London and Kuala Lumpur, 10 January 2017

More crew were kidnapped at sea in 2016 than in any of the previous 10 years, despite global piracy reaching its lowest levels since 1998, the ICC International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB) annual piracy report revealed today.

In its 2016 report, IMB recorded 191 incidents of piracy and armed robbery on the world’s seas.

“The continued fall in piracy is good news, but certain shipping routes remain dangerous, and the escalation of crew kidnapping is a worrying trend in some emerging areas,” said Pottengal Mukundan, Director of IMB whose Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) has monitored world piracy since 1991.

“The kidnappings in the Sulu Seas between eastern Malaysia and the Philippines are a particular concern,” he added.

Worldwide in 2016, 150 vessels were boarded, 12 vessels were fired upon, seven were hijacked, and 22 attacks were thwarted. The number of hostages fell to 151.

Maritime kidnappings, however, showed a threefold increase on 2015. Pirates kidnapped 62 people for ransom in 15 separate incidents in 2016. Just over half were captured off West Africa, while 28 were kidnapped from tugs, barges, fishing boats, and more recently merchant ships, around Malaysia and Indonesia.

IMB is urging governments to investigate and identify the kidnappers and punish them under law.

Mr Mukundan said ships should stay vigilant in high-risk areas. “Shipmasters should follow the latest best management practices and where possible take early action to avoid being boarded. They should inform the IMB PRC or regional counter piracy centres for help and advice,” he said.

Sulu Sea kidnappings

The kidnapping of crew from ocean going merchant vessels in the Sulu Sea and their transfer to the Southern Philippines represents a notable escalation in attacks. In the last quarter, 12 crew were kidnapped from two cargo vessels underway and an anchored fishing vessel, and in November a bulk carrier was fired upon but pirates were not able to board the vessel. Earlier in 2016, crewmembers were kidnapped in three attacks on vulnerable slow-moving tugs and barges.
IMB advises charterers and owners to consider avoiding the Sulu Sea by routing vessels West of Kalimantan.

Nigeria hotspot

The Gulf of Guinea remained a kidnap hotspot in 2016, with 34 crew taken in nine separate incidents. Three vessels were hijacked in the region. There was a noticeable increase in attacks reported off Nigeria: 36 incidents in 2016, up from 14 in 2015. These included nine of the 12 vessels fired upon worldwide in 2016. Some were almost 100 nautical miles from the coastline.

Meanwhile, Indonesian piracy incidents fell from 108 in 2015 to 49 in 2016. Although the overwhelming majority were low-level thefts, vessels were boarded in all but three of the incidents.

Somalia risk

IMB recorded two incidents off Somalia. Pirates attempted to attack a container vessel in the Gulf of Aden in May, and fired on a product tanker in the Somali basin some 300 nm from shore in October. For IMB, this latest incident demonstrates that the capacity and intent to attack merchant shipping still exists off Somalia.

Elsewhere…

Peru reported 11 incidents – 10 of them at the country’s main port of Callao – compared to zero in 2015. The number of incidents in Vung Tau, Vietnam dropped from 15 in 2015 to seven in 2016. Bangladesh also witnessed a welcome decrease, down from 11 in 2015 to three in 2016.

The IMB Piracy Reporting Centre is the world’s only independent 24-hour manned centre to receive reports of pirate attacks from around the world. IMB strongly urges all shipmasters and owners to report all actual, attempted and suspected piracy and armed robbery incidents to the IMB PRC. This first step in the response chain is vital to ensuring that adequate resources are allocated by authorities to tackle piracy. Transparent statistics from an independent, non-political, international organisation can act as a catalyst to achieve this goal.

Follow the @IMB_Piracy via #IMBPiracy

IMB offers the latest piracy reports free of charge. To request a PDF version of the report by email, visit:

https://www.icc-ccs.org/piracy-reporting-centre/request-piracy-report

For further information, please contact:
Pottengal MUKUNDAN
Director, IMB
Tel: +44 20 7423 6960
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

ISWAN is excited to announce the launch of our 2017 Photo Competition for seafarers.

We are inviting all seafarers to submit photos of a typical day in seafaring life, including work, port and leisure time. Entrants do not have to be experienced photographers with expensive cameras – just a smartphone is fine, but photos must be high resolution and those featuring people are encouraged.

The winner will receive a new GoPro HERO5 Session. They will also feature in future ISWAN publications, and all shortlisted entries will be showcased on ISWAN’s social media pages.

The deadline for entries is Friday 10th February 2017. Our panel of judges will decide on the shortlist, winner and runners up, and these will be announced in late February. Our judges this year are:

Luca Tommasi, Project Manager, ITF Seafarers’ Trust
Sue Henney, Head of Marketing, KVH Media Group
Sampsa Sihvola, CEO, Finnish Seamen’s Service

Any seafarers wishing to enter may send up to five high resolution images to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., including their full name, address and phone number in order to be contacted if successful, along with the name of their ship and where the photo was taken.

Please visit the following page for the competition rules and further details: seafarerswelfare.org/what-we-do/projects/iswan-photo-competition-2017

Sri Lanka has about 70 seafarers who have been held hostage by Somali pirates since 2009, and some of these have been supported by Chirag Bahri. On his recent visit to Sri Lanka Chirag made contact with some of the seafarers. “Thankfully, the ones we have known over the years are no longer in need of our support. Several of them have gone back to sea, and others are getting on with their lives. We are still concerned about the families of seafarers who have not returned.” In a visit with the minister of shipping, this was discussed, and the need for death certificates to be issued for the four Sri Lankan seafarers from the Albedo to enable their families to be able to make firmer plans for the future, a process which can take many years in the case of seafarers who disappear or are lost at sea.

One of the families of the four missing seafarers from the Albedo has opened a bakery to provide for the family, and with a grant from the programme has bought equipment increase productivity.

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The cake shop of the wife of the Chief Engineer of the Albedo

Part of the work of Chirag is to speak to cadets and seafarers about to go to sea about the issues of piracy, to increase resilience among seafarers against this threat. Chirag is qualified to teach the Wellness at Sea course of the Sailors Society, a four-day course including a piracy module, also covers other areas to provide holistic support for seafarers geared to their life at sea. Chirag took this course at the CINEC training school for 36 Sri Lankan officer cadets.

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Cadets at CINEC Colombo doing an ice-breaker during the Wellness at Sea Course

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has welcomed the extension of EUNAVFOR Operation Atalanta, following a decision by the EU Council, which will continue to see military forces deployed for counter piracy operations in the Western Indian Ocean until December 2018.

ICS Secretary General, Peter Hinchliffe said “The presence of military forces is an essential component of the package of government actions that has helped to suppress the activities of Somali pirates, in support of the protective measures that continue to be taken by the shipping industry. Ship operators and seafarers will be very pleased that EUNAVFOR has announced its ongoing commitment to these vital counter piracy activities.”

“While other security concerns now draw the attention of the international community, it is a fact that the threat which Somali piracy presents to international trade is still extremely high, as the Secretary-General of the IMO has recently observed. Alongside a strong military deterrent, it remains essential that ships maintain compliance with the industry’s Best Management Practices to prevent a resurgence of hijacks and kidnappings by these violent criminal gangs. The extension of the EUNAVFOR mandate will also play a critical role in achieving this.”

ICS and its member national shipowner associations look forward to continuing their close co-operation with EUNAVFOR to help maintain the security of shipping and the movement of world trade along these vital sea lanes.

The latest edition of the inter-industry Best Management Practices for Protection against Somalia Based Piracy (BMP4) can be downloaded here.

ISWAN / MPHRP applauds Indian Government move to ensure that seafarers held in captivity of pirates continue to receive wages until they return home.

The Union Cabinet of the Government of India, led by Prime Minister Modi, has approved the introduction of the revamped Merchant Shipping Bill in Parliament. The Merchant Shipping Act of 1958 has been amended various times on previous occasions between 1966 and 2014. The provisions of the Act have been shortened and simplified in order to reduce regulation, increase transparency and promote effective delivery of services.

One of the significant reforms that will follow enactment of the Bill includes the introduction of welfare measures for seafarers. More than 400 Indian seafarers have been held hostage in Somalia and in the Gulf of Guinea in the past, some of those held by Somali pirates for more than four years. Among these, a small minority of seafarers have not been paid their wages by their owners and manning agents. There has been a growing consensus among the shipping fraternity to ensure that seafarers receive their wages for the full time that they are held in captivity. The Government of India supports the introduction of the provision of wages from capture until release.

Chirag Bahri, ISWAN / MPHRP Regional Director for South Asia, welcomed the provisions of the revised Bill, thanked the Government and the Director General of Shipping, whose guidance and pro-active approach has greatly assisted seafarers. “As a former hostage, and having assisted many other hostages and families, I can say that the payment of wages and compensation have been the biggest concern for seafarers who are taken hostage. The poor state of the families when not paid by the owners has tremendously impacted on living conditions at home, with some of them even not able to send their children to school or even to pay their electricity bills. This distress adds greatly to their problems at a very difficult time, and delays the recovery of hostages who return to a family in desperate poverty.”

Roger Harris, Executive Director of ISWAN, said: “The unpaid seafarers, on return home from captivity, instead of relaxing and taking time to readjust to home life, have to spend their time making emotional appeals for help and running from pillar to post to secure their wages. Unfortunately, this is the case in some of the countries where we have assisted hostages and their families.”

The revamped Bill also strengthens regulation on Recruitment and Placement Services, or manning agents. Agencies recruiting seafarers will have to deposit a bank guarantee of up to four months salary with the Director General of Shipping to cover every seafarer they hire. The authority makes use of these funds in case of non-payment by the agency.

Jakir Hossain, one of seven Bangladesh seafarers captured on the ship Albedo, tells the story of rebuilding his life after three years and seven months of being held hostage in Somalia.

I am Mohamed Jakir Hossain from Bangladesh. I was captured by Somali pirates and spent almost four years as a hostage. I was released on the 6th June 2014. After the release I was mentally and physically sick. It took about five or six months to recover from my depression. I did not find that there was much practical help available to me, and I did not understand how I could recover from this situation. In those bad days MPHRP came as a light in the situation. I was unable to imagine that I would ever go back to sea again. But MPHRP supported me mentally and financially. Then I started to study for the marine engineering officer Class 3 exam. For this I was supported by funds donated by Seafarers UK.

Now I have finished all my exams except for one written and oral exam. I also need to complete some short courses, and again MPHRP have supported my claim and I have received further funding this year, and I expect to be able to go back to sea again in 2017. When I am back at sea I will no longer need financial help, and can provide for my family.

The piracy did not only affect me. During the captivity in Somalia, my family faced a lot of problems. They were also mentally depressed, and physically ill because of the stress. My parents have still not recovered. After I came back home I had no money for the treatment of my parents. I told Chirag Bahri who was in contact with me, and he presented my case to the Sailors Society. They came to help us, and gave money for my parents’ treatment, which cost USD 500 per year. Now I am very happy because with this money I have been able to arrange good treatment for my parents.

MPHRP wishes to thank Seafarers UK and the Sailors Society for the funds they have given to help the survivors of piracy and their families, and particularly for the assistance to Jakir and his parents.

When a seafarer and their family are directly involved in sudden and unforeseen circumstances, they may require financial support. In desperate cases where no other help is available, the Seafarers Emergency Fund (SEF) can provide immediate, essential aid. Applications are made on the seafarer’s behalf of by a welfare organisation, and if the criteria are met, the organisation is provided with a grant to help the seafarer and/or their family.

In October 2016, one such application was made by ISWAN on behalf of the families of eight seafarers who were tragically lost at sea when the tug on which they were working, the Rokku Maru, disappeared in a storm on a voyage from Korea to the Philippines. The Rokku Maru, under the Philippine flag, was last seen near Kagoshima, Japan on 24th January 2016 when the crew lost communication with MV Korphil. A search and rescue mission was conducted but was sadly unsuccessful.

Due to disputes over the legality of the seafarers’ employment, along with the fact that no bodies or wreckage have been found, the only financial support received by the bereaved families was a payment of US$400 each made by the company that managed the tug. The families had each lost their main breadwinner, and in one case both the father and a son were lost, so they found themselves in desperate need with little or no income.

ISWAN was able to administer grants totalling almost US$5,000 to six of the families. One family received a grant towards keeping the seafarer’s four daughters in education, and the family who lost two relatives were given financial assistance for rent owed, subsistence and medical bills for a son with severe psychiatric problems. The widow of another of the seafarers returned home from an unsuccessful trip to Manila pursuing her husband’s case only to find that the crops on her small holding had been destroyed in an El Niño event. She was surviving on the generosity of her neighbours, but thanks to the SEF she received a grant for food and basic necessities.

ISWAN's Jun Pablo remains in contact with the family as they are pursuing their claims through the Philippine government, in the hope that some compensation will be provided to ease the financial burden they face. The company employing them has not paid anything towards the needs of the families as the investigation into the loss of the vessel continues.

If you or a family member are a seafarer in distress or need help, visit www.seafarerhelp.org and we will do our best to help.

For more information about our work, visit www.seafarerswelfare.org.

For further details on the Seafarer Emergency Fund and how to apply, click here.

Access to shore-based welfare facilities is a key component of the wider welfare strategy under Regulation 4.4 of the MLC. Surveys conducted by the ITF Seafarers' Trust and other maritime funding and welfare organisations reveal that access to a reliable internet connection is a key welfare priority and concern for seafarers. In response to this demand, the Seafarers’ Trust has busily been developing an adaptable and dynamic response to this welfare need in conjunction with its successful Shore Leave app and On-board Online initiative.

Now at a stage in development for plans to be publicly announced, the Portable Communication Pods Pilot Project is just what it sounds like: portable 20ft container boxes providing seafarers with access to Wi-Fi, tablet consoles and furniture to rest. As the centres will be powered by solar panels, they will be both energy efficient and viable in areas lacking in existing infrastructure (where possible, the centres can also be connected to a mains power supply).

As proud funders of a countless number of Seafarer Centres throughout the world, the Seafarers’ Trust remains committed to the valuable work they undertake in providing seafarers with a home away from home. The PCP Pilot Project will aim to compliment this asset and not replace it by specifically targeting sites lacking in existing service provision. The Trust sees a future where these pods will be of use to both seafarers and the stakeholders by providing a space for welfare providers to meet with maritime workers or conduct training utilising the inbuilt consoles.

For further details of the project, visit the ITF Seafarers' Trust's website.

The International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) held a seminar on the health of seafarers at the Danish Shipowners’ Association in Copenhagen on 10th November. A number of speakers from across the shipping industry were invited to present on subjects related to protecting the health and wellbeing of seafarers. Attendees represented shipping companies, P&I clubs, government organisations, unions, and welfare organisations.

Presentations focused on the main aims of the seminar: to highlight the common health issues affecting seafarers; to investigate successful health programmes for seafarers; and to discuss areas of health improvement that need further development. A common theme throughout speaking sessions and discussions was the importance of working in partnership to make a positive impact on seafarers’ health. This was highlighted by Louise Hall of Shipowners’ P&I (seminar sponsors) in reference to the Club’s recent partnership with ISWAN, and other presentations demonstrated how vital co-operation is across the industry. Presentations from shipping companies Anglo Eastern and MF Shipping Group discussed successful health programmes in which seafarers’ feedback, concerns and requests played an important part. Collaborative working was further emphasised in sessions about the roles of unions, government and welfare organisations in keeping seafarers healthy.

Common obstacles to seafarers’ health were cited such as the effects of long periods away from family on mental wellbeing, and the difficulties of maintaining a healthy diet and regular exercise regime when battling fatigue or a heavy workload. There are some innovative approaches that have had success in dealing with these challenges on board, as discussed by Capt Pradeep Chawla (Anglo Eastern Shipmanagement), Capt Tjeerd van Noord (MF Shipping Group) and Chris Little (Garrets International). In addition, the prevalence of some other health issues were highlighted by some of the other speakers. For example, the issue of dehydration on board and also the frequency of back pain and injuries were recurring examples of challenges on board during the day.

The progress of digital technology and opportunities to improve health using online programmes was a central point of the presentations from Dr Olivia Swift, Research Impact Manager at RHUL, Kimberly Karlshoej, head of the ITF Seafarers’ Trust and Roger Harris, Executive Director of ISWAN. A particular point to take away from these sessions was the importance of recent developments in health improvement, and the potential for reaching seafarers more effectively by using digital technology.

A number a valuable insights were raised by presenters and attendees at the seminar which ISWAN will now aim to incorporate into future health initiatives. As a membership organisation with a history of providing information and services on health and wellbeing to seafarers, ISWAN intends to continue to develop strong working relationships across the industry to make long term improvements to the health of seafarers worldwide.

For further details of ISWAN’s health programmes please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

ISWAN’s SeafarerHelp provides a free, confidential helpline service to seafarers and their families all over the world. With a multilingual team and 24-hour assistance year-round, the service helped nearly 10,000 seafarers of 86 different nationalities last year.

ISWAN has just launched a new website for SeafarerHelp that is designed to reach even more seafarers.

The new website, which can be viewed in nine different languages, provides a number of ways for seafarers and their families to get in touch, including by telephone, e-mail, Skype, text message and a Live Chat feature. Trends last year showed that seafarers preferred to contact us by mobile devices over the internet, so the website is optimised for mobile use.

Seafarers can also access general information about common issues raised to the SeafarerHelp team via the website, along with downloadable resources providing guidance on health and wellbeing. The website also includes ISWAN’s Seafarer Centre Directory which helps seafarers find their nearest facilities in port.

Visit www.seafarerhelp.org to see the new website.