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.

Saturday October 22, 2016 – the date of release for the 26 hostages of the Naham 3, who had been captured by pirates four and a half years ago. Many of the seafarers had not seen their families for five years, and three of the original captives had died, one killed by pirates, the other two from disease. The inhuman actions of a pirate gang has robbed these men of years of productive time and deprived their families of much needed salaries. As they were mostly from poor backgrounds in poor countries, there was little hope of a huge ransom being raised and they were consigned to years of malnutrition and worry, in a futile exercise in money-making by criminals in Somalia. But what happens now they are home? What are their circumstances?

Roger Harris, Executive Director of ISWAN, explained: “The seafarers have not been paid since the fishing vessel was captured. As is sometimes the case, the company did not meet the huge ransom demand made initially, nor did salaries continue for the time spent in captivity. This forced the families to find support in other ways, through relatives, by finding other work, or grants from charities like MPHRP.”

Chirag Bahri of MPHRP in India, himself a former hostage and a seafarer, who has worked with hostages and their families in South Asia for four years, said: “when seafarers first come home after such a long absence, they may face many hurdles on adjusting to every-day life and to relations with their own family members. Their mental and physical health issues will be the concern for everyone around them. The seafarers will be worried as they are not paid and supported by their company and their uncertain financial circumstances cause stress. The seafarers will need love, care and respect from their family, friends, their government and the overall support of the whole community so that they get reintegrated within society. Eventually we hope that with proper rehabilitation plans, the seafarers will come out from the trauma and lead a normal, dignified life. They are our true heroes as they have now become more mature, resilient and strong, and through their experiences understand different aspects of life.”

Jun Pablo of ISWAN / MPHPR Philippines, who has worked with the families of the Naham 3 hostages and supported them for years, said: “Every seafarer is different, and the reaction to the time of being a hostage is different. These men have been away for so long, their children have grown up and their parents have become old. I have met with all the seafarers now, I keep in touch by phone, and I have accompanied one of them back to his home in the provinces. The cases of piracy we have dealt with tell us that after the homecoming they need time to make an adjustment from their day-to-day life in Somalia to their new reality, for example going from one meal a day to three, and having freedom to move around. Within the Philippines, the major concern will be how to earn money to support their families. Some former hostages before have gone back to sea still suffering from PTSD, and while some manage to keep going others cannot cope and have to come home. As yet, since the seafarers have returned, the families have not felt the pressure of financial need, they are in a period of happiness and excitement. After a month or two we will be able to see the economic condition and how this condition affects the seafarer and how they manage to cope. So far, one of the seafarers has said he will not go anymore on board, but will stay in the province and look for alternative work. Another wants some time to rest at home, and says he will be willing to go back to sea in 2017. Another seafarer suffers from bad dreams and is sleeping badly. The emotional upheaval of getting home is a huge adjustment.”

Apinya Tajit works for the Apostleship of the Sea in Thailand and is a welfare responder for ISWAN / MPHRP. She has helped with the welcoming in 2015 of some of the Thai hostages who had spent more than 5 years in captivity from the Prantalay 12, and she has assisted Caritas Cambodia with the welcome for the Cambodian hostages of the Naham 3. Their story starts with a recruiting agent coming to the village to ask families if they have sons to send abroad to work. Initially they were told they did not need to pay anything, and then they were given a contract for USD 150 per month for a 3 year contract and told to pay USD 300 for expenses. Since their capture, they have not received any money. Apinya said: “Before I met the men I was concerned about their health, and the psychological scars of such a lengthy time in captivity. We provided medical checks and counselling within the first two days while they were with their families to help them release the psychological pain, and to feel the comfort that someone cares for them. One man was shot by a pirate in the leg because he cooked the food for the group too slowly, and he cannot walk properly yet. When he returned home his mother, brother and sister were there, but his wife had left him for another man. Another survivor, when he met his wife and family, kept his emotions buried and acted like a stranger. We could not immediately find the family of another of the survivors, though we have found them now. He felt terrible when he returned - he had been treated like an animal, had no hope of ever returning home, and survived by trapping birds, wild cats and even rats, anything to outwit his captors and survive. The pirates always told them to eat, and assured them that they would go home that week, but this only happened after 1,672 days. The families, and their villages, were overjoyed to have them back. However, I cannot say that everything is going to be easy for them from now on. For the men I am concerned about how they adjust to life after this nightmare, and for the families I am concerned about them getting their loved ones back with scars, feeling like strangers to each other, and different from when they left home. Eventually I hope that time and our programme can help to heal everything, and I am planning for their future support by ISWAN and Caritas.”

The four Cambodian seafarers in the front row, with Apinya Tajit centre front, and the counselling team behind

The four Cambodian seafarers in the front row, with Apinya Tajit centre front, and the counselling team behind

Capt Nguyen Viet Anh, a welfare responder for ISWAN / MPHRP, arranged the welcome for the Vietnamese hostages of Naham 3. "Prior to the repatriation of the released hostages, I was ready to welcome three weak, sick and disappointed men who would need a long period to be integrated into the community. The families also thought likewise. However, upon their arrival at the airport, the seafarers expressed themselves as reasonable and rational, full of common sense and able to act and speak normally after a terrible experience. The result of the seafarers medical examinations showed they were in normal conditions of health, and this was very good news. But when I visited them again on 4 November in their homes, I found a number of signs showing that our seafarers are under certain pressures and are feeling quite exhausted, mentally and physically. One of them is speaking much less, and his memory is not good. He has become less active and he sleeps little. Another seafarer has also become much quieter, feels ashamed of his situation, and suffers from nightmares. The families are deeply concerned about the present health situation of their loved ones. Obviously, the piracy survivors need rest and will need post-release assistance to face the trauma of the past."

One of the Vietnamese seafarers (on left) with his family and Capt Nguyen Viet Anh

One of the Vietnamese seafarers (on left) with his family and Capt Nguyen Viet Anh

Tom Holmer, Programme Manager for MPHRP, added: “These brave men have gone through a life-changing experience. Research from Oceans Beyond Piracy in 2016 indicated that 26% of those attacked by pirates will have symptoms of PTSD, and that being held as a hostage for a significant period greatly increases the risk of PTSD. The research also showed that a large minority of family members of hostages show lasting behavioural effects from the experience. We know that they will react differently, and we need to be ready to provide what is needed for them looking ahead for the next six to twelve months. We are very grateful to the members of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, who have provided funds which have already been used to support families and the hostages themselves during their return, and we will need to do more for them on a case by case basis.”

There was much rejoicing at the release of the 26 seafarers from the Naham 3, having spent four and a half years in captivity in Somalia. Five of them returned to the Philippines on 28 October, to their families and friends who had never given up hope of seeing them again.
Jun Pablo, of MPHRP Philippines, has been supporting the families for the last four years. When the Naham 3 was captured by pirates in March 2012, the families received no more salary and so were left not only without their loved ones, but also with nothing coming in for their support. The Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme stepped in to assist with some of the most basic needs for the families who had been left behind.

“We have dealt with many families of hostages, and survivors of piracy” said Jun Pablo. “We know that one of the most difficult things for the hostages is the knowledge that their family is suffering. Our programme was started by responsible people in the shipping industry, and funded by charities, to help reduce the ill effects of piracy on seafarers and their families.”
The initial support provided by MPHRP for the Naham 3 families was subsistence payments, and help with medical costs, housing and school fees. But as the captivity stretched from months to years, the programme has looked at the longer-term support of families. This has included debt relief to buy back land which was mortgaged to a money lender (ironically to pay for the placement of the seafarer on the Naham 3) and funds to train one of the seafarers’ wives to become a teacher and be able to earn a living wage.

“Families have tended to support each other where they can” said Roger Harris, ISWAN Executive Director, “but where the financial resources are just too small, the programme has been able to make a significant difference to the outcome for the family.” As the seafarers from the Naham 3 return to their normal but changed lives, thanks to funding from members of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, ISWAN will be able to provide some support as they seek to pick up their lives again.

Jun Pablo added: “The homecoming was a relief for me. Since 2013 we are following these families and hear their stories and feel their worries. I myself become part of them, calling them at least twice a week and visiting them numerous times to comfort and reassure them. But after seeing the families reunited with the seafarers I feel immediate relief within me. I can’t forget what the families had said to me when they were invited for a breakfast thanksgiving meal: “we don’t want to lose this opportunity to say thank you to MPHRP for all the years that you stand beside and comforted us as well as supplied us, the word ‘thank you’ is not enough to express our gratitude.”

MPHRP is hugely grateful for the many people in the Philippines who have supported these families, for the government who helped make possible their freedom, for John Steed at OBP and the Hostage Support Partnership negotiating for their release, and for the organisations who have donated funds towards bringing the men back to families who are still hanging in there after almost five years of absence. What a result!

philippines 2

 

Philippines 3

On the night of Sunday 30 October the four Cambodian hostages from the Naham 3 returned to Phnom Penh after four and a half years of captivity in Somalia, having been captured by pirates in Seychelles waters in March 2012. They were met on their journey home by Apinya Tajit, the MPHRP welfare responder based in Thailand, and by Tek Sopheak of Caritas when they arrived in Cambodia. Apinya and Sopheak had prepared a homecoming package funded by MPHRP for the seafarers and their families, involving transporting the families to meet the seafarers on arrival in Phnom Penh, providing accommodation, medical check-ups and transport to and from their homes.

The four hostages were Khorn Van Thy, Em Phummany, Kim Koem Hen and Ngem Sosan. At least one of these men was involved in saving the lives of some of the seafarers from the ship Albedo, which sank while still attached by cable to the Naham 3 during a storm. They arrived home to huge media interest.

They were released on 22 October thanks to the intervention and work of the Hostage Support Partnership and John Steed over many months, and were flown to Nairobi the day afterwards. In Nairobi, they were fed, provided with new clothes and given medical check-ups. Following arrangements made for their repatriation, and being given donations from well-wishing organisations including ISWAN, they were flown home via the Philippines. At the airport they were met by AoS, Caritas, ISWAN / MPHRP, Interior ministry, foreign ministry, immigration officials and representatives of the IOM. The government welcomed the men and gave each one a donation of Riels 500,000.

Apinya said: “It was wonderful to meet the men who we have been hoping to see for so many years. They are in good health considering the experience that they have had. One survivor had no family to meet him, as his family had not been able to be traced before he arrived home.” Tek Sopheak said “when the seafarers arrived we met with their families and counsellors to help with their feelings and prepare them for the future. The Caritas counselling team included an experienced counsellor and a child psychiatrist.”

ISWAN will continue to assist the seafarers in the aftermath of this terrible event in their lives. Thanks to AoS and Caritas Cambodia, there is a good local connection for the families, and funding from members of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia will be available to assist the men and their families, as it has already benefitted one of the families during their captivity and all of them at the time of release. We wish them well.

Cambodia 3

 

Cambodia

Article explores the impact of connectivity on seafarer mental health

Last September, ISWAN published an article by Dr Olivia Swift exploring the meaning of social isolation amongst seafarers and the practical measures to address its effects on their mental health.

Dr Olivia Swift’s latest article with Dr Rikke Jensen, Digital technology and seafarers' mental wellbeing, uses existing research to investigate how connectivity and social media can help and/or hinder seafarers’ mental health and onboard social cohesion.

The article explores research which offers useful insights in support of familiar points of view on the subject. Although there is no unanimous verdict about whether improved connectivity is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ for seafarers’ mental health and social interactions onboard ship, there are signs that improved connectivity onboard is generally beneficial.

Download the full article below.

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

Three seafarers who had been held by Somali pirates for over four and a half years returned home to a huge welcome organised by the Vietnamese Ministry of Labour and Capt Nguyen Viet Anh, the MPHRP welfare responder who has been caring for the families. A number of reporters from domestic and foreign news services were also participating in the event.

For almost a year the homecoming had been planned, as the Hostage Support Partnership worked to release the hostages from Kenya. Finally they were freed on 22 October, arriving in Kenya on Sunday 23 and in Hanoi at 1pm on Tuesday 25 October. Viet Anh prepared a reception for the three men, arranging transport for the families to come from their home villages to meet them at the airport in Hanoi and to stay in a hotel for two nights to allow the seafarers some space with their closest relatives, before returning to their home villages.

During the time when they were in Hanoi the men were able to stay together, and have meals with their families and close relatives. They also had a medical check before being provided with transport home. Capt Viet Anh reported that “the Naham 3 seafarers have been safely and smoothly repatriated to Vietnam. Since getting home they seem to have been quickly integrated back into their community. The medical examinations showed them to be in good health.”

During the absence of the hostages in Somalia, Capt Viet Anh searched for the families of the captured men in Vietnamese fishing villages and eventually found them all. Through his intervention, the programme has provided funds to assist with the schooling and support of children and for medical expenses. Viet Anh has kept in constant touch with the families. On being reunited, the families expressed their gratitude to the humanitarian help from MPHRP and from him, that they said “contributed to make their sons, their husbands, to be reborn.”

The seafarers from the Naham 3 have returned without any wages being paid since March 2013, nothing having been paid to sustain the families apart from charitable contributions. The programme will continue to support their rehabilitation now they are home, as it has done for many other seafarers who have survived Somali piracy. The funding to support the seafarers in Vietnam has come from the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia Piracy Survivor Family Fund, administered by ISWAN. 

Four Cambodian seafarers were among the crew of the Naham3, which was captured by Somali pirates off Seychelles in March 2012. They have been released from captivity on 22 October 2016, and will be back in Cambodia reunited with their families very soon. The story below was written about the family of one of the men while they were still in captivity, and can now be published.

Mr. Ngem Soksan lived in Dokpor village in Kampong Chnang province. He went to work as a seafarer in 2010, to support his wife and small daughter. Arriving in Japan in October 2010, Mr Soksan rang his wife to let her know he had arrived safely and was intending to become a fiN Housesherman. In November in another call, he let his wife know that he was finding life extremely difficult. After this, his phone was cut off.

Later in November 2012 she received the call to inform her he had been captured by pirates. He was highly distressed, being held hostage in a forest with pirates. He said: ' I live like in hell, maybe I don't survive to go back to Cambodia at all so, don't wait for me...' Then she received no further news.

Left without their husband and father, on top of their distress his family had little money to survive. Without an income or land to cultivate, their living situation worsened each day. "I and my daughter are still alive through selling my labor wage for a daily life" Sopheap added. Left with no choice, after 6 months of poverty she had to remove her daughter from school to become a garment worker. Sopheak is 12, and is 2 years behind in her education as a result. She had only 2 school uniforms and no books or study materials.

Sopheap asked her brother to build a small living area on his land. Her and her daughter lived in a small cottage made from bamboo and palm leaf. The walls of the cottage were fragile and offered no privacy. There was no clean water, and no electricity. At night time they used lamps and petrol. The house was not safe. When it rained the house was damp, and it was often very cold at night. They lived on $80 a month, using it for rice and basic food, transport and medicine. Sometimes they could only afford sweetened rice for lunch.N family

MPHRP/ISWAN has worked with Caritas Cambodia to build a safe and warm house and provide materials for Sopheak's education. Mrs. Apinya Tajit, Vice-Chairperson ISWAN South East Asia (SEA), organised the application and distribution of funds.

The new house is 4m wide and 7m long and completely built from cement (wall and the ground floor) and the roof is covered with the zinc-iron. In the house, there are separate bedrooms and living spaces. A bicycle, school uniforms, shoes, bag, writing books and study materials have been provided to support to Sopheak. Sopheak was very excited; she can now get to school on time and has no need to walk or borrow a bicycle from neighbours, and has 2 good clean uniforms to wear, as well as enough study materials for the whole year.

Sopheap and Sopheak celebrated their new house on 14 July 2016. During the celebration they invited the commune leader, village leader and neighbours. After a blessing from the Buddhist Monk the celebrations began.

Commune leader and village leader, would like to express their feelings and thanks to Mrs. Apinya, ISWAN, PSFF and Caritas Cambodia that helped this vulnerable family to have proper shelter and the opportunity for study.

Kong Sopheap 41 years old, wife and Tom Sopheak, daughter, speaking in July 2014 before the release of their Ngem:

We are feeling very excited to hearing that my husband still alive. We don't know how to express our feeling besides of raise our hand up and seeking your understanding and please help and release him to be back home in order to live with us with peace and harmonization. Because we are really poor we don't have anything to give back to all of you at all.


I and my daughter were living far away from my husband for so long, we feel missed him so much. We really need him to be back home to complete our family's life and give us warm, give us shadow, taking a good care for us and supporting us. Especially my daughter she is so young and strongly need the care from parents mainly father, also she needs to continue to study too.


Brothers and sisters, please help to lobby the pirates and help to release my husband. I do hope that my husband can come home very soon.
I and my daughter really deep thanks to everybody that have help us a lot, your helping not only house and materials but you all make me feel warm, give us hope and proud for the future life. We pray for you all to have good health, success in your duty and please kindly help my husband to come back home safely soon. We will never forget everything you help but we will take a good care of this house and waiting for my husband and father to come and living as a family all together.

Kong Sopheap

My name is San Sothorn, I am older brother of Ngem but we have different mother.

I always thought that my youngest brother was passed away since 2012, because he called us he has no chance to be back to Cambodia while the pirates arrested him. But now I feel so excited to hear that he still alive.

I beg to the pirate please soon allow my brother to come home and please all of you who come here helping him to reunite his family. House he was living with family, right now no person to stay in but we still keep it and waiting him to come for reunites the family.

28 October 2016

A vessel which had already been detained following a Port State Control inspection by MCA (Maritime and Coastguard Agency) surveyors in Cardiff, Wales, has been issued with a further detainable deficiency notice after it was discovered the crew had not been paid for many months.

“The state of the vessel is bad enough from a maintenance point of view,” explained International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) inspector Tommy Molloy. “It is self-evident that no money is being spent on the basics and, as is usual with such shipowners, the crew are also not being paid.”

The Malta-registered Svetlana has been in Cardiff since 8 October 2016. The MCA had suspended their inspection and detained the vessel for a number of deficiencies and returned when the owner claimed to have rectified matters. However, it was then discovered that the Russian, Ukrainian and Bulgarian crew had not been paid wages and a further deficiency notice was issued.

The MCA made a request for the ITF to attend in order to aid the crew and assist with the calculation for owed wages. Mr Molloy then discovered that since the crew had joined, only small, infrequent cash payments had been received. “One man had not been paid since he transferred to the ship in June and had not been paid the three months wages he was owed from his employment on the ship he was transferred from.”

Mr Molloy also discovered that wages were the lowest he had seen for a long time and were certainly below the International Labour Office (ILO) minimum referred to in the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC)*. He calculated the wages owed at the ILO minimum level and submitted the claim to the company, along with other amounts for additional work for which payment had been promised but never materialised. The crew had also been forced to purchase their own personal protective equipment such as safety footwear and overalls, before joining, which is totally unacceptable. The owners were invited to enter into discussions to sign an ITF agreement which would provide acceptable minimum employment standards for the crew.

The company responded by accusing the inspector of acting illegally, of blackmail and by insisting they would only pay what was written on contracts, however low.

Unfortunately the MCA have appeared reluctant to push for payment of ILO minimum wages and the flag state, Malta, has declined to respond.

“To me it is clear,” said Mr Molloy. “The MLC requires member states that have ratified to establish procedures for determining minimum wages for seafarers and that when doing so they should give consideration to those set by ILO. I have asked how low wages can be set before it becomes an issue for the Malta shipping register.”

Worse still, he has learnt from maritime welfare organisations in Cardiff that the third officer has now been sacked. “It seems the company has determined that as he is the only claimant who speaks fluent English it must have been him who called the ITF to complain about not getting paid. This is his reward. In fact he did not call us. The request to visit came from the MCA.”

“We have had similar dealings with this operator before. They have been described as being at the very low end of the industry, and the MLC was designed to give seafarers protection against exactly this kind of sub-standard outfit.”

*For more about the MLC see http://www.ilo.org/global/standards/maritime-labour-convention/news/WCMS_219628/lang--en/index.htm