SeafarerHelp is a free, confidential, multilingual helpline for seafarers and their families, available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. When seafarers who have been abandoned contact the helpline, the SeafarerHelp team can provide support and assistance.

Last July, six crew members from India and Pakistan contacted SeafarerHelp with multiple serious issues.

The Captain and the Chief Officer had absconded from their ship in Dubai, leaving the remaining crew members to fend for themselves. The ship itself was illegal as it did not seem to have an IMO number, and the crew did not have proper contracts. They were also facing many welfare issues, including a lack of provisions and a shortage of fuel oil for the generators. They contacted SeafarerHelp to request help in arranging their repatriation.

The SeafarerHelp team contacted the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) support team, Mission to Seafarers in Dubai, and the embassies of the crew members in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

However, despite the combined efforts from the different authorities, the situation on board was not improving. The crew were not only short of provisions but also running low on fuel and were afraid they would be unable to charge their phone, effectively cutting them off from the world.

In response, the SeafarerHelp team updated Mission to Seafarers in Dubai, stressing the urgency of the situation and requested immediate assistance. In turn, Mission to Seafarers contacted the harbour master at State Port Control and insisted that the immediate welfare issues were resolved. Thanks to these efforts, the crew were finally provided with provisions and fuel.

During the crew's ordeal, the SeafarerHelp team regularly followed up on the crew’s situation and updated their respective embassies and Mission to Seafarers in the UAE. The crew contacted SeafarerHelp when they could not reach anyone else and when the onboard situation became desperate. The SeafarerHelp team constantly reassured the crew members, and reminded them that the helpline is available 24/7 so they could contact the team any time with updates.

Although the situation was very complicated, the UAE authorities finally issued exit visas for the seafarers and all the crew were repatriated. Before their departure, crew members phoned SeafarerHelp, thanking both the team and Mission to Seafarers for the moral support and practical assistance provided throughout their ordeal.

If you are a seafarer and are concerned about being abandoned, you can find advice in the Abandonment section of the SeafarerHelp website. Alternatively, you can speak to a member of the SeafarerHelp team for guidance or support at any time (all our contact details can be found here).

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.

The UN Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS) held its 20th Plenary session from 5th - 7th July 2017 in Mauritius. ISWAN attended the important meeting of stakeholders from across the globe and took part in various discussions especially on issues of welfare provisions for seafarers and their families hijacked by Somali pirates.

ISWAN’s South Asia representative, Mr Chirag Bahri, briefed the members on status of Piracy Survivor Family Fund, which is administered by ISWAN on behalf of the CGPCS. Chirag informed the meeting of the utilisation of funds for rehabilitation of seafarers returned from captivity of pirates and how it has helped them to reconstruct their lives. Chirag, while thanking donors for their generous contributions to the fund, appealed the attendees to consider to donate further funds which will be used for rehabilitation work of 26 seafarers of Naham 3 and for the eight Iranian seafarers on the FV Shiraj once they get home.

The Chair of CGPCS expressed his appreciation of the work done by ISWAN / MPHRP towards welfare of seafarers and supported Chirag’s appeal. The meeting was attended by a range of countries including UK, France, Japan, USA, India, Russia, China, Somalia, Kenya, Mauritius, Seychelles and other organisations. The members also deliberated on strengthening Somalia’s capacity to combat piracy and other maritime threats.

CGPCS 2017 4

20th July 2017

The ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation) has successfully supported the crew in three ship abandonment cases in UK waters that show a culture close to modern day slavery in some parts of the shipping industry.

'The regulation exists to prevent this abuse from happening but some people seem to think it doesn’t apply to them,' commented ITF seafarers’ section chair Dave Heindel.

'The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and UK Border Force deserve recognition for their efforts to enforce regulation intended to maintain decent standards for all seafarers – action by the flag state has yet to be seen. It’s also disappointing to see the reluctance of the P&I club to step up and pay out under the requirements that came into force in January this year under the amended Maritime Labour Convention, 2006.'

He continued: 'We are closely monitoring the operation of these provisions ahead of our reporting on them to the ILO (International Labour Organization) and IMO (International Maritime Organization). What these cases reveal is a tendency to take the word of the owners at face value and ignore both the evidence onboard and the fact that this insurance was specifically designed to allow direct access to seafarers and their representatives. This cannot be tolerated.'

The three cases all involve one owner, Voda Shipping of Istanbul, Turkey. They are the Reggae in Port of Leith, Scotland; Tahsin in Sharpness, England; and Seccadi in Ellesmere Port, England.

ITF inspector Darren Proctor recounted the case of the Panama-flagged Tahsin:
'The vessel entered Sharpness, Gloucestershire on 31 May and was detained by the MCA after a complaint was received regarding outstanding wages and drinking water.

'The crew consisted of five Turkish crew, two Indians and two Georgians. None of them had been paid for three months, but the Indian crew had not been paid since joining in September and October 2016, and had had to pay to even get the jobs. One of the contracts for an AB was for USD250 total per month.

'Following ITF intervention seven of the nine crew (the master still remains onboard and the cook only recently joined) were repatriated and paid in full, including at the ILO minimum wage for the one illegally contracted for just 250 dollars a month.

'There were many findings onboard, including evidence of the crew drinking seawater as there was no potable water on the ship for over 10 days, out of date food, non-operational galley equipment and a genuine concern over the labour practices. The master thought it was acceptable to pay the crew every three months and not keep wage accounts. The vessel has since been revisited by the MCA and issued with a further list of deficiencies.'

ITF inspector Liam Wilson reported on the case of the Reggae: 'I can now confirm all wages are paid until the end of June and all crew are to be replaced from the vessel with full entitlements. Three months of the conditions they have been living and working under is enough for anyone. The risk they face is too high for them to simply sail out of port again and for the cycle of abuse and mistreatment to start again – they might not experience the same positive outcome next time.'

ITF inspector Tommy Molloy, talked about the Seccadi: 'The crew, who had been paid as little as USD0.85 an hour, have finally been repatriated. The ship owner was informed by the Border Force when the ship was detained by the MCA that if all issues were not resolved by the end of the defined period that the vessel was allowed to remain in the UK, the Force would have little option but to deport the crew. In fact, the Force granted an extension to their leave of stay which was to expire on 12 July 2017.

'Lodestar, the P&I club responsible for abandonment insurance, claimed it would be premature to trigger the insurance mechanism, in spite of the fact that all aspects of abandonment were in evidence (failure to pay wages for more than two months, failure to repatriate, failure to provide adequate provisions).

'For the first 10 days of the detention nothing much was done. In the meantime the Tahsin and Reggae were also detained for the same issues. The company started to pay wages on Seccadi but things were looking even grimmer on the other two vessels.’

'After much pressure the owners claimed that they would repatriate three Indian crew members on Saturday 8 July. They provided the flight details but not the tickets. Afterwards one of these crew members told me he had paid for a ticket for an onward connecting flight to his home region from Mumbai. He lost this ticket when the ticket from the company did not turn up. I asked why he was paying for part of his journey home. It was then that we discovered that the crew were all required to pay for their own flights from their home countries to Istanbul and then the company would fly them from there to join a ship. The same applies on the way home, another breach of the MLC.

'It was also revealed that the Indian crew members had to pay thousands of dollars to the crewing agent the company uses in India for ‘training’ and ‘certificates’. They either have to find this money in advance or are effectively tied to the company until this amount is paid back. This is a further breach.

'I have never dealt with a company so incapable of understanding what was required of them to get out of the mess they had created. By Monday 10 July both myself and Border Force personnel were telling the captain and the company that if all matters were not resolved by Wednesday 12 any remaining crew would be removed and deported. No replacement crew members from outside of the EU would be allowed into the UK while the vessel had no departure date and no next port of call notification. It was explained that they could not accept a new crew by simply parachuting them into the same situation with no clear end date in sight. Late on Monday the owners finally provided six tickets – but stated that three crew members could remain and would be joined by a replacement crew!

'The remaining crew – captain, AB and oiler – were in a very precarious position. The captain did not want ITF assistance but the two ratings, having previously agreed to stay to complete their contracts, now realised that their only option was to request repatriation by the owner. Once again the ship owner was in denial. So much so that I had to tell them that to avoid deportations the ITF would buy the two crew members their tickets and the cost would be added to the outstanding claim. The three of us were in a travel agency about to buy the tickets when the owner called to say the company would buy the tickets and pay the AB his owed wages. They also decided to fly the captain home at the last minute.

'We will not know if the AB’s wages have been paid until he gets home. What we do know is the owners purchased the cheapest tickets they possibly could, giving both ratings stopovers at connecting airports of fourteen and a half hours – with no money. The MLC states that the owner must provide the seafarer with accommodation and food for the duration of their journey and that a ticket with a baggage allowance of 30kg must be provided. The tickets purchased by the owners only provided 20kg. The AB phoned me later to tell me he had put a bag of his personal possessions weighing 10kg into the bin.'

It was a full house at the first ‘Maritime Silk Road Ports & Seafarers Seminar’ held in Shanghai on 7th July. Organised by the ISWAN International Port Welfare Partnership (IPWP) programme, the event was attended by over 100 representatives from the Shanghai regional maritime sector. Frank and open discussions were held on better ways to support and manage port welfare in order to improve seafarers access to shore based welfare facilities and enhance their quality of life. The event theme was ‘Create a better world for seafarers” and it opened with speakers from Chinese maritime senior management, the Deputy British Consul and members of the maritime welfare sector who joined together in a symbolic ‘hand shaking ceremony’.

‘The resounding success of the conference is the result of an excellent collaborative, partnership effort, which bodes extremely well for future relations’ stated Peter Tomlin, IPWP Global Programme Director. He added ‘Without regional support from across the the Chinese maritime community, the assistance of Ben Zhang and his team (MFEC, Shanghai), Prof. Minghua and Capt Pengfei (China Centre Maritime, Southampton Solent University), this inaugural event would not have been possible.'

Roger Harris, ISWAN Executive Director, took the opportunity to inform delegates about the important work of his organisation, in particular ‘SeafarerHelp’ its free global seafarers welfare helpline, and Peter Tomlin briefed everyone on the IPWP programme. He underlined topical seafarers’ welfare issues and highlighted the invaluable work of the voluntary organisations and maritime funders who provide and support seafarers’ welfare, which Chinese seafarers benefit from when visiting other ports around the world.

The IPWP programme team also addressed audiences at the first Shanghai Seafarers Forum (800 local delegates) on 9th July and the 3rd Annual International Maritime Silk Road Ports Forum' (460 delegates) held in Ningbo on 12th July.

The International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) and the Confidential Hazardous Incident Reporting Programme (CHIRP Maritime) have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) so that the two organisations can work closer together to help improve seafarers’ safety and welfare.

ISWAN regularly hears from seafarers about unsafe working practices and in future will offer to assist seafarers to complete the initial report to CHIRP highlighting unsafe working practices. This will be particularly helpful for seafarers whose first language is not English. Ray Barker, Head of Operations at ISWAN, reports that: ‘We have always worked closely with CHIRP but this MoU will ensure that CHIRP and ISWAN are not only supporting seafarers in their own area of work but also looking out for them in other ways. We believe that through our daily contact with seafarers we will be able to increase the number of reports to CHIRP, particularly from seafarers whose first language is not English. Through CHIRP’s investigation and reporting processes we are confident that these reports will lead to safety improvements in the maritime industry’.

CHIRP is regularly told by seafarers about personal and employment problems and will now ask them if they want to be put in contact with ISWAN’s SeafarerHelp team. If so, a SeafarerHelp officer will contact the seafarer to offer assistance with personal and employment problems, as well as emotional support and counselling if necessary. Captain John Rose, Director of CHIRP Maritime, said ‘We are very pleased with this MoU because it brings together two organisations whose sole interests are to improve the lives of seafarers all around the world. Working in partnership with likeminded organisations is a great pleasure and together we can achieve more for the benefit of seafarers than we can on our own.’

By working together in this way, CHIRP and ISWAN will help to ensure that seafarers’ safety and welfare are given a high priority. To learn more about CHIRP and ISWAN, please visit our websites at:

www.chirpmaritime.org
www.seafarerswelfare.org

If you require further information please contact:

CHIRP: Capt John Rose, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
ISWAN: Ray Barker, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

CHIRP ISWAN logos

5th July 2017

Continuing decline in the number of reported incidents of maritime piracy and armed robbery against ships has been revealed in the second quarter piracy report of the ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB), published yesterday. According to the report, the first half of 2017 saw a total of 87 incidents reported to the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre compared with 97 for the same period of the previous year.

Recording some of the lowest figures seen in the last five-year period, the latest piracy report shows that in the first six-months of 2017, 63 vessels were boarded, 12 fired upon, four were hijacked and attacks were attempted on another eight vessels. A total of 63 crew have been taken hostage so far, this year while 41 have been kidnapped from their vessels, three injured and two killed.

The encouraging downward trend has been marred however by the hijacking of a small Thai product tanker en route from Singapore to Songkhla, Thailand. The hijacking, at the end of June, was conducted by six heavily armed pirates who transferred 1,500 MT of gas oil to another vessel. The incident followed a similar pattern to a series of product tanker hijackings in the region which occurred approximately every two weeks between April 2014 and August 2015.

'To prevent criminal gangs carrying out attacks on other product tankers, the IMB PRC is calling on Malaysian and Indonesian authorities to take robust action, in the same vein as their response which brought perpetrators of the previous spate of attacks to justice', said Mr Mukundan, Director, IMB.

Cooperation between Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines has been recognised as the fundamental reason for the overall decline in the number of reported incidents in and around the Philippines – from nine cases recorded in the first quarter of the year to just four cases in the second quarter.

Overall, the number of mainly low-level attacks off Indonesia has also decreased from 24 in 2016 to 19 in 2017.

Somali pirates remain threat to merchant ships

The hijacking of an Indian dhow in early April was one of five incidents off Somalia reported in the second quarter of 2017. Added to a further three reports of vessels coming under fire and a bulk carrier being boarded by pirates in the Gulf of Aden, the incident reveals that Somali pirates still retain the skills and capacity to attack merchant ships far from coastal waters. The piracy report urges ship masters to maintain high levels of vigilance when transiting the high-risk area and to adhere to the latest version of best management practices.

Pirates in Nigeria continue to dominate when it comes to reports of kidnappings. So far, this year they have been responsible for the abduction of 31 crew in five reported incidents. The numbers include 14 crew members taken from two separate vessels in the second quarter of the year.

Violence against crews continues with half of all reports of vessels being fired upon coming from Nigeria.

Recognizing the need to get a clearer understanding of the depth of under reporting in the Gulf of Guinea region the IMB, in association with Oceans Beyond Piracy, has proposed the idea of a ‘Community of Reporting’ – a project aimed at encouraging all stakeholders to share reports of piracy and armed robbery with the IMB.

Piracy and armed robbery

Since 1991 the IMB 24-hour-manned Piracy Reporting Centre, has provided the maritime industry, governments and response agencies with timely and transparent data on piracy and armed robbery incidents – received directly from the vessel masters or owners.

The Centre’s prompt forwarding of reports and liaison with response agencies, its broadcasts to shipping via Inmarsat Safety Net Services and email alerts to CSO’s – all provided cost free – have contributed to response efforts against piracy and armed robbery and to improved security for seafarers worldwide.

IMB strongly urges all shipmasters and owners to report all actual, attempted and suspected piracy and armed robbery incidents to the Piracy Reporting Centre. This first step in the response chain is vital to ensuring that adequate resources are allocated by authorities to tackle piracy. Transparent statistics from an independent, non-political, international organization can act as a catalyst to achieve this goal.

Follow the @IMB_Piracy via #IMBPiracy

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

Maritime trade union Nautilus International is calling for a shake-up to the industry to provide good quality, low cost internet access for all.

A survey of nearly 2,000 seafarers and shipping industry leaders by the maritime professionals’ trade union Nautilus International has found that fewer than one in ten (6%) seafarers has sufficient internet connectivity for video calls when at sea, despite often being away from their families for months on end.

By comparison statistics show 91% of UK homes and 85% of European homes1 have broadband access, with the United Nations recently suggesting that access to the internet should be a basic right, rather than a luxury2. The findings emerged from a white paper released last week by Nautilus to mark Seafarers Awareness Week (24th-30th June). The report also found despite nearly 88% of seafarers having some form of internet access at sea, most have very limited speeds and at high costs.

In addition, only 57% of crew have personal email access and just one third have social media access at sea (34%), leaving the majority of seafarers isolated from friends and families. Nearly two-thirds of respondents (63%) also suggested they would consider moving companies if the new company provided better quality internet.

Of the industry leaders surveyed, one in ten admitted they don’t provide their employees with any access to the internet (14%). The two biggest reasons given were fears crews would access illegal or adult content (83%) and the potentially high installation costs (83%). The survey also found that nearly two-thirds of respondents (58%) were concerned the provision would result in a distraction to work.

Nautilus has published the white paper to further raise awareness of the current communications provision for those living and working at sea which it will present to industry leaders, politicians and those working in the industry. The Union is hoping that shipping companies will then act to provide internet access to all which is free at the point of use.

Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson commented: 'It’s shocking that in this day and age access to the internet at sea is not viewed as a fundamental right. At home we take this for granted and being able to contact anyone in the world at the touch of a button with devices in our pockets is fantastic. But why shouldn’t seafarers also be able to do this?

'We hope this survey will highlight just how poor connectivity is for our members. With very limited and regulated shore leave, increasing workloads, reduced crewing levels and reductions in the quality of social life onboard, it’s essential for the wellbeing of all seafarers that we have free, high-speed internet access. We hope the results of our survey will help to convince shipowners of the benefits of providing internet access and explain how the costs and other counterarguments are outweighed by the positive impact of greater connectivity at sea.'

This survey is part of Nautilus International’s campaign for connectivity at sea. The full report can be found here on the Nautilus website.

Nautilus International is encouraging any seafarer concerned about access at sea to visit here.

ISWAN has produced a self-help guide for seafarers’ mental health to complement its free, 24/7 helpline, SeafarerHelp.

Working away at sea with limited means of communication and little or no shore leave means that it can be difficult for seafarers to access the emotional support they might need.

Forming part of ISWAN’s Seafarers’ Health Information Programme (SHIP) and overseen by Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Dr Pennie Blackburn, the new self-help guide is entitled Steps to Positive Mental Health and intended to be the first in a series of ‘Good Mental Health Guides for Seafarers’. It contains skills, exercises and coping strategies to help seafarers deal with their emotions when they are experiencing stress or feeling low, including examples of positive coping statements and guidance on using mindfulness to deal with stressful situations.

The guide also includes contact details for SeafarerHelp, ISWAN’s free and confidential helpline for seafarers in need. As well as dealing with issues such as unpaid wages and abandonment, the SeafarerHelp team is also there to listen and provide emotional support to any seafarer feeling depressed, lonely or unhappy, such as this Indian deck cadet.

Steps to Positive Mental Health will be translated into Filipino, Hindi, Russian, Arabic and Spanish in due course. The English version can be downloaded for free here.

For further information on the guide or ISWAN’s SHIP materials, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

We were delighted to interview Ankita Srivastava, a former seafarer of 11 years and India’s first female Chief Engineer who sailed on foreign going ships. Ankita, originally from Lucknow in India, currently works for Teekay in their London office as a Voyage Manager in Commercial Operations. She looks back on her time at sea favourably and offers future seafarers constructive advice about learning from difficult situations.

What inspired you to go to sea?

I had a great desire to do something different. No one I knew had worked in the industry before but I came across Marine Engineering while investigating the field of Engineering. I was immediately interested because I thought it was unique and unheard of – that’s what attracted me to it the most. It sounded so exciting!

What advice would you give a woman about to start life as a seafarer?

I would tell any seafarer, male or female, to embrace life at sea. Enjoy every moment you can. There will be hard times; try to learn from them and move on. If you feel sad, talk about it. If you feel low, share it with others. There needs to be a strong culture within a company that encourages excellent communication at all levels – both on board and ashore. I was lucky to have this working for Chevron, and to sail with seafarers of many different cultures. I had never stepped out of India before joining my first ship, but I soon learned to respect different cultures and views. The more senior I became, the more I tried to help others on board when they struggled. Support on board is vital and if you work for a good company, your crew become like family.

Is there any advice you’d offer women who experience discrimination on board?

Speak up. Companies should have mechanisms in place for seafarers to report discrimination or harassment. It can be very daunting to raise these issues because of concerns you won’t be supported, but if you can’t speak to anyone on the ship, then speak to someone in office. Discrimination of women seafarers will continue until more women challenge it when they experience it. It’s the same on land.

What do you feel was your biggest achievement at sea?

It was probably becoming India’s first female Chief Engineer sailing on foreign going ships. At the time I didn’t see the point of self-promotion or drawing attention to this. I felt so privileged to be doing what I loved that I saw this more as a bonus than achievement. I now feel that it’s good to talk about it to try to inspire other women in the industry to follow their dreams and fulfil their potential.

Were there any other proud moments during your time as a seafarer that you’d like to talk about?

I did receive an award from DG Shipping of India for being the youngest person to pass Class 4 Engineering in 2005. My parents always taught me to be a good person first and take everything – such as this award – as a blessing.

Did you experience any challenges during your training?

I’d say mind-set was difficult. Across 4 year groups during my time at college there were a total of over 350 male students and just 7 female students. That was quite daunting and made me nervous but the training we got in the college prepared us for the life ahead.

What about challenges at sea?

Every day was different and routines were not possible which was also a real positive because it meant it was never boring, but it could still be difficult. You meet a variety of people too, some encouraging, some not so. Whenever I experienced negativity it lit a fire in me to prove myself even more – I always challenged people who would doubt my skills. I would ask 'Think about my work. In what way could a man have done better?' It is still a case today that women have to work that bit harder than men. On the ship they’re constantly under scrutiny. Her every move is known. If a woman sneezes, I assure you the whole crew knows about it. However, the great thing about the word 'seafarer' is that it’s not gendered. It focuses on a profession rather than the gender of the person carrying out the job. It reinforces the fact that anyone – man or woman – can do this job. People have to consider it as another job and not make it a gender biased role.

What do you miss most about life at sea?

Everything, it’s my second home! The sea, the engine room, the smell, the work, dinner time with ship mates! There’s nothing that I don’t miss. After achieving Chief Engineer position I wanted to continue to build on my experience. I wanted to learn and explore the industry and see things from another perspective. Shipping is so vast but there is so little known to people and I wanted to learn more about the industry. I also felt that the industry had given me so much and I wanted to give back. There’s still so much left for me to achieve in the future.

Is there anything else you’d like to say about life as a seafarer?

It’s a challenging job, both physically and mentally, but it’s important to always be yourself and go with your gut. You may not see your family for months on end so it’s vital you connect with your crew on board. Take the first step if you need to and your crew can become like family.

Ankita 2

Roger Harris
Executive Director of ISWAN
26th June 2017

It should go without saying in the maritime industry that 'Seafarers Matter.' We know that without seafarers half of the world would starve while the other half would freeze. Seafarers do matter, but if this is the case, why in 2017 are seafarers still being abandoned, mistreated, kidnapped and held hostage by pirates, bullied and treated as commodities?

So far this year our helpline, SeafarerHelp, has dealt with over 1,500 cases involving 6,000 seafarers. Of course bad treatment does not happen to the majority of seafarers employed by reputable shipping companies, ship managers or crewing agencies, but a large number of seafarers are still being viewed as second or third class citizens.

While the number of extreme cases is relatively small, many seafarers are denied shore leave or find it difficult to get off the ship to access welfare services and facilities. If seafarers really matter, then it should be made easier for them to leave the ship and visit nearby amenities.

There is an increasing awareness in the industry of the pressures of fatigue and isolation that can lead to seafarers experiencing depression and even contemplating suicide. Thankfully many shipowners, unions and welfare organizations are beginning to tackle this problem, but more needs to be done including erasing the stigma of mental illness and recognizing that mental well-being matters just as much as physical wellness.

Different parts of the maritime industry are also coming together to solve difficult welfare cases, such as abandonment, often quietly and behind the scenes. The Maritime Labour Convention 2006 is leading to improvements to seafarers’ lives, but many countries and ports need to do more to ensure seafarers are welcomed and valued rather than just being tolerated when they dock.

Welfare organisations running centres and ship visiting schemes in over 430 ports around the world work to ensure that seafarers do matter and experience a warm welcome. However, many seafarer centres around the world find it difficult to find resources to keep going. They need much more support.

Unfortunately, piracy off of the coast of Somalia has again reared its ugly head. A merchant ship was successfully hijacked in March, although the crew were only held for a few days. If seafarers matter, then shipping companies need to ensure that they abide by BMP4 and keep their ships away from the Somali coast as well as employing armed guard to protect the crew.

Governments must not become complacent and scale down their navies’ anti-piracy patrols.

Support still needs to be given to piracy survivors and their families. ISWAN is working with a range of other partners in continuing to support the 26 crew of the Naham 3 who were released last October after being held by Somali pirates for over four and half years. If seafarers matter, then pirate attacks and hostage taking should not be allowed to happen again.

On the IMO Day of the Seafarer, let us all celebrate the role of seafarers and say a big thank you to them. Without seafarers our everyday lives would be really difficult to live. Let us ensure that seafarers matter not just on June 25 but on every day of the year.