Watch highlights from the ISWAN Day of the Seafarer Celeration held on Saturday 25 June at the SMX Convention Center in Manila. The event was attended by over 2,500 seafarers, maritime cadets, and their families. The IMO Secretary-General, Mr Kitack Lim, attended and spoke the event. See here for more details.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Kong Sopheap

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

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

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

ISWAN asked to hear from women seafarers about their experiences. Female seafarers make up 2% of seafarers worldwide, and sometimes have the challenging task of dealing with gender stereotypes as well as the demanding life on board . We asked via Facebook and Twitter for stories, and Yasendy kindly agreed to tell us hers. If you want to be featured, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We'd love to hear experiences from seafarers everywhere.

"Hello, my name is Yasendy. I am from Colon, Panama and I am currently Chief Officer on a cruise line.

My fascination with the sea started when I was 15 years old, went traveled with a group of "Quinceañeras" (in English means fifteen-year-old girls), on board a cruise ship to celebrate our birthday. After that incredible voyage, I fell in love with the sea and cruise ships, so I stated that one day I would be back as a merchant officer.

When the time arrived to go to the university, I was decided and graduated successfully to start my career as Deck Officer. I had a great opportunity to work on tankers sailing in Argentina and met wonderful people that trained me during my cadet period. After that had joined the cruise ships and recently I was promoted to Chief Officer. Now I have a nine years career at sea.

The journey hasn't been easy; I have many difficult situations and challenges to overcome. Like everything in life, they are good and bad people, some that help you, but other that put your obstacles. All in all, there is always a positive lesson to learn, but one thing is that I love the sea. It makes me feel free, makes me feel like dolphins swimming to different destinations, and there is nothing more enjoyable than the view of the sunrise and sunset and the stars or moon while you are at sea. It is just perfect to admire the beautiful God´s creation.
If you follow your dreams, if you loved what you do; you would enjoy life and be happy.

I would like to advise young women never to give up and fight for your dreams; people will always try to choose what is the best for you, but you have to listen to your heart and do what you love not what other think is better for you. Follow your dreams and may you Captain Jesus to be your guide.

Thanks for collecting stories of women at sea. It makes me so proud to see other female colleagues succeed in this career."

"Zika Virus – Staying Safe," produced by Videotel, a maritime e-Learning leader, explains the dangers of the virus and how to help prevent its spread

KVH Industries, Inc., (Nasdaq: KVHI), announced on July 27, 2016 that it is offering Videotel's new safety and training video about the Zika virus free to all mariners worldwide. The goal of the program is to increase awareness of the vitally important prevention measures that can keep seafarers and their colleagues and families safe. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Zika virus a public health emergency earlier this year. Given the global nature of the maritime industry, it is imperative that seafarers take precautions to prevent further spread of the disease. The prevalence of the Zika virus in such areas as Brazil has heightened concerns with the approaching Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro next month.

"Zika Virus – Staying Safe" is a 13-minute training video produced by VideotelTM, a KVH company, with input from the International Maritime Health Association (IMHA) and a panel of medical and subject-matter experts.

KVH has created a dedicated website for downloading the free Zika safety video and an accompanying workbook. In addition, KVH multicast the training video to its IP-MobileCastTM customers on vessels across the globe, who will automatically receive the video for immediate viewing onboard. To spread the word quickly, the program includes emails targeted to a broad audience and a coordinated social media campaign.

"We are hopeful that our training program and distribution efforts will get this important information to the maritime industry swiftly and thereby help protect seafarers and prevent the spread of the disease," says Martin Kits van Heyningen, KVH chief executive officer.

The video includes information about the nature of the Zika virus, how to avoid becoming infected, and the role of a pest management plan on vessels to avoid passive transportation of virus-infected mosquitoes on ships.

"Knowing the answers to simple questions such as what color clothing to wear to minimize chances of mosquito bites or what time of day the insects are most active can be hugely beneficial to mariners," says Nigel Cleave, Videotel chief executive officer.

KVH is being aided in its video distribution efforts by seafarer agencies, including the International Seafarers' Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN). "We are happy to help promote this initiative to the 430 seafarer centers around the world, and also share this information via our many social media channels," says Roger Harris, executive director of ISWAN.

You can find the video and further information here. Download the Zika virus handbook at the foot of this page.

Other similar initiatives KVH has undertaken in the past include: providing free distribution in November 2014 of Videotel's safety training program about the Ebola virus, "Ebola – Staying Safe," thereby raising awareness among thousands of mariners; and providing thousands of free Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone calls for Filipino crew to call home, from vessels using KVH's mini-VSAT Broadbandsm service, during the Typhoon Haiyan emergency in November 2013.

For further information, please contact:
Jill Connors
Media and Industry Analyst Manager
KVH Industries, Inc.
Tel: +1 401-851-3824
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
or
Phil Page, Elaborate Communications
Tel: +44 (0) 1296 682104
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

ILO member States have confirmed the amendments to the Maritime Labour Convention ensuring better protection to seafarers and their families in case of abandonment, death, and long-term disability.

Two years after an overwhelming approval at the 103rd International Labour Conference (ILC), it has been confirmed that the Amendments to the Code of the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC, 2006) , adopted in 2014, will enter into force on 18 January 2017.

Ratifying Members had been given until 18 July 2016 to formally express their disagreement with the 2014 Amendments. There was wide support for the new provisions, with just two Governments stating that they shall not be bound by the amendments, unless and until they subsequently notify their acceptance.

The 2014 Amendments establish new binding international law to better protect seafarers against abandonment and provide for compensation for death or long-term disability - two crucial issues for the shipping industry.

When they come into force, in January 2017, the 2014 Amendments will require that a financial security system be in place to ensure that shipowners ensure compensation to seafarers and their families in the event of abandonment, death or long-term disability of seafarers due to an occupational injury, illness or hazard. Mandatory certificates and other evidentiary documents will be required to be carried on board to establish that the financial security system is in place to protect the seafarers working on board.

Original article here.

ISWAN welcomes the decrease in piracy as reported by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB). However, vigilance is still needed as ships are still being attacked and seafarers are still being affected. ISWAN works closely with the IMB and other organisations to support seafarers and their families effected by piracy.

London and Kuala Lumpur, July 2016

Piracy and armed robbery at sea has fallen to its lowest levels since 1995, despite a surge in kidnappings off West Africa, according to a new report from the International Chamber of Commerce's International Maritime Bureau (IMB).

IMB's global piracy report shows 98 incidents in the first half of 2016, compared with 134 for the same period in 2015. When piracy was at its highest, in 2010 and 2003, IMB recorded 445 attacks a year.

In the first half of 2016, IMB recorded 72 vessels boarded, five hijackings, and a further 12 attempted attacks. Nine ships were fired upon. Sixty-four crew were takenh ostage onboard, down from 250 in the same period last year.

"This drop in world piracy is encouraging news. Two main factors are recent improvements around Indonesia, and the continued deterrence of Somali pirates off East Africa," said Pottengal Mukundan, Director of IMB, whose global Piracy Reporting Centre has supported the shipping industry, authorities and navies for 25 years.

"But ships need to stay vigilant, maintain security and report all attacks, as the threat of piracy remains, particularly off Somalia and in the Gulf of Guinea," he said. 

Nigeria is the world's piracy kidnapping hotspot. Despite global improvements, kidnappings are on the rise, with 44 crew captured for ransom in 2016, 24 of them in Nigeria, up from 10 in the first half of 2015. "In the Gulf of Guinea, rather than oil tankers being hijacked for their cargo, there is an increasing number of incidents of crew being kidnapped for ransom," said Captain Mukundan.

The Gulf of Guinea accounted for seven of the world's 10 kidnapping incidents, with armed gangs boarding vessels 30 to 120 NM from shore. Nigerian attacks are often violent, accounting for eight of the nine vessels fired upon worldwide. IMB says many further assaults go unreported by shipowners. 

IMB reported two further kidnap incidents off Sabah, where tugs and barges were targeted. And in early June, a tug and barge was hijacked off Balingian, Sarawak in Malaysia and its palm oil cargo stolen. 

Improvements have been made in Indonesia. IMB's Piracy Reporting Centre has been working closely with the Indonesian authorities to improve security at sea and in ports.

Low-level theft to ships at anchor has been brought down by introducing designated anchorages with improved security. This has contributed to a fall in the number of incidents in Indonesia to 24 in the first six months of 2016, compared with 54 in the same period in 2015.

IMB also applauded the Indonesian Navy's prompt response in recovering a hijacked product tanker, south of Pulau Serutu, off west Kalimantan in May, saying: "This is exactly the type of robust response required in response to such threats." Nine pirates were apprehended and the crew of the tanker unharmed.

The IMB Piracy Reporting Centre is the world's only independent office to receive reports of pirate attacks 24-hours-a-day from across the globe. IMB strongly urges all shipmasters and owners to report all actual, attempted and suspected piracy and armed robbery incidents to the local authorities as well as the IMB 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.

 ***

For further information please contact:
Pottengal Mukundan
Director, IMB
Tel: +44 20 7423 6960
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


IMB Piracy Reporting Centre
The IMB Piracy Reporting Centre is the world's only independent office to receive
reports of pirate attacks 24-hours-a-day from across the globe. IMB strongly urges all
shipmasters and owners to report all actual, attempted and suspected piracy and
armed robbery incidents to the IMB 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.
https://icc-ccs.org/icc/imb

Seafarers can now easily access up-to-date information and guidance about HIV/AIDS on their mobile devices, thanks to a new wellbeing app launched by the ITF.

The free app is available for both Android and iOS devices. It provides the basic facts on HIV/AIDS – how it is transmitted, what the symptoms are, how you can prevent being infected and what treatment is available.

It also gives examples of workers who have challenged the stigma around the disease, and sets out what international and national rights a HIV-positive worker has.

Additionally, it separates the facts from the fiction about the disease, with 12 'myth busters'. For example, many people believe that a person with HIV can no longer work. The app explains that this is false – that an HIV positive person is as qualified as anyone else for any type of employment. Being infected with the virus does not alter one's capacity to function as well as everyone else.

ITF maritime co-ordinator Jacqueline Smith said: "Seafarers – like many transport workers – are particularly vulnerable to HIV/AIDS. We hope this app will help them understand more about the disease and be able to find information quickly and easily, whether they're at sea, in port or at home. We want to help seafarers keep themselves and their families safe."

Other wellbeing issues will be added to the app in due course.

Download the free ITF wellbeing app now.

Find out more about the ITF's work on HIV/AIDS – including the results of its 2015 survey of member unions about the health and wellbeing needs and concerns of seafarers.

SeafarerHelp is the 24 hour multilingual helpline for seafarers run by the International Seafarers Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN). 2015 was a busy year for the SeafarerHelp team, with a 17% increase in the number of cases compared to 2014. Cases and seafarers helped have tripled since 2011, as seafarers have become more aware of the support we can provide.

With ten team members speaking over 11 languages, SeafarerHelp assisted nearly 10,000 seafarers of 86 different nationalities in 2015. Seafarers contacted us from 129 countries. The most common problem was unpaid wages while repatriation and contractual problems were also recurring issues, Many of the contacts that SeafarerHelp receives are referred on to specialist organisations for direct assistance. These include the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) and welfare organisations such as Mission to Seafarers, Apostleship of The Sea, and the Sailors Society. Other agencies that assisted included national embassies, harbour authorities, and medical service providers.

The SeafarerHelp team follow up on all cases, and seafarers are given the opportunity to provide feedback on the service. Seafarers said "don't stop helping seafarers that need assistance", "it is important that all seafarers have a charity like 'SeafarerHelp..." and "It made a lot of difference as it gave huge relief to me and my family."

Roger Harris, the Executive Director of ISWAN said ''2015 was another busy year for the SeafarerHelp team. We are proud of our dedicated staff who are able to provide round the clock assistance everyday of the year to seafarers no matter where they are in the world."

The SeafarerHelp Annual Review for 2015 is available for download at the bottom of this page, as is an infographic that summarises some of the vital information.

SeafarerHelp is provided by the International Seafarers Welfare and Assistance Network, an international charity the supports the welfare of seafarers worldwide. ISWAN is funded by the ITF Seafarers Trust, The TK Foundation and Seafarers UK.

 

 

11 Indian seafarers have recently returned from jail in Nigeria, having been released without charge. SeafarerHelp and ISWAN have been in touch with them and their families, through the National Seafarers Welfare Board of Nigeria and following a visit of the Sailors Society chaplain while they were in jail. On their return to India, the crew related the following tale.

Their ship, the tanker Maro, was intercepted by the Nigerian Navy on 22nd July 2014 when it was transiting through international waters and had to anchor off the waters of Nigeria due to failure of its main engine.

The Nigerian Navy arrested the crew of the ship and handed them over to the Economic Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) on charges of illegal smuggling and theft of cargo.
The crew were remanded to judicial custody and were imprisoned for nearly two years. "We were fed with poor quality and low quantity of food and water. Two crew members had fractures on their legs while disembarking the ship," recalls one of the seafarers who has just returned back to his home. "We stayed in a small room where nearly 80-100 prisoners were held with no fans, no power, very hot and humid conditions and very poor hygiene."

The treatment received in when arrested was compounded by the lack of support from the shipowner. The ship was eventually released from arrest and has continued trading, but the seafarers have lost all their personal effects which were on board, including all their identity documents and certificates, and have received no salary or support of any kind since they were arrested. This has resulted in huge difficulties for their families as well as themselves.

ISWAN's seafarer helpline has been in contact with their families at home and is currently working on to assist them with their issues concerning medical and contractual payments. Recently, one of the ISWAN / MPHRP welfare responders visited the home of the crew member in Mumbai to assess their need for humanitarian support.

The crew thanked the Indian High Commission in Nigeria for their good efforts to bring them home. ISWAN / MPHRP Regional Director South Asia, Chirag Bahri, met with the crew member and his family in Mumbai. There are also four Nigerian and two Ghanaian seafarers who were on the same ship, and have also been repatriated.

ISWAN / MPHRP South Asia has expanded its remit to provide humanitarian support to families of missing seafarers, those who have committed suicide or are in jail, and therefore stands by the seafarers of MT Maro and their families to assist them with rehabilitation on return.

ISWAN asked to hear from women seafarers about their experiences. Female seafarers make up 2% of seafarers worldwide, and sometimes have the challenging task of dealing with gender stereotypes as well as the demanding life on board . We asked via Facebook and Twitter for stories, and Panagiota kindly agreed to tell us hers. If you want to be featured, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We'd love to hear experiences from seafarers everywhere.


I am Panagiota. I come from Greece,especially Peloponisos from a small village nearby the sea. From my early age I decided to follow the sea. Today, I am a 3rd officer from Merchant Marine Academy. I would like to tell you my story.

I am at sea 10 years now. I first started in ro/ro & cruise ships as a sales assistant. Then I joined merchant marine academy and the journey begins. Now ,after tankers,bulk carriers,and container vesels I may say this.."This job is only for those they love it ,despites the sex type. The job is not so easy but not so difficult as it is said. I have travelled around the world, I visited so many places, I now have friends from around the world. My heart pains when I leave my family but also I am happy when I see the sunset around the world.
I love what I do. I encourage younger people to continue even the situations sometimes coming rough.
Besides, if you dont leave the port you never see how is outside...

"Από τότε που κουράστηκα να ψάχνω,
έμαθα να βρίσκω. Κι από τότε που ο άνεμος μου εναντιώθηκε, έμαθα να
σαλπάρω με όλους τους ανέμους..."

ΦΡ. ΝΙΤΣΕ

"Since I was tired of looking, I learned to find. And since the wind opposed me, I learned to sail with the winds"

Fr. Nietzche