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This year, once again, the 25th June will mark the annual Day of the Seafarer (DotS), and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has announced its theme of ‘Seafarers Matter’.

The Day of the Seafarer was established in a resolution adopted by the 2010 Diplomatic Conference in Manila to adopt the revised STCW Convention, with the stated purpose of recognising the unique contribution made by seafarers from all over the world to international seaborne trade, the world economy and civil society as a whole.

The resolution ‘encourages Governments, shipping organisations, companies, shipowners and all other parties concerned to duly and appropriately promote the Day of the Seafarer and take action to celebrate it meaningfully’.

The IMO’s theme of ‘Seafarers Matter’ aims to particularly engage ports and seafarer centres to demonstrate how much seafarers matter to them. The idea is for ports and seafarer centres to share and showcase best practices in seafarer support and welfare, and organise special activities for seafarers on the day, such as:

  • A social event organised in port to celebrate seafarers
  • A public open day at seafarer centres
  • Free WiFi in port for a day

Last year, ISWAN held a successful event on Saturday 25th June at the SMX Convention Center in Manila to mark the Day of the Seafarer. The event – which included on-stage entertainment, family activities, an exhibition of company stands and a Health and Wellbeing zone – was attended by over 2,500 seafarers, maritime cadets and their families, as well as IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim. To see the video of the event, please click here.

London and Kuala Lumpur, 4 May 2017 – Pirates and armed robbers attacked 43 ships and captured 58 seafarers in the first quarter of 2017, slightly more than the same period last year, according to the latest ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB) piracy report.

The global report highlights persisting violence in piracy hotspots off Nigeria and around the Southern Philippines – where two crew members were killed in February. Indonesia also reported frequent incidents, mostly low-level thefts from anchored vessels.

In total, 33 vessels were boarded and four fired upon in the first three months of 2017. Armed pirates hijacked two vessels, both off the coast of Somalia, where no merchant ship had been hijacked since May 2012. Four attempted incidents were also received.

IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre has monitored attacks on the world’s seas since 1991. The report highlights three major concerns:

1 - Gulf of Guinea kidnappings

Of the 27 seafarers kidnapped worldwide for ransom between January and March 2017, 63% were in the Gulf of Guinea. Nigeria is the main kidnap hotspot, with 17 crew taken in three separate incidents, up from 14 in the same period last year. All three vessels – a general cargo ship, a tanker and a bulk carrier – were attacked while underway 30-60 nautical miles off the Bayelsa coast. Three more ships were fired upon at up to 110 nautical miles from land, and many other attacks are believed to go unreported.

'The Gulf of Guinea is a major area of concern, consistently dangerous for seafarers, and signs of kidnappings increasing. IMB has worked closely with the response agencies in the region including the Nigerian Navy which has provided valuable support, but more needs to be done to crack down on the area’s armed gangs,' said Pottengal Mukundan, Director of IMB. 'We urge vessels to report all incidents so that the true level of piracy activity can be assessed.'

2 – Growing violence around the Southern Philippines

Here, nine ships reported attacks in the first quarter of 2017 compared with just two in the same period last year. These include an armed attack on a general cargo vessel in which two crew were killed and five kidnapped for ransom. Kidnappers captured five more people in attacks on a fishing trawler and a tug.

According to IMB, militant activity may be behind the escalating violence in waters around the Southern Philippines. Armed groups use speedboats to target seafarers and fishermen in slowmoving, low vessels.

Areas such as the Sulu Sea and Sibutu Passage are particularly risky. IMB recommends that ships avoid these waters by transiting West of Kalimantan, if possible – and, as ever, follow the industry’s latest best practice measures, to protect against attacks.

3 - First Somali hijackings after five-year lull

Somali pirates successfully hijacked a small bunkering tanker and a traditional dhow, both within their territorial waters. A total of 28 crew were taken hostage and subsequently released within a relatively short time. IMB suspects that these incidents were opportunistic, particularly as the hijacked vessels were not following the Best Management Practices for Protection against Somalia Based Piracy (BMP4) recommendations.

'IMB continues to encourage all vessels transiting waters around Somalia to follow the BMP4 recommendations. The recent attacks should serve as a warning against complacency, as Somali pirates are still capable of carrying out attacks,' said Mr Mukundan.

'The presence of international navies who patrol these waters is extremely important as it provides an added layer of deterrence to the pirates and more importantly helps to secure one of the most important trade routes of the world,' he added.

The IMB Piracy Reporting Centre supports the anti-piracy efforts of international navies by relaying all reports to the response agencies, as well as broadcasting alerts to ships via the INMARSAT Safety Net Service.

Piracy and armed robbery prone areas worldwide

IMB’s latest piracy report gives detailed descriptions of all 43 attacks in 16 countries, and advice for mariners, including a list of particularly high-risk areas where extra caution and precautionary measures are vital.

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, nonpolitical, international organisation can act as a catalyst to achieve this goal.

To read the full report, download the attachment at the bottom of this page.

Follow the @IMB_Piracy via #IMBPiracy

'The State of Maritime Piracy 2016 – Assessing the Human and Economic Cost'
Oceans Beyond Piracy
London, UK - May 3rd
Event Report
Jessica K Simonds BA (Hons) MA

Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP) as a program of the One Earth Future Foundation launched their annual report entitled ‘The State of Maritime Piracy 2016 – Assessing the Human and Economic Cost’ on the 3rd May 2017 at the UK Chamber of Shipping in London UK. This report will outline the event proceedings, summarize the keynote speeches as well as the two panel discussions.

The event was opened by Admiral Sir James Burnell-Nugent a senior fellow of Oceans Beyond Piracy who welcomed the delegates, outlined the importance of the report in the modern context of maritime security and welcomed the keynote speaker Barry Faure, the Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Seychelles. Faure’s keynote speech embodied the importance of maintaining a positive state of maritime security for the Seychelles as a nation of islands.

The report was presented to the conference by the lead authors Dirk Siebels and Masie Pigeon of Oceans Beyond Piracy. The full report can be found here. It is important to note that the report covers the impacts of piracy for the year 2016 and does not include the recent surge in piratical experiences in 2017. The the two most notable trends in the report include the increase in the use of kidnap for ransom which has risen from 13 incidents in 2015 to 18 incidents in 2016 and that the economic cost of Somali piracy has defied its five year downward trend and risen from $1.3 Billion in 2015 to $1.7 Billion in 2016.

The first panel discussion was lead by Masie Pigeon of Oceans Beyond Piracy, Eric Frecon, Assistant Professor at the French Naval Academy and Richard Neylon of Holman Fenwick Willan LLP. The panel discussed the use of kidnap for ransom as a prominent and rapidly developing piratical business model. A prominent element of this discussion was the issues surrounding paying ransoms to piracy groups who are part of terrorist organizations as this poses a legal challenge in terms of funding proscribed organizations. There was also speculation surrounding how groups engaged in conflict in Yemen will profit from piracy and blur the lines between piracy as a criminal or terrorist threat.

The second panel discussion was lead by Col Richard Cantrill, EUNAVFOR Chief of Staff, Dr. Curtis Bell, One Earth Future and John Steed of Oceans Beyond Piracy. The theme of this discussion was maritime security in the Horn of Africa. This session allowed for a discussion on the recent piracy attacks that have occurred in the region. Col Cantrill suggested that the current situation is ‘on a knife edge’ as attacks have been based on opportunity - yet as there are less naval forces dedicated to counter piracy only time will tell whether this means that there is an increase in capability. The rest of the panel also suggested that the criminal model of piracy has become adaptive but is still based on a recruitment strategy based on targeting vulnerable men in an impoverished situation. It was conveyed that for the spike in recent piracy attacks to cease, ships will need to adhere to best management practices, stop taking short cuts and not sail too close to the shore. There are also a number of short term and long term measures that will suppress the threat. These include naval protection, armed security teams, rule of law, legal finish and arrests, regional capacity building, prosecution and imprisonment.

This author believes the most prominent areas of concern to arise at the conference are are the reduction of capabilities when dealing with the terrorist element of piracy as well as the reluctance of some seafarers in adhering to best management practices and appropriate deterrence measures in the region.

6th April 2017

The first network of HIV-positive seafarers has been launched in the Philippines, with technical and financial support from the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) and its union AMOSUP.

Positibong Marino Philippines has been formally registered as a self-help and support group for HIV-positive seafarers. It will work with the ITF, its unions and the Joint Manning Group (JMG) in the Philippines to defend the rights of HIV-positive seafarers, who find it difficult to get employment because of their health status. AMOSUP has welcomed the network by giving it office space in the union’s Manila office.

Jebsen Gamido, chairperson of the new network, said: 'I have been HIV positive for seven years, having got the virus before sailing for the first time as deck cadet. Over the years, I have faced so many challenges to getting employment on board ship. That’s why I am committed to build this network of HIV positive seafarers in the Philippines to provide mental and legal support to all HIV-positive seafarers, irrespective of their nationality.

'We will challenge the stigma and discrimination around HIV/AIDS and fight for our rights, especially in the Philippines, where employment discrimination based on HIV status is prohibited by law.

'The ITF has been with us from the beginning and we hope they will be with us while we grow to be a strong network to fight injustice and harassment and defend our rights.'

ITF maritime co-ordinator Jacqueline Smith welcomed the network and praised Jebsen Gamido for his dedication and hard work. She added that the ITF was committed to keeping seafarers healthy and happy and to remove the stigma and discrimination that workers with HIV/AIDS continue to face, and would continue to support Positibomg Marino Philippines with pride. She said she also hoped other union and health activists would be inspired by its example.

Follow the network on Facebook using @Positibong.MarinoPhil.

Download the ITF’s wellbeing app for seafarers, which contains a wealth of information about HIV/AIDS.

Find out more about how ITF unions are tackling HIV/AIDS.

ISWAN responded quickly when we heard that a ship, the Aris 13, had been hijacked off the coast of Somalia on Monday 13 March. Chirag Bahri, ISWAN’s South Asia Regional Director and piracy survivor, made immediate contact with the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), the piracy reporting centre, to obtain more details of the ship and crew. As soon as the eight crew were confirmed as Sri Lankan, Chirag contacted the local welfare responders in Colombo, including the ITF Inspector, Ranjan Perera. Chirag also made contact with the local crewing agency.

ISWAN was in close touch with John Steed of Oceans Beyond Piracy who is based in the region and has expert knowledge of Somali piracy. He kept ISWAN informed of developments as the situation progressed.

The SeafarerHelp team in the ISWAN office were briefed about supporting the families of the hijacked seafarers and they soon began to receive calls from one of the wives of the seafarers. The situation became tense during the period of captivity when threats were made to the crew by the pirates as the ship was being surrounded by the Puntland Maritime Police Force (PMPF). Thankfully, the crew were released after a few days without a ransom being paid.

This incident shows that piracy has not gone away and the industry, including the welfare organisations, still needs to remain vigilant. Chirag and the SeafarerHelp team responded quickly and appropriately and we will continue to offer support to the crew and their families when the seafarers return home after their ordeal.

30th March 2017

Last week, two members of the ISWAN team visited two ships at the Port of Ipswich to get a feel for life on board and talk to crew members about SeafarerHelp, our free helpline for seafarers.

Rhea from the SeafarerHelp team and Amy, our Digital Media Communications Intern, met Paul Keenan of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) for the visit last Tuesday. As the ITF’s Inspector for the North East, Paul was an ideal guide to show us round, greeting the captains of each ship and gaining their permission for a tour onboard.

We visited two cargo ships of different sizes, each with predominantly Russian and Ukrainian crew. The captain of the larger ship chatted to us about how he had always worked at sea, and how he enjoys visiting ports in the UK which do not work throughout the night. We took a trip down from the bridge to the engine room, and then the captain showed us the cabins and galleys for the officers and ratings. Here we met three crew members, who told us about their duties on board and explained how they use social media site VK to keep in touch with family and friends back home.

The comparison between the two ships was interesting – both were carrying timber, but the smaller ship had a significantly smaller engine and less cabins for the smaller crew of seven. It was also an impressive 32 years old, and there were far fewer steps to climb up to the bridge than on the larger ship! We enjoyed seeing the various contraptions used on board to keep objects in place in rough waters, including straps around the washing machine, hooks on the fridge door and bars around the stove top.

Our time at the Port of Ipswich was an enjoyable and enlightening experience, and we would like to thank Paul Keenan from the ITF, as well as the captains and crew of the ships we visited, for accommodating us.

Zay Yar Lin won the ISWAN Photo Competition 2017 with his stunning photograph (below) of a seafarer painting a ship’s handrail. Zay Yar Lin spoke to us about his winning photo and working at sea, and offered some advice for other seafarers who enjoy taking photos – photography is an excellent hobby for seafarers wanting to relieve stress and be creative.

Congratulations on your winning photo, Zay Yar Lin! Tell us a bit about yourself and your life as a seafarer.

I'm from Myanmar and I live in Yangon, Myanmar. I work as a Chief Officer at a chemical tanker company (MTM Ship Management Co. Ltd). As I'm the head of Deck Department, I am in charge of Safety, deck maintenance and cargo operation and also responsible for navigation duties. Apart from working time at sea, I love to take photos of seafarers working on the ship. I don't like being away from the family when I'm on board the ship.

How did you hear about the ISWAN Photo Competition 2017?

I just saw the ISWAN Photo Competition 2017 on Facebook shared by one of my friends.

Tell us about your winning photo.

I took this photo from the bridge wing which is uppermost deck of the ship. I used to bring my camera on the bridge while at sea to take spontaneous moments around the ship and at sea. The ship was sailing in Gulf of Mexico near United States of America and I was on the bridge deck when I saw this seafarer painting the ship hand rail. Actually, it was a spontaneous moment. When I noticed this seafarer’s painting job on the ship's red deck and the beautiful whirling blue sea, I couldn’t resist taking this spontaneous moment. Luckily, the sun was on low altitude and the sun lighting was very good enough to see the beautiful shadow of the seafarer. I took three or four photos until I got this final shot.

What was your reaction when you found out you had won?

I felt surprised and very happy to know that I had won the Winner. I just talked to my wife and shared happiness of this success.

What do you enjoy about photography?

I believe Photography helps people to see and feel. I love taking pictures that tell stories.

How do you plan to use your prize – a GoPro HERO5 Session camera?

I want to use this GoPro HERO5 Session camera to learn underwater photography.

Do you have any top tips or advice for any other seafarers who enjoy taking photos as a hobby?

Photography is the art of imagination and creation. Try to imagine first and be creative to make photos. Never forget about lighting and composition.

To view the rest of this year’s finalists and overall shortlist, visit our Flickr page here.


The International Seafarers’ Welfare & Assistance Network (ISWAN) is an international charity promoting seafarers’ welfare worldwide, and we directly serve seafarers and their families by providing a 24-hour helpline, SeafarerHelp.

We rely on charitable grants and donations – to help us assist more seafarers in distress, you can donate now on JustGiving or Virgin Money Giving.


Below: Winning photo by Zay Yar Lin

Wining photo by Zay Yar Lin

Friday 3rd March

After careful consideration, our judging panel has chosen the winner of the ISWAN Photo Competition 2017, along with five runners-up.

We are delighted to announce that Zay Yar Lin from Myanmar is this year’s winner with his eye-catching photograph (pictured) offering a unique perspective of a seafarer painting a ship’s handrail, taken from the bridge wing above.

Our five runners-up are: Albert Veloria and Alvin-Patrick V. Occeño, both from the Philippines, Johannes Bargmann from Germany, Peter Cornelissen from the Netherlands, and Zaw Myo Kyaw from Myanmar.

ISWAN would like to congratulate our finalists, whose photos will feature in future ISWAN publications. A GoPro HERO5 Session will be awarded to the winner, and the runners-up will receive a selection of goodies from ISWAN.

The winner, runners-up and remaining shortlisted entries can be viewed here.

20th February 2017

After a fantastic response from seafarers around the world, we are delighted to announce the shortlist for the ISWAN Photo Competition 2017.

This year’s competition received over 600 photographs giving a fascinating insight into the daily life of a seafarer, from duties such as maintenance, inspections and drills, to on-board exercise sessions and leisure activities including shower parties on deck and barbeques.

Entries were submitted by a total of 152 seafarers of at least 18 different nationalities across four continents, demonstrating the diversity of this often-overlooked profession. Amongst the entrants were six female seafarers and a range of positions from ordinary seaman to chief cook to master.

The judging panel will now decide on the winner and runners-up from the shortlisted photographs and the result will be announced in the upcoming weeks.

The shortlisted entries can be viewed here.

16th February 2017

InterManager, the trade association for in-house and third party ship managers, together with The Warsash Maritime Academy, recently presented the results of its fatigue study, Project MARTHA, to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). The report highlights growing levels of both physical and mental fatigue in seafarers, particularly amongst Masters and Watch Keepers.

According to the report, results indicate that as voyage length increases, fatigue and stress increase and motivation decreases. This has not only safety implications on board due to poorer performance, but also long-term physical and mental health effects on the seafarer. These results are timely considering the subject of mental health and wellbeing amongst seafarers being particularly topical.

Speaking at the presentation last month, InterManager’s Secretary-General Capt Kuba Szymanski urged the maritime industry to take notice of the findings as the industry recruits aspiring seafarers. Addressing IMO delegates and invited guests, Capt Syzmanski said: ‘Our people are our assets and we need to develop a strategy whereby shipping is once again seen as a career of choice for tomorrow’s young talented people.

‘There is no avoiding the fact that the global fleet is increasing and more manpower is needed. However, we are demanding more from current seafarers rather than recruiting even more cadets into the market. Attracting new seafarers and retaining them will test the industry, but we cannot ignore these findings in making the industry an attractive place for aspiring seafarers.’

The full report can be downloaded here.