3rd November 2017

The ITF Seafarers’ Trust has launched a new version of its Shore Leave app for seafarers, with features designed to encourage seafarers to visit their local seafarer centres and have more fun using the app.

One new feature enables seafarers to enter a raffle each time they visit a seafarers’ centre, which has a QR code specific to the centre or location. Seafarers scan the code with the app to receive an electronic raffle ticket and a winner will be selected from all the entrants every four months – the first winner will receive an iPad.

The app also includes a map system which can be used either while the user is online or downloaded and used offline. Seafarers can post pins on the map about places of interest such as sports facilities, bars and even bus stops in order to share their recommendations with others visiting that particular port or city.

More customisation options have been added to the app so that seafarers can upload a profile photo and keep track of their carrier on board, adding the name of the ship they are sailing with, their rank, and where and when they sign on or off.

Shore Leave was first launched in 2014 as the very first app specifically developed for seafarers. The aim was to collect the contact details of all seafarers’ centres in an app, knowing that most seafarers cannot rely on an internet connection. The app, once downloaded, functions offline and all the contacts are stored in seafarers’ phones. This makes them easily accessible at any time so that seafarers can always call for a bus to give them a ride to the seafarers’ centre, mall or nearby city.

The Shore Leave app can be downloaded on Google Play for Android and the App Store for iOS devices.

The Trafigura Foundation awards ISWAN a grant to improve its helpline and support dedicated emergency funds for seafarers experiencing difficult situations at sea.

London 1 November 2017. The Trafigura Foundation and ISWAN have begun a collaboration to improve ISWAN's assistance to seafarers.

Seafarers, who are responsible for transporting 90% of the world's goods, lead tough lives with fast turnaround of ships in ports, months at a time spent on board, reduced crew numbers and increased workloads. They also face long periods away from family and friends with limited or no communication back home for weeks on end.

ISWAN's 24-hour multilingual helpline, SeafarerHelp, provides a lifeline for seafarers experiencing critical situations at sea or needing emotional support to cope with the time spent away from home. The Trafigura Foundation's grant will be used to replace ISWAN's current customer relationship management software with a new system to enable the helpline to offer a better service and improved data monitoring of seafarers in need.

This collaboration will also benefit seafarers through two specific funds administered by ISWAN: the Seafarers' Emergency Fund, which provides immediate, essential aid to seafarers and their families who are directly involved in unforeseen crises; and the Piracy Survivors Family Fund (PSFF), created to help seafarers affected by piracy attacks around the Horn of Africa. The PSFF offers vital support during and after seafarers' captivity by providing livelihood and living expenses to their families, as well as mental and physical rehabilitation. The fund is providing ongoing support to seafarers held hostage by Somali pirates.

Roger Harris, Executive Director of ISWAN said: 'We warmly welcome the Trafigura Foundation's new funding and their commitment to ISWAN and the welfare of seafarers. We are looking forward to a long term productive partnership with the foundation'.

Vincent Faber, Executive Director of the Trafigura Foundation, said: 'Our partnership with ISWAN not only makes sense in the framework of our philanthropic strategy promoting clean and safe supply chains. It is also a pioneering collaboration able to engender a strong positive impact on the lives of seafarers, whose working category deserves special support and welfare measures. We are proud to support ISWAN's commitment and help this Association reach out to more beneficiaries'.


ISWAN is an independent international not-for-profit organisation/charity supporting seafarers and their families worldwide. We provide a 24/365 helpline, emotional support, health information, and support for seafarers affected by piracy and other traumatic events. ISWAN works in partnership with a range of different organisations to promote the wellbeing of seafarers.


Established in November 2007 as an independent philanthropic entity, the Trafigura Foundation provides long-term funding and expertise to improve socio-economic conditions of vulnerable communities around the world. It joins forces with experienced organisations working on the field to achieve long-lasting impact with programmes tailored on local realities.

The Foundation's action is based on two pillars. The first one is the provision of support in the social entrepreneurship's field, with the aim of boosting sustainable employment for the most vulnerable categories and creating economic opportunities in the poorest regions of the world. The second is the promotion of clean and safe supply chains, which focuses on enhancing the livelihood of populations impacted by logistic activities and mitigating environmental and social issues caused by transportation or infrastructure at land and sea.

31st October 2017

Unsafe mixed migration by sea continues to claim many lives, despite the strenuous efforts made by Governmental and naval rescue services, often supported by merchant vessels, abiding by the long-standing tradition and legal obligation to go to the rescue of persons in distress at sea.

The complexities of this humanitarian challenge were discussed on Monday (30th October) at a meeting hosted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), bringing together representatives of UN agencies, the maritime industry and European Union naval forces.

For the rescued and seafarers alike, the experience can be harrowing. A modern merchant vessel is unsuited to carrying large numbers of survivors, offering inadequate shelter, medical care or sanitation in such situations, and with limited spare food and water on board.

Three rescues involving merchant ships in the Mediterranean illustrate the challenges.

In October 2016, the fully-laden oil tanker Okyroe, with a crew of 21 seafarers on board, rescued 1,536 people from rubber dinghies; 778 were transferred to rescue vessels over a two-day period and 758 were transferred by the vessel to port of Augusta, Italy.

In August 2016, the platform supply vessel OOC Jaguar rescued 501 people from several rubber boats, including one just-delivered baby and her mother. A crew member unwrapped the umbilical chord from the baby’s neck and helped the mother deliver the placenta.

In April 2016, the container ship Hamburg Bridge rescued 310 people who had been crammed aboard one small boat.

Reports show that this year (up to 29th October), some 149,785 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea. The majority arrived in Italy and the remainder were divided between Greece, Cyprus and Spain. But 2,826 individuals who attempted the journey, during the same time frame, lost their lives at sea. Although the number of deaths in the Mediterranean has seen a decline, year on year, the ratio of fatalities to attempted journeys is increasing.

Merchant vessels become involved in about one in ten rescue operations in the Mediterranean - 101 cases to date in 2017, and in 112 cases in 2016 - in the sea area covered by the Rome, Italy, Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre, the meeting was told.

While search and rescue operations continue, the meeting participants recognized that the systems established under IMO’s Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and the Search and Rescue (SAR) Convention were never envisaged as, or intended to be, a response to mass migration.

'Although governments and the merchant shipping industry will continue rescue operations, safe, legal, alternative pathways to migration must be developed, including safe, organized migration by sea, if necessary,' said IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim.

The solutions to reducing the loss of life at sea were discussed. These include addressing 'push' factors, tackling the criminal activity involved in people trafficking and enhanced collaboration amongst international agencies and States.

Attending the meeting were representatives from International Organization for Migration (IOM), the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), United Nations Human Rights (OHCHR), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the European Union Naval Forces (EU NAVFOR), BIMCO, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), the International Federation of Shipmasters' Associations (IFSMA) and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF).

The record of views of the meeting will be fed into the Global Compact on Migration, a UN Member State-led process that emanated from the 19th September 2016 New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants approved by Heads of State during the UN General Assembly. This two-year long process is expected to culminate in the adoption of the GCM at an intergovernmental conference on international migration in 2018.

Rescue at Sea: A guide to principles and practice as applied to refugees and migrants, prepared jointly by IMO, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), is available to download.

IMO – the International Maritime Organization – is the United Nations specialized agency with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships.

Website: www.imo.org

18th October 2017

A total of 121 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships were reported in the first nine months of 2017, according to the International Chamber of Commerce’s (ICC) International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB) latest quarterly report on maritime piracy.

The flagship global report notes that, while piracy rates were down compared to the same period in 2016, there is continuing concern over attacks in the Gulf of Guinea and in South East Asia. The increase in attacks off the coast of Venezuela and other security incidents against vessels off Libya – including an attempted boarding in the last quarter – highlights the need for vigilance in other areas. In total, 92 vessels were boarded, 13 were fired upon, there were 11 attempted attacks and five vessels were hijacked in the first nine months of 2017.

No incidents were reported off the coast of Somalia in this quarter, though the successful attacks from earlier in the year suggest that pirates in the area retain the capacity to target merchant shipping at distances from the coastline. Here are four main takeaways from the report:

1. Malaysia’s success story

One vessel was reported hijacked in the third quarter of 2017 when a Thai product tanker was attacked off Pulau Yu in Malaysia in early September. However, thanks to the prompt intervention of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, 10 hijackers were successfully apprehended and the tanker was safely escorted to a nearby port. The pirates were quickly tried and sentenced to long periods of imprisonment.

'The Malaysian response demonstrates exactly the type of speedy and robust action that is needed to deter such attacks.' said Pottengal Mukundan, Director of IMB.

2. Nigeria remains risky

A total of 20 reports against all vessel types were received for Nigeria, 16 of which occurred off the coast of Brass, Bonny and Bayelsa. Guns were reportedly used in 18 of the incidents and vessels were underway in 17 of 20 reports. 39 of the 49 crewmembers kidnapped globally occurred off Nigerian waters in seven separate incidents. Other crew kidnappings in 2017 have been reported 60 nautical miles off the coast of Nigeria.

'In general, all waters in and off Nigeria remain risky, despite intervention in some cases by the Nigerian Navy. We advise vessels to be vigilant,' said Mr Mukundan. 'The number of attacks in the Gulf of Guinea could be even higher than our figures as many incidents continue to be unreported.'

3. An uptick in violence off Venezuela

While only three low-level incidents took place in Venezuela during the same period in 2016, the number this year racked up to 11. All vessels were successfully boarded by robbers armed with guns or knives and mostly took place at anchorage. Four crewmembers were taken hostage during these incidents, with two assaulted and one injured.

4. Tackling piracy is a team effort

Perhaps the biggest takeaway of this quarter’s report is the proven importance of the 24-hour manned IMB Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC), which has provided the maritime industry, governments and response agencies with timely and transparent data on piracy and armed robbery incidents received directly from the vessels or owners, flag states or navies. The PRC’s prompt forwarding of reports and liaison with response agencies—using Inmarsat Safety Net Services and email alerts, all free of charge—has already helped bolster the response against piracy and armed robbery, keeping seafarers safe.

'One of the strongest weapons triggering the fight against piracy is accurate statistics,' said Mr Mukundan. 'There should be free and reciprocal sharing of information between the IMB PRC and regional information centres. With a clearer picture of when and where violent incidents are taking place, authorities are able to better allocate their resources to tackle this global issue.'

Attacks in the first three quarters of 2017 may be viewed on the IMB Live Piracy Map.

10th October 2017

Today is World Mental Health Day. SeafarerHelp is ISWAN's free, confidential, multilingual helpline for seafarers and their families, available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. When a seafarer is feeling low or having suicidal thoughts, the team is there to provide support and a listening ear, just like they did in the following case.

An Indian seafarer who ‘felt like committing suicide’ contacted SeafarerHelp for help with his personal problems. He had been feeling lonely throughout the four months that he had been on his vessel, and did not want to burden his family by sharing these emotions with them. He did not feel comfortable discussing his concerns with his colleagues either, for fear of being reported and sent home by his company.

The seafarer explained: ‘Everyone has problems. My inner self used to tell me that disclosing it to everyone would not make it right or return happiness.’

Providing emotional support is part of SeafarerHelp’s service and since the team is multilingual this was given to the seafarer in his own language, enabling him to express himself fully. The team reassured him about the confidentiality of the exchange and the non-judgemental nature of the service, which prompted him to open up about the things that had been bothering him.

The seafarer had first experienced homesickness when he had to leave home at an early age to study at an all-boys boarding school, away from his family. Growing up in an exclusively male environment, he felt that his lack of exposure left him unprepared for relationships with the opposite sex. After joining a vessel, the seafarer later had two difficult and unsuccessful relationships after which he found himself developing suicidal thoughts. The seafarer shared his worries on how the combination of his past experiences continued to affect him.

The SeafarerHelp team acknowledged the seafarer’s courage to admit his suicidal thoughts. The team reviewed the self-care strategies already being used by the seafarer and offered help in finding a professional who could provide specialist assistance. With his consent, the SeafarerHelp team located a Mumbai based professional counsellor and organised counselling sessions based on his availability, while he was at sea.

The seafarer ultimately chose not to take the free counselling sessions, but over the next six months, the SeafarerHelp team kept in contact with him to check on his progress. He said that he appreciated how the team continued to follow up on how he was feeling and the fact that he was given continued support. He said that knowing that the SeafarerHelp service was there helped to ease his burden and he was very grateful.

As this story is written, the seafarer is at home on vacation. He has confirmed that he is doing very well and is addressing his issues. He told us that he is now channelling his energies into taking courses and preparing for his career advancement exams.

The SeafarerHelp team happily provides long term support to seafarers who are experiencing personal difficulties.

If you are a seafarer or family member of a seafarer and need someone to talk to, you can speak to a member of the SeafarerHelp team confidentially – all our contact details can be found at seafarerhelp.org.


01/11/17: This article has been amended - the source of the statement regarding the risk of suicide in the seafaring profession was found to be unreliable, so the statement has been removed from our introduction.

6th October 2017

Maritime Trade Union Nautilus International Highlights Plight of Seafarers in British Waters, With Some Earning Less than $0.85 an Hour

Modern slavery in British waters is “alive and kicking” according to the maritime professionals trade union Nautilus International. The Union has warned of the plight of seafarers working on foreign flagged ships in British waters, who are receiving minimal or no pay and suffering atrocious conditions. The warnings follow figures from the National Crime Agency which found there is an estimated 10,000-13,000 victims of modern slavery in the UK, with some 300 current policing operations.

Recently, Nautilus International worked to raise awareness of the deplorable conditions seafarers had to suffer onboard a Turkish ship detained in the UK port of Runcorn. The crew, who were being paid wages as low as US$0.85 an hour, had to endure a cockroach infestation onboard with no fresh food and were found to be owed almost US$74,000 in back pay following checks by Nautilus/ITF inspector Tommy Molloy. Nautilus International, which represents 22,000 maritime professionals at sea and ashore, together with the ITF lodged protests with the ship’s Turkish owners and the Panama ship registry over the shocking conditions onboard the 1,596gt general cargo ship Seccadi.

As a result, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and the UK Border Force detained the vessel for a number of health and safety violations directly related to the sub-standard conditions onboard. After the expiration of the crew’s leave of stay, they had effectively become illegal workers with no protections and faced deportation. The combined efforts of the Nautilus/ITF Inspector, the MCA and the UK Border Force finally resulted in payment of owed wages and the repatriation of the seafarers to their homes following lengthy prevarication by the vessel’s operator, Voda Shipping of Turkey.

To counter the profiteering at the expense of seafarers, Nautilus International is raising awareness to politicians and the general public with regards to the prevalence of modern slavery in the shipping industry.

The Modern Slavery Act, which came into law in 2015, was introduced to protect those held in slavery or servitude and saw the maximum jail term for traffickers rise from 14 years to life. Despite new powers enabling the Police, the Border Force and the National Crime Agency to board and search vessels, Nautilus has identified the exploitation of individuals, mainly of South and South East Asian origin, and profiteering by certain ship-owners continues.

Nautilus launched its Charter for Jobs at the Union’s UK branch conference in October 2016, a ten point charter calling on the government to level the playing field for seafarers in delivering decent work and training opportunities. Point eight of the charter provides a commitment to lobby the government and industry to apply the National Minimum Wage, the National Living Wage and the Equality Act to all vessels engaged in UK waters.

In the first win for Nautilus’ charter earlier this year, Scotland’s Transport Minister Humza Yousaf instigated plans to ensure foreign seafarers on Seatruck ferries running to Orkney and Shetland were paid at least the UK minimum wage after the Union found some crew were earning as little as £3.66 an hour.

Nautilus general secretary, Mark Dickinson, commented: “We’re calling on the Government to affirm its commitments in tackling modern slavery in the shipping industry. There is an ‘out of sight and out of mind’ attitude towards conditions in some parts of the industry where seafarers are being exploited, but it won’t come as a surprise to those working in the industry that these practices are happening. Despite the Modern Slavery Act and international legislation, we’re finding that some shipowners are continuing to profiteer at the expense of crew. In many cases, seafarers are disposable, treated as a commodity rather than human beings. They’re being paid cents per hour, when they’re lucky enough to get paid. Twinned with this, we regard the lack of food or repatriation provided is an abhorrent example of slavery in modern day Britain”.

The Nautilus/ITF inspector who boarded the ship, Tommy Molloy comments: “It’s true that not all cases of non-payment of wages will be considered to be modern day slavery. However, when a seafarer has paid USD$5,000 to secure the job in the first place, on USD$250 per month, doesn’t get paid that wage for many months and is abandoned without food, then the connection with modern day slavery is self-evident. In working with the MCA and UK Border Force, we were eventually able to resolve matters for the crew in this case and whenever we discover such situations we will continue to expose them and work with any of the authorities to have them dealt with”.

To view Nautilus International’s Charter for Jobs in full, please visit: nautilusint.org/en/what-we-say/strategic-campaigns/jobs-skills-and-the-future/charter-for-jobs/

The maritime community turned out in force to support the launch of our International Port Welfare Partnership Programme (IPWP), which took place in Trinity House during London International Shipping Week 2017.

Over 90 representatives from across the maritime industry attended the launch event, which was followed by a lively and informative panel debate entitled ‘Fair Shipping – Does it Really Exist?’. The debate was chaired by Stuart Rivers of Sailors’ Society with a panel made up of Tom Holmer of ISS, Nicola Good of Fairplay Magazine, Natalie Shaw of ICS, Andrew Wright of Mission to Seafarers, Kuba Syzmanski of Intermanager and Phil Parry of Spinnaker International.

The ISWAN IPWP programme aims to support the establishment of welfare boards which, according to MLC,2006 “shall regularly review welfare facilities and services to ensure that they are appropriate in the light of changes in the needs of seafarers resulting from technical, operational and other developments in the shipping industry”.

The programme is match funded by the ITF Seafarers’ Trust, TK Foundation, Seafarers’ UK and Merchant Navy Welfare Board (MNWB) with an Executive Committee made up of Ship owners, Unions, Port Authorities/Owners, Government, Maritime Funders and Voluntary Organisation representatives, all keen to promote better seafarers’ welfare in ports.

Brandt Wagner of ILO stated ‘The ILO’s Maritime Labour Convention, 2006, as amended, among other things, calls for States to promote the development of welfare facilities in designated ports in order to provide all seafarers with access to adequate welfare facilities and services.’ He added ‘We recognise that the great bulk of the current work to provide seafarers’ welfare is done by those who, every day, operate seafarers’ welfare centres, hotlines, and by other means assist seafarers.’Mr. Wagner was particularly pleased to note that IPWP funding and governance reflected the spirit of tripartism and social dialogue so central to the work of the ILO, and he was honoured to be invited to declare the ISWAN partnership programme officially started.

ISWAN Executive Director, Roger Harris, said ‘The IPWP programme opens a new phase of ISWAN’s work and we are looking forward to bringing the maritime community together to better support organisations that provide seafarers welfare in ports, worldwide.’

Peter Tomlin, Chief Executive of MNWB, who are project managing the programme on behalf of ISWAN, added ‘Good working practice and common sense dictates that seafarers visiting ports should be able to enjoy their limited time off ashore in a safe and welcoming environment. Whilst this is true of nearly 500 ports, there are many other ports where common sense is not yet common practice and our IPWP programme aims to help the maritime sector address the situation’

Further details of the IPWP can be found at: https://www.portwelfare.org/

ISWAN is holding a day long seminar in Rotterdam on 29th November on Ports and Seafarers' Welfare, where many of the challenges to supporting seafarers in ports will be discussed. See here for more information and to register.


Calling All Seafarers to Nominate the Best in Seafarers' Welfare

ISWAN's International Seafarers' Welfare Awards recognise the best in shipping when it comes to looking after people at sea. This year, with support from some of the biggest names in the industry, the awards are set to be better than ever, but it all starts with the nominations. This is the chance for seafarers to have their say.

Now in its 7th year, the International Seafarers' Welfare Awards recognise excellence in seafarers' welfare provision and those who are helping to raise standards across the industry. The nominations process is now open, and seafarers are being encouraged to have their say about the individuals, organisations and companies who offer the highest quality welfare services.

ISWAN need nominations across 4 awards categories:

• Shipping Company of the Year
• Seafarer Centre of the Year
• Port of the Year
• Dr Dierk Lindemann Welfare Personality of the Year

The deadline for nominations is 1st December 2017. Candidates will then be invited to submit an entry to a panel of judges made up of experts from the shipping industry. Winners will be flown to Geneva to attend the award ceremony which will be held at the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in April 2018.

Speaking on the opening of the nominations, Roger Harris Executive Director of ISWAN said, "The International Seafarers' Welfare Awards continue to recognise excellence in the care that seafarers receive from shipping companies, ports, welfare centres and dedicated individuals while working away from home".

He added, "The work of seafarers can be dangerous, exhausting and isolating, but there are exemplary companies and organisations who ensure seafarers have access to the best possible services and support. It is important we commend those candidates - nominated by seafarers - to encourage everyone across the industry to raise the profile of seafarers' welfare."

The 2018 awards are made possible by a generous grant from the ITF Seafarers' Trust and the support of Inmarsat (Gold sponsor), the International Chamber of Shipping (Dr Dierk Lindemann Welfare Personality of the Year Award), Garrets International (Shipping Company of the Year Award), and Wrist Ship Supply (Seafarer Centre of the Year Award). The awards are also supported by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), The International Christian Maritime Association (ICMA) and The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF).

The shortlist of nominations will be announced in February 2018, and more information on the process can be accessed online at http://www.seafarerswelfareawards.org/

So have your say today, and recognise those who do so much to care for seafarers across the world.

13th September 2017

ISWAN’s SeafarerHelp, a free, confidential, 24/7 helpline which supports thousands of seafarers every year, was named ‘Shoreside Team of the Year’ at last night’s 2017 Safety at Sea Awards, held during London International Shipping Week.

Members of ISWAN and the SeafarerHelp team joined a host of representatives from the shipping industry at last night’s ceremony, which took place at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in London. The Safety at Sea Awards are one of the most prestigious maritime industry awards and SeafarerHelp was announced as the winner out of four shortlisted entrants in the Shoreside Team of the Year category, recognising the team’s actions and intervention which went beyond the call of duty.

SeafarerHelp is often the first port of call for seafarers when they need support and someone to turn to, and the helpline recently reported a record-breaking year. The number of contacts from seafarers in 2016 was higher than ever before, with 3,073 new cases involving 11,228 seafarers and their families making contact from 122 different countries. Issues of social isolation and mental health continue to be key concerns, as do welfare issues and the problems of bullying, harassment and abuse.

According to Roger Harris, Executive Director of ISWAN, ‘The Safety at Sea award is recognition of the amazing hard work and dedication of the SeafarerHelp team. It is also testament to the support we receive from our funders’.

He added: ‘While reaching out to SeafarerHelp is the first port of call when crews face problems, they also turn to the service as a last resort, and in desperation. Working with partner organisations we do everything possible to help’.

Winning the awards is a source of immense pride and satisfaction for the multilingual SeafarerHelp team and is recognition of the importance of the link between ship and shore, and between seafarers and welfare workers. Knowing that there is somewhere to turn, and that someone will help, support, guide and advise, is so vital for those working at sea, or indeed the families who are left behind at home.

ISWAN would also like to thank the panel of judges and the organisers, Safety at Sea, and congratulate the other winners on the night.

If you are a seafarer in need of assistance, please visit seafarerhelp.org where you will find all the contact details you need to speak to a member of our team.

We rely on charitable grants and donations for our work with seafarers. If you would like to make a donation, please visit our Virgin Money Giving or JustGiving page.

In the face of tough shipping markets and dogged by mental and physical health concerns, worries about pay, careers and abandonment, more seafarers than ever before have been turning to SeafarerHelp for assistance and support.

According to the newly released 2016 annual report from the free, confidential, multilingual helpline for seafarers and their families, there are serious problems facing those at sea, and seafarers desperately need help.

The annual report looks back on a tough year, as vessel over-capacity hit freight rates, bringing with it severe uncertainty across many markets. Once again, it was seafarers who bore the brunt of change, cuts and confusion. The SeafarerHelp report shows how the industry was left wrestling with a number of problems, which delivered serious knock on effects for people working at sea.


The helpline, part of the International Seafarers' Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN), saw a record number of contacts from seafarers, and in a year which saw major shipping companies fall bankrupt, crews, customers and the logistics chain were left in disarray. It was clear that seafarers needed somewhere to turn to for advice, guidance, support and a place to be heard.

In 2016, SeafarerHelp dealt with 3,073 new cases, involving 11,228 seafarers and their families. In addition, the helpline received a further 4,548 successive contacts and dealt with 4,073 different issues raised by seafarers, while the free service helped seafarers of 99 different nationalities making contact from 122 different countries.

Writing in his introduction to the report, Per Gullestrup, Chairman of ISWAN, says, “The ISWAN SeafarerHelp team played an important role in raising awareness about social isolation and mental health issues among seafarers. In 2016 we have continued in this vein and have seen our emotional support service develop and mature”.

He added, “A difficult year for the shipping industry means it was also a difficult year for many seafarers. The reality is that when the maritime industry needs to make cost savings, seafarers are often negatively affected”.


SeafarerHelp is often the first port of call for seafarers when they need help, and as such the helpline is uniquely placed when it comes to gathering contemporary data and for spotting trends affecting seafarers. The latest report stresses that issues of social isolation and mental health continue to be key concerns, as do welfare issues and the problems of bullying, harassment and abuse.

According to Roger Harris, Executive Director of ISWAN, “While reaching out to SeafarerHelp is the first port of call when crews face problems, they also turn to the service as a last resort, and in desperation. Working with partner organisations we do everything possible to help”.

While issues such as mental health are receiving more attention, other issues stubbornly remain. Threats posed by piracy and robbery, as well as the abandonment of seafarers, continue to take their toll on those working at sea.The issue of owners abandoning their responsibilities and their vessels, leaving crews to sit on ships as water, food and fuel run out, was often reported by seafarers to the helpline.

Amendments to the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) now mean that insurers and flag states are involved in repatriating crews, that is positive, but the problem has not gone away. On the contrary, problems are frequently reported to SeafarerHelp and the organisation is supporting crews of a number of vessels in various locations around the world.


The data and intelligence generated by SeafarerHelp serves as a bellwether for the changes which are over the horizon for shipping. There are still many problems and concerns and action needed to head them off.

ISWAN is keen to leverage that insight, and ensure that while seafarer anonymity, safety and welfare remains paramount, that the insight from seafarers informs the industry response to the problem areas and issues which impact so heavily on the quality of life and working in the merchant navy today.

The report is being distributed to key decision makers across the shipping industry, as well as to the funding bodies and organisations which fund this vital resource for seafarers.

Roger Harris says, “SeafarerHelp is free to all seafarers and their families wherever they are in the world thanks to the continuing support of funders, The TK Foundation, the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) Seafarers' Trust, Seafarers UK, and Trinity House. We are incredibly grateful for this support, and we see the difference it makes to seafarers”.

The SeafarerHelp Annual Review can be downloaded below.