The special tripartite committee on the MLC met at the ILO in February to look at amendments to the MLC. The committee meets every 2 years to review the MLC. Amendments agreed at the meeting included an amendment highlighting the importance of health and safety onboard and proposing the inclusion of the new ITF/ICS guidelines on eliminating bullying and harassment at sea.

The meeting also agreed to establish a working group to draft proposals for a future amendment to the MLC to protect seafarers' wages if they are held captive as a result of piracy or armed robbery. The new amendments to the convention will go to the ILO International Labour Conference and are expected to enter into force in late 2018. The amendments adopted in 2014 on the financial security of crew claims and cases of abandonment are due to come into force in January 2017. The MLC has now been ratified by 70 countries that represent 80% of the world's shipping.

The meeting on the MLC was followed by a meeting on the Seafarers ID convention 185 that saw a resolution unanimously supported on the facilitation of access to shore leave and the transit of seafarers joining their ships.

Further information on the MLC meetings can be found at


17 March 2016

ISWAN welcomes the news of the jailing of Somali pirate kingpin Mohamed Abdi Hassan in Belgium for 20 years for the hijacking of the Pompei, a Belgian flagged ship captured by pirates in April 2009. Two other Somali pirates are in jail in connection with the abduction of same ship, sentenced to nine and ten years.

At the time of release of the Pompei,12 other ships were held hostage in Somalia, with about 200 seafarers on board. It marked a time of terrible suffering for a large number of seafarers and their families. While numbers of hijacked ships peaked in Somalia at 49 ships in 2010, involving the captivity of over 800 seafarers, they have now significantly reduced. However, there remain in Somalia 26 seafarers from the Naham 3 who, on the 26 March 2016, will have been held by pirates for four years. Three seafarers from the original crew of 29 have died in captivity. 17 Iranian seafarers held captive in Somalia will also reach their first anniversary on 25 March.

The International Seafarers Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) runs the humanitarian programme MPHRP which assists families of seafarers who are left without the presence of a son, husband or father, and as well without their wages. Funds donated for the support of the families by members of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia provides help for these families, as do other generous donors.

Tom Holmer, programme manager, said: "piracy has been a lucrative occupation for this man, but has spread misery, poverty and grief to seafarers and their families. Congratulations to the Belgian government for their work to obtain justice for the seafarers."

The Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme (MPHRP) was established by the maritime community in 2011 to assist seafarers and their families with the humanitarian effects of a piracy attack. Since August 2015 it has been part of ISWAN, a UK registered charity which provides welfare services for seafarers and their families around the world.

Contact details for further information :
Tom Holmer, Programme Manager MPHRP, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Watch the new 'Lifeline' video from ISWAN. The video made by Maritime Films UK, showcases the varied work and projects of ISWAN. Short interviews are held with ISWAN staff as they explain the operation of SeafarerHelp, the 24 hour helpline, the work on supporting seafarers affected by piracy, and the projects dealing with the health and wellbeing of seafarers.

The International Seafarers' Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) is delighted to announce that it will be holding an event to celebrate the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Day of the Seafarer on 25th June 2016.

The celebrations – aimed at seafarers and their families - will be held in Manila, the Philippines, at the SMX Conference Centre. The event will be addressed by the IMO Secretary-General, Mr Kitack Lim. It is supported by the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), AMOSUP, the International Maritime Employers Council (IMEC), Inmarsat, and Wrist Ship Supply.

The Day of the Seafarer was established by the IMO in 2010 with the objective of recognising the important role of seafarers. The annual event also raises awareness of life at sea, and engages support for seafarers' welfare. ISWAN marked the first ever Day of the Seafarer in 2010 by holding a similar successful event in Manila.

The event will follow the theme of 2016's Day of the Seafarer 'At Sea for All' and will include music and cultural acts as well as a health zone for seafarers and a children's activity area. Two thousand attendees, comprising of seafarers and their families, are expected to attend.

Mr Roger Harris, Executive Director of ISWAN, said: "We are extremely pleased to put on this Day of the Seafarer event in the Philippines where so many of the world's seafarers come from. The event will highlight the key role that seafarers play in our everyday lives."

The Day of the Seafarer event will be preceded by the 2016 International Seafarers' Welfare Awards ceremony on the evening of 24th June that will be held at the Manila Hotel.

Sponsorship opportunities are available and can be viewed here.

For more information concerning the event, please contact Caitlin Vaughan at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Roger Harris at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


The International Seafarers' Welfare and Assistance Network is delighted to announce the judging panels for The International Seafarers' Welfare Awards 2016. For the first time, there will be separate judging panels for each category.

The judges for each category are as follows:

Port of the Year- awarded to the port that has achieved the most in the provision of and access to high quality welfare services and facilities for seafarers.

Karin Orsel- CEO of MF Shipping, President of WISTA, Vice Chair of ICS - Kuba Szymanski- Secretary General of InterManager, and Andy Winbow- former Assistant Secretary-General and Director of Maritime Safety Division at the IMO.

Shipping Company of the Year- bestowed upon the shipping company or ship management company that has strived to provide the highest quality welfare services for seafarers.

Masamichi Morooka, Chairman of the ICS, Helen Sampson – Director of Seafarers' International Research Centre, and Jacqueline Smith, Maritime Co-ordinator at the ITF.

Seafarers' Centre of the Year- awarded to the seafarers' centre that has offered the highest quality welfare services for visiting seafarers. This award is sponsored by Wrist Ship Supply.

Father Bruno Ciceri, Chairman of ICMA, Kimberly Karlshoej- Head of the ITF Seafarers' Trust, and Robert Kledal, CEO of Wrist Ship Supply.

The Dr. Dierk Lindemann Welfare Personality of the Year- awarded to the individual who has, in the opinion of the judges, made an outstanding contribution to seafarers' welfare. This award is sponsored by the International Chamber of Shipping.

Masamichi Morooka, Rose George- author of the award winning Deep Sea and Foreign Going: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry that Brings You 90% of Everything, and Per Gullestrup, Chairman of ISWAN.

Executive Director of ISWAN, Roger Harris, said "We are honoured that eleven experts from the maritime industry could join our four panels this year. Each Judge contributes specialist knowledge to their panel, as well as a firm commitment to improving the welfare of seafarers."

The awards are an annual event organised by ISWAN and generously funded by the ITF Seafarers' Trust. The event raises the profile of seafarers' welfare internationally, and the awards aim to ensure that more companies and organisations engage in the process of improving seafarers' welfare.

The awards are also supported by the ILO, IMO, ICS, ICMA, Crewtoo and Wrist Ship Supply.

For further information about the awards, please visit or contact Caitlin Vaughan at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The International Seafarers' Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) deals with a number of cases where seafarers find themselves in an emergency situation and in such circumstances the seafarer may be eligible for a grant from The Seafarers' Emergency Fund. The fund was set up by the TK Foundation and the ITF Seafarers' Trust, and its aim is "to provide immediate, essential aid to seafarers and families of seafarers, who are directly involved in sudden and unforeseen crises". Welfare organisations have to apply to the Seafarers Emergency Fund for the grant on behalf of the seafarer.

In 2015 there were nineteen applications to the Seafarers Emergency Fund of which fourteen were approved and administered by ISWAN. Here is one such case:

Jon* contacted SeafarerHelp, ISWAN's free Helpline, to seek advice about a compensation claim against his employer for medical expenses. He became ill, following an injury whilst working in a storm at sea, and was suffering from loss of memory and appetite. His temperature was dangerously high, consequently he was sent home. After consulting a doctor, it became clear that the seafarer's lungs had been affected and that he required an operation on one of his kidneys.

The SeafarerHelp officer in charge of the case spoke to Jon in his own language and gave him the details of his local Sailor's Society chaplain who would be able to visit him. He then contacted Jon's nearest ITF inspector with information about the case. The local chaplain maintained contact with the SeafarerHelp team throughout.

The seafarer later had an operation to remove his kidney, but could no longer work and therefore required financial assistance to cover his medical bills. After consulting with a lawyer, it was made clear that compensation was unlikely. The chaplain contacted SeafarerHelp to express his concerns for the seafarer and his situation and he was advised to apply for The Seafarers' Emergency Fund on Jon's behalf. The application was successful and the seafarer was granted USD 1150 to help pay for his treatment.

* Name anonymised

On 9th February 2016, nine seafarers being held in Nigeria were released.

The ship 'Melilli', also known as 'Asteris', was arrested in March 2015 in Nigeria on charges of illegal oil trading. Some of the seafarers were imprisoned, and others left on board the ship at anchorage under armed guard. The owner and agent were not in contact with the crew and did not provide supplies to the vessel.

The Seafarers' Emergency Fund, administered by ISWAN, provided funding for two separate deliveries of food and water to the crew left on board, in September and November 2015. In total, the Fund provided USD 7,500 for food, water and medical supplies.

Amos Kuje, Secretary of the NSWB, said: "We were grateful for the help of the Nigerian Navy, who worked with NIMASA and with members of the Bangladesh community in Lagos to assist the seafarers. They have also helped some of the seafarers from this ship who have remained in prison, and we want to thank all who have helped to achieve this outcome in the face of very difficult circumstances."

Various organisations came together to provide assistance, eventually leading to the seafarers' release. On 9th February came news of the release of nine of the seafarers from the ship (four from Ghana, four from Benin and one from Bangladesh). Three Philippino seafarers had already been repatriated the previous week. Below is a photo of the National Seafarers' Welfare Board of Nigeria (NSWB), members of ISWAN, assisting these seafarers with transport. The NSWB also runs a drop in centre in Apapa.

pirat 2


Welfare boards, known locally as Port Welfare Committees (PWCs), help form maritime communities that coordinate, review and support improvements to the provision of shore based welfare facilities and services for seafarers.
An ISWAN pilot project funded by the ITF Seafarers' Trust, the International Port Welfare Partnership (IPWP), aims to encourage and support the establishment of Welfare Boards worldwide. With seafarers' welfare and wellbeing assuming greater importance, Welfare Boards encourage the maritime community to work in partnership with one another to ensure that seafarers' welfare in ports is properly supported. The value of Welfare Boards as effective welfare forums has long been acknowledged by the international maritime community, including the International Labour Organisation. Access to shore-based welfare facilities is now recognised by the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC, 2006) as a key component in securing seafarers' rights and freedoms.

Administered by the Merchant Navy Welfare Board, the International Port Welfare Partnership (IPWP) pilot project aims to establish welfare boards, in accordance with MLC, 2006, at national, regional and local port level.

Prior to the visit to West Africa the Partnership helped set up welfare boards in Australia (Gladstone & Brisbane), Antigua & Barbuda (St Johns), Republic of Korea (Busan), Canada (Ontario Region), Spain (Barcelona) and conducted a welfare review of seafarers' welfare in Mauritius (Port Louis). These PWCs now make a valuable contribution to seafarers' welfare from the Pacific to the Caribbean.

Following a trip to West Africa in January 2016, two new Port Welfare Committees were successfully established in Ghana and Benin. The establishment of the PWCs in Tema (Ghana) and Cotonou (Benin) marks a significant moment in the development of welfare facilities for seafarers operating out of the regions' expanding ports.

At the inaugural PWC meeting of the Tema PWC the Hon. Joyce Mogtari, Ghana Deputy Minister for Transport stated "The formation of this committee will enhance the provision of appropriate facilities and, of course, the services that are provided at ports and keep up with modern trends and best practices in seafarers' welfare."
Speaking at the re-opening ceremony of the Stella Maris Seafarers' Centre in Cotonou, General Manager of the Port of Cotonou, Naomi Azria congratulated the port community and Apostleship of the Sea (AOS) for forming the new PWC and improving seafarers' welfare. The centre has now been refurbished, following military occupation, with local funds by Stella Maris.

With new supply routes opened up, helping to connect landlocked countries in the region, major ports in the West Africa Sub Region are expected to experience a marked increase in port traffic in the years to come. In a region that experiences piracy, kidnapping and armed robbery the busy ports of Tema and Cotonou also offer safe anchorages that are used by thousands of ships in transit. The Partnerships success in the region not only demonstrates the significance local stakeholders place on PWCs, but also highlights the importance of the support and expertise that can be provided by outside organisations such as ISWAN, the Seafarers' Trust, and MNWB.

For more information on port welfare committees, including case studies of committees in Australia and Korea, please visit The International Port Welfare Partnership website.

If you are interested in joining the ISWAN IPWP project, should it expand into a major project in the future, then please contact here.


The Seafarers' Home Kandla is currently running an initiative which offers free eye tests to seafarers calling at the port. Joseph Chacko, of the Kandla Seafarers' Welfare Association, tells us more about the initiative.

What exactly does the initiative entail?

"The Free Eye and Ear Tests initiative is greatly needed, as the Seafarers work in a very rough/tough weather conditions at sea and in port and over time their eyes can become damaged due to the chemicals, hazardous cargos and dusts being transported. We felt that it is necessary for seafarers to regularly get their eyes checked up, so that if any deficiency it can be corrected or rectified at an early stage. Also free ear testing with an Audiometer will shortly be set up, which will be useful for seafarers working in engine rooms."

What inspired the initiative?

"Seafarers nowadays have far fewer opportunities to get shore passes to visit the nearest town; they also have less free time due to ships having faster turn-around times. Therefore, seafarers often cannot easily access healthcare or other facilities, nor get a chance to get their eyes and ears tested. However, the Seafarers' Home is located inside the port of Kandla, so it is easy for the Seafarers to get their eyes and ears checked there. Hence the initiative was born."

When did the initiative begin and how long is it intended to run for?

The eye testing machine was put into operation in Kandla on 21st December, 2015, and a total of 135 Seafarers made use of the facilities. Six seafarers suffering from AMD (Age-Related Muscular Degeneration) were detected, as well as one seafarer suffering from glaucoma. The initiative is intended to run indefinitely, and we hope it encourages other seafarer centres around the world to take up similar initiatives."

What is the initiative's goal?

"To enhance safety at sea with free eye examinations for seafarers working on the bridge, especially in watch-keeping and look-out duties, and with free examinations of ears for seafarers working in the engine rooms."

Who runs the initiative?

"The Sailors' Society, one of the largest seafarer support charities operating internationally, funded the free sight and hearing test machines. It supports their wider Wellness at Sea programme by proactively seeking to improve seafarers' physical health and well-being. The machine itself is run by the staff of Seafarers Home, Kandla. Kandla Seafarers Welfare Association(KSWA) have tied with a local eye surgeon, then photos of any eyes suffering from key ailments are sent automatically by email. If required, the doctor will give advice on how to treat these ailments."

How does the machine work?

"The machine is a non-invasive imaging device that takes a picture of the eye and can detect the five major ailments that lead to 90% of blindness - diabetic retinopathy, cataract, glaucoma, cornea problems and refractive errors. The device can fit into a suitcase and weighs about 15 kg, far less than traditional equipment. The machine can take images in a matter of minutes.

Operators have to be just semi-skilled with a working knowledge of the anatomy of the eye. The images are automatically stored on Amazon's cloud service. Specialists and doctors on the company's database, based on geographical location, are notified via email if the patient has a problem, and patients can seek immediate treatment if necessary."

How many seafarers do you hope will benefit from the initiative?

"We hope to reach roughly 2000 to 3000 seafarers in a year. Currently, we have one paramedical staff member and very soon we plan to add one more staff member. Future plans are to take the eye testing machine to the nearby villages where the seafarers and their families are located and organize Free Eye Testing Camps by employing the services of an eye surgeon."

The World Health Organization offers the information below on the Zika Virus. Seafarers travelling in the affected areas should take extra care to protect against mosquito bites.

Serious long-term symptoms are uncommon, but there are reports that the virus can be harmful for pregnant women and their unborn babies. Please see further information here

Travel advice published by Public Health England (PHE) states that the risk of sexual transmission of the virus is thought to be "very low", but it has occurred "in a small number of cases".

The UK's National Health Service (NHS) thus cautions women at risk of being, or already, pregnant, that if her partner has travelled to an affected country, condom use "is advised" for 28 days after [the partner's] return home "if he had no Zika symptoms", but "for six months following recovery if he experienced Zika symptoms or a Zika virus infection has been confirmed by a doctor".

Further information for seafarers on safe travel can be found here

Zika Virus Key facts
• Zika virus disease is caused by a virus transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes.
• People with Zika virus disease usually have a mild fever, skin rash (exanthema) and conjunctivitis. These symptoms normally last for 2-7 days.
• There is no specific treatment or vaccine currently available.
• The best form of prevention is protection against mosquito bites.
• The virus is known to circulate in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific.

Zika virus is an emerging mosquito-borne virus first identified in Uganda in 1947 in rhesus monkeys through a monitoring network of sylvatic yellow fever. It was subsequently identified in humans in 1952 in Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania. Outbreaks of Zika virus disease have been recorded in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific.

• Genre: Flavivirus
• Vector: Aedes mosquitoes (which usually bite during the morning and late afternoon/evening hours)
• Reservoir: Unknown

Signs and Symptoms
The incubation period (the time from exposure to symptoms) of Zika virus disease is not clear, but is likely to be a few days. The symptoms are similar to other arbovirus infections such as dengue, and include fever, skin rashes, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise, and headache. These symptoms are usually mild and last for 2-7 days.

During large outbreaks in French Polynesia and Brazil in 2013 and 2015 respectively, national health authorities reported potential neurological and auto-immune complications of Zika virus disease. Recently in Brazil, local health authorities have observed an increase in Zika virus infections in the general public as well as an increase in babies born with microcephaly in northeast Brazil. Agencies investigating the Zika outbreaks are finding an increasing body of evidence about the link between Zika virus and microcephaly. However, more investigation is needed before we understand the relationship between microcephaly in babies and the Zika virus. Other potential causes are also being investigated.

Zika virus is transmitted to people through the bite of an infected mosquito from the Aedes genus, mainly Aedes aegypti in tropical regions. This is the same mosquito that transmits dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever.

Zika virus disease outbreaks were reported for the first time from the Pacific in 2007 and 2013 (Yap and French Polynesia, respectively), and in 2015 from the Americas (Brazil and Colombia) and Africa (Cape Verde). In addition, more than 13 countries in the Americas have reported sporadic Zika virus infections indicating rapid geographic expansion of Zika virus.

Zika virus is diagnosed through PCR (polymerase chain reaction) and virus isolation from blood samples. Diagnosis by serology can be difficult as the virus can cross-react with other flaviviruses such as dengue, West Nile and yellow fever.

Mosquitoes and their breeding sites pose a significant risk factor for Zika virus infection. Prevention and control relies on reducing mosquitoes through source reduction (removal and modification of breeding sites) and reducing contact between mosquitoes and people.
This can be done by using insect repellent; wearing clothes (preferably light-coloured) that cover as much of the body as possible; using physical barriers such as screens, closed doors and windows; and sleeping under mosquito nets. It is also important to empty, clean or cover containers that can hold water such as buckets, flower pots or tyres, so that places where mosquitoes can breed are removed. Special attention and help should be given to those who may not be able to protect themselves adequately, such as young children, the sick or elderly.

During outbreaks, health authorities may advise that spraying of insecticides be carried out. Insecticides recommended by the WHO Pesticide Evaluation Scheme may also be used as larvicides to treat relatively large water containers.

Travellers should take the basic precautions described above to protect themselves from mosquito bites.

Zika virus disease is usually relatively mild and requires no specific treatment. People sick with Zika virus should get plenty of rest, drink enough fluids, and treat pain and fever with common medicines. If symptoms worsen, they should seek medical care and advice. There is currently no vaccine available.

Information about the virus is also available from the US centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website