Marking IMO's Day of the Seafarer, Marlins, part of V.Group and the charity, International Seafarers Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) have created a new elearning course to help seafarers prevent and prepare for piracy attacks.

Although there have been no successful attacks off Somalia for some time, piracy, armed robbery and kidnapping of seafarers in West Africa and Asia are a current concern. Indonesia recently released advice to vessels in the area to avoid certain danger areas, such as the South Philippine waters of the Sulu Sea, fearing piracy could rise to Somali levels. In some countries, training on piracy has become compulsory for seafarers prior to departure.
Over the past four years, ISWAN's Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme (MPHRP) has become a leading provider of piracy awareness training for seafarers. Based on industry best practice guides, ISWAN's training courses give companies and manning agents a template for helping seafarers and their families deal with cases of armed robbery and piracy attack.

This interactive new elearning course on piracy, which draws on ISWAN's expertise, provides seafarers with an understanding of anti-piracy measures and promotes strategies for dealing with an attack. The course focuses on ensuring seafarers have the mental resilience to remain strong during their ordeal. It also addresses the issue of post-traumatic stress, explaining what it is, how seafarers and their families can cope with the condition and where they can get help.

Roger Harris, Executive Director of ISWAN, said: "The experience of seafarers who have been attacked shows the benefit of preparation, training and drills. This new e-learning course will be a valuable addition for seafarers to learn about the issues of attack and capture without having to be in a classroom setting."

Catherine Logie, manager of Marlins said: "With insight into how devastating a pirate attack can be for seafarers and their families, ISWAN and Marlins have combined their knowledge to provide practical guidance to all seafarers who may be at risk of piracy. This new elearning course brings piracy issues right up-to-date and makes industry best practice available to seafarers in any location."
The new course will be available later next month (July) via the Marlins online shop and will be included in the next update for all subscribers to Marlins eLearning Suite for Seafarers.
#AtSeaForAll

V.Group is the leading global marine and offshore vessel management and support services provider, with over 2,500 personnel based across more than 70 offices globally, supporting over 40,000 personnel in marine and offshore roles. www.vgrouplimited.com

Marlins, a V.Group business, is the leading brand in training solutions for the shipping industry. Working closely with industry partners, Marlins provides high quality, cost-effective training courses and assessment products, which comply with the rigorous standards required by the shipping and offshore industries. www.marlins.co.uk
ISWAN is an international charity dedicated to the relief of need, hardship or distress among seafarers of all nationalities, races, colour and creeds and irrespective of gender.

On a hot, grey muggy day, three members of ISWAN were on our way to visit Port of Tilbury, London's main port. The aim of the visit was to meet the port staff and to understand their role as well as to speak to seafarers about their working conditions and their experiences. This port visit was one of a programme of such visits undertaken by the ISWAN team as part of their comprehensive training programme.
We were picked up from Tilbury station by Tim, Deputy Harbour master. Although close to the station the Port is not easily accessible by foot. It also made getting through security easier because we had a member of port staff with us.
After going through the security procedure, we were dropped off at Harbour Master Geoff's office, ready for our day.

Geoff is a former seafarer, who shows a clear love of his port and the people in it, whether permanent workers or transient arrivals from the sea. He talks with great enthusiasm about ensuring seafarers who enter his port are well treated, and is justifiably proud of Tilbury, both in terms of its economics and its organisation. He drove us on tour, pointing out sites such as the garden outside the office which is maintained by former seafarers for others to use, the wind turbines that provide 50% of the electricity that Tilbury needs and all the berths around the port.
The port itself is enormous, like a great sprawling beast, with giant warehouses, cranes, and many berths for ships loading or unloading a huge variety of cargo including cars, fuel, food, recycling, plants and animals. Plus there is the Cruise Ship Terminal, with its ornate cupola, and with its beautiful listed wooden buildings, painted pastel blue like a post card beach hut but much, much, bigger! It provides a contrast between the commercial and industrial side of the port with this softer old building.


 welcomeOn our journey around, we stopphatsed in at the Tilbury Seafarers' Centre. The inside has recently been refurbished, and is bright and welcoming, with a small shop, bar, sofas and pool tables, karaoke, and a selection of free knitted hats to take away. There were computers and telephones available for seafarers to contact home, and one of the four chaplains is always in residence to offer support, along with other volunteers. The centre can now be used by seafarers 24 hours a day.

Then we were on to the most eagerly anticipated part of the day which was getting on to a ship and talking to the crew. This hadn't been guaranteed as ships come and go but we were lucky, as we were able to board two very different ships, RMS St Helena, and a container ship.

helenaThe RMS St Helena is one of only 3 ships left to carry the title RMS, and she was on her final visit to Britain before being decommissioned. A mixture of cargo and passenger ship she once provided the only outside contact and services to the island of St Helena. A new airport is opening and the future of the RMS St Helena is uncertain. The Captain, Andrew Greentree, had been on her over half his life and although the ship was preparing to depart in a few hours the Captain took time to show us round his pride and joy.
RMS St Helena was a glorious warren, combining passenger cabins, crew quarters, mess rooms, galley, storage facilities, container transport, a gym, a swimming pool and engine room in one great floating adventure. We were particularly taken with the fact that as part of their transported goods there is an ice cream room, a beer room, and a chocolate cupboard! The crew were all in smart uniform, white and navy, and everyone had a smile despite being busy preparing to sail.
There was something a little sad about knowing this was St Helena's last UK visit; that a chapter was going to close on an important piece of seafaring history.


Our second ship visit was to a container ship, this was a very different experience. The crew were Filipino, Ukrainian and Belarusian, and looked concerned as we boarded, presumably thinking we were official bodies come to inspect or criticize. Once we'd explained were we were from and our aims, they visibly relaxed, and we got a tour of the ship, although the Mate insisted on very thoroughly showing us the safety equipment, just in case!
The two seafarers on deck we spoke with both told us of long contracts, 9 months away from home, and short time in Ports- maybe 3 hours; of which most was unloading. They spoke of the fatigue caused by the 6 on 6 off shift pattern, and the lack of shore leave available. One said 'that even if we could go on shore, when the ship's unloaded we'd rather rest'. The other confirmed 'On container ships, we don't care about drink, we don't care about food, we only care about sleep'

The container ship felt very different from the Helena. It felt like another world, one where when we stood on the bridge, containers were flying past mere inches from the window on cranes, where everything from fruit to lorries was being transported. One of boiler suits and grease. No fusion of luxury here, just work, the smell of oil sweat and the metal walls of shipping containers on all sides.
containerviewFrom the bridge, the view across the port was incredible. The life and movement below was something to behold as ships sailed in and out, cranes swung containers around, the wind turbines turned and lorries and Straddle cranes danced an intricate dance on the dock side.


The Captain came to join us on the bridge. His story was familiar- once seafaring life was the best of lives, you saw new places, had several days in port, life had been more leisurely and he had loved Rio, New Zealand and the warmth of the Caribbean. Now it was different, in the brief time in port,mountains of paperwork claimed his time, his crew were always busy and had little time to rest. You were in port for only a short time and there was no time to go ashore to visit the cities or see the sights. 'Sailing in the 80's and 90's was a wonderful life, now it is much harder and is a less attractive career'. His eyes lit up again when we asked about life before, and he told us of his former adventures.
We headed back to shore, down the many, many flights of steps that had taken us to the bridge ('The worst thing' the Mate said 'Is being on watch and realising you've left something downstairs').

The crew we met had all said this was a good ship; some were on their second or third posting because its standards were high. It makes you realise, this is a container ship with good standards, and an understanding captain but the crew are still tired and some are homesick. What must life be like on a ship with poor standards, or a harsh Captain?


After a rest for lunch, our minds full of the sights we'd seen and the conversations we'd had, we were driven back to the station. Halfway out of the port, we stopped to watch the St Helena depart on her last voyage up the Thames to moor next to HMS Belfast. Snub nosed tugs, small but powerful, gently pulled her free of the dock. She swept majestically past on her way to a few days of celebrations and celebrities in London before returning to South Africa for her final few months' work in the South Atlantic. We wished her and all those on board a safe journey.


We'd like to thank everyone for a really great day especially those who welcomed us on board and particularly Geoff and Tim for the time and effort they put into making this port visit such a success.

On 9 June, 2016 The Belfast Harbour Office hosted a Business Breakfast event to recognise the work of the Northern Ireland Port Welfare Committee (PWC) and bring together representatives of the maritime industries from across the Province.
The Northern Ireland PWC is one of 15 such committees operating around the coastline of the UK with a further PWC based in the Port of Gibraltar. Each committee comprises of representatives from organisations concerned with the welfare of seafarer's visiting the ports and the local seafaring community.
These Port Welfare Committees operate under the auspices of Maritime Labour Convention 2006 and are an essential and integral part of the work of the Merchant Navy Welfare Board, an umbrella charity for the maritime charity sector, promoting co-operation between organisations that provide welfare services to merchant seafarers and their dependants within the UK.
The Northern Ireland PWC currently has 18 members who represent a wide range of maritime agencies and organisations all with an interest in seafarers and their welfare and is chaired by Mr Paul Hayes, Deputy Harbour Master at Belfast Harbour.
Mr Hayes commented "The NI PWC is a great forum whereby members can meet regularly to share information and best practice. The Business Breakfast event, the first of its kind in Northern Ireland, created an opportunity to promote the work of the NI PWC and allowed networking between colleagues from across the maritime sectors in Northern Ireland. It was also an opportunity to reflect on the challenges faced by those who go to sea in the run up to Seafarers Week 2016.
Mr Hayes went on to say "We would like to thank the Merchant Navy Welfare Board and Belfast Harbour Commissioners for supporting this important event. These are exciting times as the NI PWC will be one of the first to participate in a global network as part of the International Port Welfare Partnership Programme due to be launch in the new year".
Michael Whelan, ITF Inspector Ireland stated "I would like to thank and acknowledge the organisers of both the Business Breakfast and the Port Welfare Committee meeting. As the ITF Inspector these meetings are very important for me to build on, and expand on, existing relations with other organisations that have seafarers' best interest at heart."

ISWAN is proud to be part of the Port Welfare Partnership programn- information can be found here

For further information on the NI PWC please contact the Port Welfare Committee Manager, Sharon Coveney by email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or check out the Merchant Navy Welfare Board website http://www.mnwb.org/Northern_Ireland
A 30 sec video of the event is HERE

We are delighted to be able to provide the Story of Aman. Entitled "A Man Who Never Gives Up – Journey Of A Lifetime" this account of being a captive of pirates in Somalia is written in his own words and provides a unique story of the time he spent as a hostage.

MV Albedo, a Malaysian flag vessel with crew from Pakistan, Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh and Iran was hijacked by Somali pirates on 26 November 2010 in the Indian Ocean. The pirates demanded ransom from the Iranian owner but the negotiations failed and the crew had to undergo a horrendous ordeal, staying in captivity for a long time. The seven Pakistani crew (including the captain) were released after a deal struck between a Pakistani NGO and the pirates, and the remaining the crew were left. The pirates shot one of the Indian seafarers due to a heated argument with the owner over failed negotiations.

The remaining crew were taken ashore from time to time in turn and made to live in the harshest of conditions, with poor quality food and rations. In the month of July 2013, the ship sank and four Sri Lankan seafarers were lost. The remaining seafarers - seven Bangladeshi, one Indian (Aman Kumar) and one Iranian - were taken onto land until their release from captivity on 6 June 2014.
Mr Aman Kumar joined this – his first - ship after paying some money to a local agent in order to get work at sea. He had completed his pre-sea course and was 19 years old at the time the ship was hijacked, so one of the youngest seaman onboard, but he displayed a lot of maturity, courage and strength during his captivity. Chirag Bahri, of ISWAN / MPHRP South Asia, said of Aman: "He led from the front when left in the hands of merciless pirates who would beat them brutally and who did not give them proper food. The crew's morale was lifted up due to Mr Kumar's good behaviour with his fellow crew and he created an atmosphere of trust and good relations. He interacted with the Somali pirates and learnt fluent Somali so as to communicate with them on the needs of the other crew members. This made life easier during captivity for all of them. During their escape, he showed a great sense of reliability and helped other crew who were in poor health to come along."
MPHRP South Asia was in regular contact with his family during the period of captivity and also assisted the family with financial support so his brother could get an education at college. The parents were invited to Mumbai and were provided with counselling from Dr Harish Shetty. The programme gave them moral and humanitarian support and kept them updated on news about their captured relative.

On release, the parents were invited to Mumbai again and they met with their son after four years of captivity. Mr Kumar was assisted with psychological support and with good financial support from industry and unions. The first thing Aman mentioned to Chirag Bahri on release was: "I will join shipping again after staying at home for a few months." When he declared his intention to go back to sea again, there was resistance by his family members, which is understandable, but Mr Kumar was confident that if he joined a good shipping company, such problems will not arise in future. He has done so and is now back at sea again.
His story can be downloaded below.

Seafarers continue to be the targets of pirates and armed robbers, with around 100 held captive ashore by various groups in different parts of the world at the moment. The training of seafarers, best management practice and hardening of ships has formed part of the response, but companies still need to be well prepared for seafarers being attacked or taken captive.

The ISWAN Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme has issued an updated "Good Practice Guide for Shipping Companies and Manning Agents – humanitarian support of seafarers and their families in cases of armed robbery and piracy attack." The guide has been updated with the help of the International Chamber of Shipping, the International Maritime Bureau, the International Maritime Employers' Council and the Oil Companies International Marine Forum.

The guide covers good practice in the support of seafarers and their families before, during and after an incident. It includes recommendations on planning, and also contains templates of leaflets, nominee forms and sample communications with families, as well as other information of more general use. It is designed to supplement the existing processes of companies, and comes with the benefit of the experience of dealing with over 200 seafarers and their families who have been held captive by pirates. It is available free to download and reproduce.

Andy Winbow, Chair of the MPHRP Committee of ISWAN, commended the guide to companies. "Piracy and armed robbery remains a real concern for seafarers and their families and the ISWAN Good practice guide fulfils a very real need. All the industry partners and related organizations that have contributed to the guide have the best interests of seafarers at heart and ISWAN looks forward to working with them to assist seafarers and their families affected by incidents of piracy and armed robbery when they occur."

Cyrus Mody of the IMB, who helped with the revision of the guide, said: "within the shipping industry many companies have well prepared and well-rehearsed SOPs to deal with all types of maritime crisis. This guide can positively supplement elements of these SOPs so that they comprehensively address the needs of seafarers."

Roger Harris, Executive Director of ISWAN, concluded: "the guide provides a welcome addition to the services ISWAN can offer to seafarers and their families. Access to our 24 hour helpline gives seafarers and companies easy referral to agencies on the ground who can help individual seafarers and their families affected by piracy and armed robbery. We will continue with appropriate training and tools to increase the resilience of seafarers and support affected families."

A copy of the report can be downloaded below.

A new welfare facility for seafarers calling into Calais is now up and running!

The previous seafarer centre, Calais Seamen's' Club, was forced to close after its sponsor suffered financial difficulties. The reduction in merchant shipping through the port of Calais meant that a full time, permanent club house was no longer viable. This meant seafarers calling in Calais were without access to some of the facilities and services that are so beneficial when calling into port, as well as being deprived of human contact from the shore.

A small team of dedicated volunteers wanted to ensure that there were still facilities available to the seafarers, and formed The New Association Calaisienne des Amis des Marins (ACAM). Together they came up with an innovative solution to the problem. A "mobile club"! Using a minibus to visit those ships that arrive in port, this removes overheads such as rent whilst still providing a lot of the welfare services that make life more comfortable for the seafarers they serve. Offering toiletries, confectionary, books, phone & sim cards, currency exchange and transportation into town for the seafarers, the volunteers are also currently looking at ways to provide mobile Wi-Fi.

The mobile club is a vital point of contact for seafarers. It also allows a chance for seafarers to talk to a person on land about any difficulties they may be experiencing at sea, and get help and support where needed.

Seafarers can contact the club through the president, Anne Fetel at 0033321363477 or 0033672771813 or through Jill Simpson at 0033321357749

 

Registration for The IMO Day of the Seafarer Event organised by the International Seafarers' Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) is now open. This is a free event aimed at seafarers and their families and will be held in Manila, the Philippines, at the SMX Convention Centre. All seafarers and their families in Manila are invited to attend, but registration HERE is essential because places are restricted. With 2000 attendees expected, this will be a truly memorable day for those involved.

In line with the IMO's theme for Day of the Seafarer 2016 'At Sea For All', the ISWAN celebratory event will include a fantastic line up of activities including a family area with face painting, bouncing castle and story-telling; performances and stage shows; Zumba fitness and films; lunch for all attendees; exhibition stands from maritime organisations; prizes, giveaways and more. There will also be a Health and Wellbeing Zone, with medical professionals providing advice, free health checks, and health information. The event's Guest of Honour is IMO Secretary-General Mr Kitack Lim who will address the attendees.

There is a promotional leaflet for anyone who can help advertise the event to seafarers in Manila.

Seafarers can register for free at www.dayoftheseafarer.org. Places are expected to fill up fast so registrations should be made soon to avoid disappointment.

The event sponsors are the ITF, Wrist Ship Supply, AMOSUP, UK P&I, Inmarsat, ICS, IMEC, PSU, GASFI and Seafarer Asia.


For further information please contact ISWAN Executive Director This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Project Manager This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Launched yesterday evening at the International Maritime Organization, the latest five-year BIMCO/ICS Manpower Report forecasts a serious future shortage in the supply of seafarers. The report identifies:a current shortfall of about 16,500 officers (2.1%), but a need for an additional 147,500 officers by 2025 to service the world merchant fleet.

The global supply of officers is forecast to increase steadily, but this is predicted to be outpaced by increasing demand.

Some officer categories are in especially short supply, including engineer officers at management level and officers needed for specialised ships such as chemical, LNG and LPG carriers.

The report suggests that in the past five years the industry has made good progress with increasing recruitment and training levels and reducing officer wastage (i.e. retaining qualified seafarers and increasing the number of years which they serve at sea). But the report indicates that, unless training levels are increased significantly, the growth in demand for seafarers could generate a serious shortage in the total supply of officers.

However, the report estimates there is a current surplus of about 119,000 ratings (15.8%), with demand only having increased by about 1% since 2010.

Significantly, China is thought to have overtaken the Philippines as the largest single source of seafarers qualified for international trade (although the Philippines is still the largest source of ratings). However, data from international shipping companies suggests that the extent to which Chinese seafarers are available for international service may be more limited, with the Philippines and Russia seen as equally important sources of officers, followed closely by Ukraine and India.

BIMCO CEO, Angus Frew, said: "BIMCO and ICS have once again collaborated closely to produce valuable in-depth analysis of maritime manpower trends. The industry can put this report to good use by ensuring we can continue to operate the world merchant fleet with sufficient numbers of qualified and competent seafarers."

ICS Secretary General, Peter Hinchliffe commented: "Without continuing efforts to promote careers at sea and improve levels of recruitment and retention, the report suggests it cannot be guaranteed that there will be an abundant supply of seafarers in the future."

A summary of the key figures in the report can be downloaded free of charge from home pages of the BIMCO and ICS websites.

The full BIMCO/ICS Manpower Report can be purchased from Marisec Publications here.

From press release.

 

Our Seafarer Help Team are trained deal with a variety of cases calmly and effectively. Sometimes they deal with the case themselves and other times they will refer it to other organisations to assist. The cases the team deal with can vary from simple requests for information, complicated wages issues, repatriation, emotional problems, or issues such as a health problems or a death on board. Sometimes the team deal with seafarers who are in distress such as Kiran*

Kiran had been suffering from bullying which had escalated to physical violence being used against him. Kiran contacted our team member using the Livechat facility. This has a translate function which allowed our team member to communicate in his own language. This made it easier for Kiran to express himself. During the chat, he messaged a video which showed him being verbally abused, sworn at, called stupid, and also being physically abused. He was hit with a broom and elbowed hard in the chest. This was a frequent occurrence for Kiran. He had spoken with his manning company who had dismissed his complaint, his life on board was becoming increasingly unpleasant and he felt he could not go on. He was desperate to be repatriated as he was sinking into despair.

Our team members are trained to ensure that if a seafarer expresses extreme distress, as in this case, that they should be immediately directed to someone who can offer support, as well as someone who can sort out the bullying.

In this case, the team member offered to refer Kiran to a chaplain and the ITF. The chaplain could offer emotional support and a friendly face, and the ITF could look into the bullying and issues around repatriating Kiran. Kiran was concerned about being blacklisted if he talked to the ITF, and was not sure what to do. Our team member explained that the ITF could take action and offer advice without revealing his identity, and a much relieved Kiran agreed to talk to them.

The combined resources of Seafarer Help and the ITF helped Kiran through this difficult period. He is now on board a different ship and much happier in his work.

If you or a family member are a seafarer in distress or have some other problem visit www.seafarerhelp.org and we will do our best to help.

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

*name has been changed for privacy

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A new study from Oceans Beyond Piracy has found rising kidnap menace in the Gulf of Guinea whilst piracy attacks in other high risk areas are being held in check

  • Gulf of Guinea most dangerous region for seafarers as a rise in violence and kidnap-for-ransom was observed in 2015.
  • Despite reduced spending, international efforts in the Indian Ocean continued to suppress major attacks. However, several recent hijackings of regional vessels could signal an increased threat.
  • Cooperative regional measures in Southeast Asia resulted in steep declines in piracy attacks in the second half of 2015.

London, Tuesday 3rd May 2016:  The Gulf of Guinea has become increasingly dangerous to seafarers, as pirates increasingly employ “kidnap-for-ransom” tactics. The shift towards kidnapping and away from the once prevalent oil theft seems to be in response to increased naval patrols coupled with lower oil prices.

This is a key finding of State of Maritime Piracy 2015, the latest report published today by Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP), which analyzes the human and economic impacts of piracy and robbery against ships, focusing on those crimes taking place in the western Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Guinea, and Southeast Asia. 

In the Gulf of Guinea the study also notes an absence of piracy prosecutions.  Giles Noakes, Chief Security Officer for BIMCO, says “Unfortunately, the complete lack of prosecutions of suspected pirates undermines regional efforts to deter pirate gangs.”

In the Western Indian Ocean, the low number of attacks on merchant vessels has led to a reduction in counterpiracy efforts by the international community, which can be measured by a reduced naval presence, and a reduced adherence to self-protection measures by merchant vessels.  However, a number of attacks against small regional vessels has many experts cautioning against complacency for vessels transiting the region. “Somali pirates still possess both the intent and capability to carry out attacks. We may now be witnessing greater opportunity for pirates to attack vessels,” says Captain William Nault, Chief of Staff of the Combined Maritime Forces in the Western Indian Ocean.

In Southeast Asia, increased cooperation between nations for operational patrolling and response, effective prosecution of criminal gangs and industry vigilance appear to have successfully reduced piracy incidents.  “There was clearly an increase of cooperative maritime patrols and a renewed emphasis on arresting and prosecuting suspected pirates.  These actions by regional governments had a measurable impact starting in August and were critical in reducing the number of incidents,” says Matthew Walje, of Oceans Beyond Piracy.

Drawing on common themes across maritime regions, the report indicates that cooperative deterrence across the maritime sector is the most cost-effective way of suppressing piracy.   Speaking specifically of the Somali experience, Peter Hinchliffe, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Shipping states that “Piracy was reduced through a close partnership between international shipping and navies.  However, the threat of piracy remains high and we must remain vigilant and maintain deterrent measures.”

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For further information on the report, please contact Matthew Walje at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For media coordination, please contact William Reeve at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For inquiries in the US, please contact Peter Kerins at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For inquiries in Africa, please contact John Steed at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.