it as easy as possible for seafarers and their families around the world to get in touch if they need assistance. The helpline offers a range of contact methods including e-mail, telephone, Live Chat, Facebook and WhatsApp. Following feedback from seafarers, Viber is the latest platform to be launched.

Viber currently has over 900 million users worldwide1. The app uses the device’s internet connection to send messages and make calls. This enables seafarers to get in touch from areas with low or no phone signal and avoid SMS fees and calling charges (although SeafarerHelp will always call seafarers back if they have no internet connection and are only able to phone).

SeafarerHelp is now available on Viber from Monday to Friday between 08:00 and 18:00, UK time. Any messages received outside these hours will be responded to within the monitored times. All other contact methods for SeafarerHelp, excluding WhatsApp, remain available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year – visit seafarerhelp.org for the full range of contact details.

Seafarers and their families can contact SeafarerHelp by message or voice call on Viber using the following number: +44 (0)7741 594549. The app can be downloaded here (on Android devices) or here (on iOS devices).

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

1Viber, March 2018 (viber.com/about)

15 March 2018

ISWAN has produced four new infographics, in partnership with the Shipowner’s Club, using extracts from its latest self-help guide for seafarers, Psychological Wellbeing at Sea.

Psychological wellbeing enables us to function well, feel good about ourselves, and feel a sense of purpose and life satisfaction. With restrictions to wellbeing such as spending time away from family and friends, limited shore leave and long working hours, it is important for seafarers to take care of their mental health while working on board. ISWAN’s new infographics, sponsored by Shipowners’ Club and overseen by Consultant Clinical Psychologist Dr Pennie Blackburn, describe ways in which seafarers can boost their psychological wellbeing.

Drawing on guidance in Psychological Wellbeing at Sea, part of ISWAN’s Good Mental Health Guides for Seafarers, the infographics identify some of the critical factors which characterise wellbeing and suggest how seafarers can enhance them. These include connecting with others on board, doing more of what makes you happy and how to find support while at sea.

ISWAN will reach seafarers with these new resources via various methods, including its large Facebook following, its network of members and other stakeholders around the world.

The infographics can be downloaded below or on the SeafarerHelp website.

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

8 March 2018

Today is International Women’s Day and we are celebrating all the women who work as seafarers, making up 2% of the workforce. One of our SeafarerHelp team’s Russian speakers recently interviewed Ekaterina, a third officer from Ukraine, about her experience of being a woman seafarer.

How did you get into the marine profession?

In high school I had to decide which university to enter and what profession to choose. I knew that in the end I wanted to achieve a few things: interesting speciality, as well as the employment opportunities, a job in which I could apply and develop my strengths, ability to see the world, last but not the least important a good salary. That is how I decided to get a degree at Odessa National Maritime Academy.

What is your current rank and how did you get started?

I am 21 years old now. In July 2017 I graduated with a degree of a navigating officer. I started as a cadet. Now I'm doing my fourth contract and my rank at the moment is third officer.

Do male colleagues treat you in a different way because of your gender?

In all my marine experience (and I have always been working with mix nationalities crew), gender did not play a big role. I did and still do the same job as the men at my post. I cannot say that everything was always cloudless and wonderful – but the problems I faced were never gender-based.

Some seafarers comment negatively about the idea of women at sea. How do you feel about it?

I was faced with a lot of negativity from people whose work is mostly not connected with the sea. It seems ironic to me. I am a bit sad that stereotypes are quite strong in our society, but most of the seamen whom I know and work with are positive and supportive.

How would you describe your character and how does it help you in your work?

The desire to learn and know how things works and why, as well as doing work beyond basic requirements, are very important qualities for me. Equally important is a concern for colleagues.

Seafarers face a lot of challenges today. How do you cope with them?

Challenges are different. If something does not work out, I ask colleagues for help and always try to figure out the best way myself. If I make mistakes, I correct them as soon as possible and learn how to avoid them in the future. Of course, it's difficult to stay away from family and loved ones, but what can you do about it? All sailors go through this, in my opinion it helps us to appreciate loved ones even more. Unfortunately, not all problems can be solved quickly and simply. For example, I had a problem with career growth, so I had to change the type of ships and company and learn a lot from scratch. But it seems to me that in the end difficulties often turn out to be for the better.

As for the heavy workload, it is a common myth that women are not able to cope with the demand of the profession. Today physical work has its limitations; there are safety rules and standards aimed at preventing accidents and so on. Following them, as well as maintaining a good physical shape, it is easy to perform the required physical work. For my cadet practice I worked on deck doing the same job as male colleagues and received a huge amount of valuable experience. The officer’s work is mostly mentally focused, although we sometimes have to work with our hands. But it is always enjoyable work for me.

What would you like to say to all women considering a career at sea?

I would like to wish all women in the world: do not limit yourself, do not be afraid of criticism, do things that you like most, strive for your dream and enjoy life. Because life is beautiful, we are beautiful and we can succeed!

28 February 2018

With the public ballots now closed, the International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) is offering a limited number of places on its teams in two of this year’s most exciting fundraising events.

For those fancying a challenging day in the saddle, ISWAN has five places in the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 on Sunday 29 July 2018. The 100-mile route was made famous by the world’s best cyclists at the London 2012 Olympics – starting in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, it offers a traffic-free ride along closed roads in the capital and through stunning countryside in Surrey, with a spectacular finish on The Mall in central London. The event is suitable for a range of cycling abilities and 25,000 amateur cyclists are expected to take part this year. We ask that team members raise £575 each in sponsorship, which will go towards our work for seafarers’ welfare worldwide.

For those preferring running over cycling, ISWAN has 15 spots to fill on its team for this year’s Royal Parks Half Marathon, taking place on Sunday 14 October 2018. The stunning 13.1-mile route on closed roads passes some of the capital’s world-famous landmarks, including Buckingham Palace and Horse Guards Parade, and travels through four of London’s eight Royal Parks – Hyde Park, The Green Park, St James’s Park and Kensington Gardens. We are asking anyone joining our team to raise £400 each in sponsorship.

If you are up for the challenge or would like to find out more, please contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We hope to see you there!

21 February 2018

International maritime charity Sailors’ Society is mourning the loss of its regional superintendent in India, Pastor Joseph Chacko who died earlier today (21 February) in a traffic collision in Gandhidham along with his wife, Leena, and Meru Kaku, a driver at the Deendayal Seafarers’ Centre.

Joseph, who was 54, joined Sailors’ Society in 2012 and was instrumental in the foundation of the Deendayal Seafarers’ Centre.

He was also responsible for setting up ear and eye testing within the centre, which has helped hundreds of seafarers by identifying medical issues before they became potentially career threatening.

In 2016, Joseph was nominated for the International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network’s (ISWAN) Dr Dierk Lindemann Welfare Personality of the Year, for his outstanding contribution to seafarers’ welfare.

Stuart Rivers, Sailors’ Society’s CEO, said: 'Joseph was a true friend to seafarers and a champion of improving their health and well-being.

'He worked tirelessly to better seafarers’ welfare not just in India but beyond.

'He and Leena, who was a great support to her husband in his welfare work, are a great loss to the Society and the wider maritime community and our thoughts and prayers are with their family.'

Chirag Bahri, ISWAN's Regional Director in South Asia, said: 'Myself and [ISWAN's Executive Director] Roger Harris had just visited Kandla Seafarers Centre on 10 February and had a great time with him. We were highly impressed by seeing the activities at the centre.

'Mr Chacko was very passionate about seafarers' welfare matters and his untimely death has left a big hole in the shipping fraternity. He will always remain in our hearts and we are indebted to him for his contribution to our Programme Steering Group.

'We offer our deepest condolences to his family, friends, colleagues and all well wishers in this tragic time.'

Joseph and Leena’s funerals will take place on Friday (23 February).