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 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.


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 and we will do our best to help.

For more information about our work visit

*name has been changed for privacy


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.”


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.

The ITF (International Transport Workers Federation) has commissioned an in depth study into the implementation and enforcement of the ILO Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC), which came into force in August 2013. The study will be carried out by Seafarers' Rights International (SRI).

The ITF was a major mover in the development of the MLC, which sets out comprehensive and enforceable minimum standards for seafarers' working and living conditions, and which has been described as 'the most ambitious convention ever, covering the modern realities of working conditions on board a 21st century ship'*. The MLC is the 'fourth pillar' in the maritime regulatory regime, along with Solas, Marpol and the STCW conventions.

ITF seafarers' section chair Dave Heindel explained: "Although the ITF is delighted that the convention is now in force, there is a clear need for a critical evaluation of its implementation and enforcement. Both port state control and ITF inspectors have reported numerous breaches of the MLC. That's why we've decided to commission SRI to do a thorough study to assess its effectiveness, and identify any areas where it may need strengthening. That study is likely to take around two years to complete."

He continued: "The MLC is a fine, pioneering achievement of which all of those who supported it can be proud. But there is no room for complacency. We've said all along that its enforcement and effectiveness must be monitored and checked. We're glad to be supporting that aim."

The ICS (International Chamber of Shipping) and the ITF had discussed a joint project, but it was decided that the ITF would commission the study.

awards logo

The shortlist for the International Seafarers’ Welfare Awards has been announced. The Awards ceremony will take place on 24th June at The Manila Hotel in the Philippines. Generously funded by the ITF Seafarers Trust, and sponsored by Inmarsat and Crewtoo, the awards reward the companies and organisations that have offered seafarers the highest standard in services and facilities. With each candidate nominated by seafarers, the Awards are an opportunity for seafarers to say thank you to those who have made a difference to their lives, and to raise awareness of their needs.

The shortlisted candidates are as follows:

For Seafarers’ Centre of the Year (sponsored by Wrist Ship Supply): Stella Maris, Barcelona, Spain; MTS Busan, South Korea; Stella Maris, Mackay-Hay Point, Australia; Port Arthur International Seafarers Center, USA; MTS Townsville, Australia; MTS, Victoria- Australia

For Shipping Company of the Year (sponsored by Garrets):Anglo-Eastern Ship Management; Carnival Cruise Lines; MF Shipping; P&O Cruises; Seaspan Ship Management Ltd

For Port of the Year:Port of Bremerhaven, Germany; Brunsbuttel Ports GmbH, Germany; Port of Kandla, India; Copenhagen Malmo Port AB, Sweden/Denmark; The Port of Singapore

For The Dr Dierk Lindemann Welfare Personality of the Year*; Organisation (sponsored by The International Chamber of Shipping):AMOSUP; Humans At Sea; Hunterlink

For The Dr Dierk Lindemann Welfare Personality of the Year; Individual (sponsored by The International Chamber of Shipping):Pst Joseph Chacko (India); Howard Drysdale (UK); Rev Stephen Miller (East Asia); Maike Puchert (Germany); Fr Edward Pracz (Poland); Roger Stone (UK)

Roger Harris, ISWAN Executive Director, said “We are delighted to be able to hold the 2016 awards’ ceremony in the Philippines, where a large number of the world’s seafarers are from. Congratulations to the shortlisted candidates who have all demonstrated their great commitment to improving the lives of seafarers. We look forward to announcing the winners during the lead up to our Day of the Seafarer Celebrations which will go ahead in Manila the following day”

The awards will be presented to winners by IMO Secretary General Mr Kitack Lim. Around 300 attendees including representatives from shipping companies, unions and welfare organisations are expected at the event. It is a night of celebration, as well as an opportunity to raise the profile of seafarers’ welfare.

The judging panels for each category can be viewed here.

*The award is named after Dr Dierk Lindemann who was instrumental in the adoption of the MLC in 2006 serving as Managing Director of the German Ship owners' Association and Ship owners' Group Spokesperson at the ILO.

Awards are funded by The ITF Seafarers Trust. They are also supported by the ILO, IMO, ICS, ICMA, Crewtoo, Inmarsat, Wrist Ship Supply and Garrets.

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


ISWAN were proud to host Chirag Bahri at a briefing on piracy on 7th April. Chirag Bahri has worked as the Regional Director for MPHRP's piracy response in South Asia for four years. MPHRP recently became part of ISWAN, and the ISWAN team also answered questions about ISWAN's work supporting seafarers and on the state of piracy today.

Piracy is a complex issue with a major impact on seafarers worldwide. In South Asia the MPHRP team have extra challenges. Although some ship owners and management are supportive, for other seafarers the work of Chirag's team is the only support they receive. Ships have been abandoned by owners when captured in Somalia, and there is not always useful support from the ship management during or after captivity. During a hostage situation, the piracy response team will get in touch with ship management and encourage them to stay in regular and frequent contact with families affected "day by day, minute by minute" says Chirag. "We'll help them sort out gas and electric bills and get access to accounts whilst the seafarer is held captive. We help them retain normal living conditions." When seafarers return from a hostage situation, or from any incident of piracy, counselling and ongoing support is provided. Their lives need "restructuring...they need support from families, friends, society, shipping companies. Sometimes their passports have been taken so we help them get new documents." Working closely with the Ministry of Shipping in India, Chirag works to get documents replaced in a relatively short time. He helps the seafarers move forwards, finding them jobs with shipping companies and getting them back to sea.

With seafarers from two fishing vessels still in captivity, the Siraj and Naham 3, and the cases of piracy involving hostage taking rising in West Africa and South East Asia, the impact of piracy on seafarers long-term and on those left behind is still severe. West African pirates can be especially violent. Working in closed waters and near anchorage or coastal areas, they have short timescales to board the targeted vessel and get the seafarers to comply. This can lead to seafarers being injured or killed. Preparation for possible pirate attacks is essential. "Preparing seafarers from grass roots is very important. We provide training modules on piracy awareness, covering how to prepare personally for attacks, and stressing the necessity of hardening your vessel, what to do in case you see a suspicious boat, and what to do if boarded, staying calm and not panicking. We teach them coping skills for during captivity." There are 120 piracy trainers in India who have been trained to pre-departure courses by MPHRP.

A lesser known issue with piracy is the aftermath for the ships during investigation. After attack, ships may be taken to the closest port and kept there while an investigation takes place. This can also be a difficult experience for the seafarers on board and for the shipping companies who are providing assistance to them. For those ships sailing through pirate waters, the act of doing so alone is enough to cause stress and anxiety.

Chirag is also working to broaden the response to crises beyond piracy, to help families in cases where seafarers are detained or go missing. As piracy changes, the field of piracy response is also evolving, and the support options for seafarers affected by any form of piracy are becoming more accessible and mainstream. The work of preparation is vital, and development of services which will benefit seafarers and their families an ongoing aim.

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