12th June 2017

SeafarerHelp – a free, confidential helpline for seafarers around the world – can now be contacted using mobile messaging app WhatsApp.

Communication is often the biggest barrier to seafarers seeking help, and ISWAN is keen to offer a wide range of ways in which seafarers of different nationalities can contact SeafarerHelp. WhatsApp is a free, convenient and widely used mobile messaging service, and its use of the phone’s internet connection to send messages and make calls means seafarers can avoid SMS fees and calling charges (although SeafarerHelp will always call seafarers back if they have no internet connection and are only able to phone).

SeafarerHelp can be contacted via WhatsApp on +44 (0)7909 470732. ISWAN aims for this contact method to be available for as many hours as possible, so the SeafarerHelp team will be online on WhatsApp from Monday to Friday between 8am and 6pm (UK time). Any messages received outside these hours will be responded to within the monitored times. All other contact methods for SeafarerHelp remain available 24 hours a day.

For more information on SeafarerHelp and details of how to contact our helpline team, please visit the SeafarerHelp website: www.seafarerhelp.org.

When a seafarer and their family are directly involved in sudden and unforeseen circumstances, they may require financial support. In desperate cases where no other help is available, the Seafarers Emergency Fund (SEF) can provide immediate, essential aid. Applications are made on the seafarer’s behalf of by a welfare organisation, and if the criteria are met, the organisation is provided with a grant to help the seafarer and/or their family.

At a health check-up in Singapore, Jessirine – a Cruise Entertainer from the Philippines – was diagnosed with breast cancer and advised to undergo a lumpectomy operation.

After the operation, Jessirine was repatriated to Manila to continue medical treatment. She was referred to AMOSUP Seamen’s Hospital where it was recommended she had an urgent scan to help identify how to proceed with future treatment. Jessirine expected the medical assistance from her manning agent to continue at this stage, but was concerned to find out that she was not covered by the insurance since her medical condition was not work-related.

Jessirine had only finished four months of her last contract and although her husband was working on the same cruise ship, they did not have enough money to cover the medical costs. They were paying rent on their home and school fees for their children. Jessirine was worried that delaying the scan would make her condition worse.

The case was reported to Jun Pablo, ISWAN’s Regional Representative in the Philippines, who submitted a Seafarers Emergency Fund (SEF) application on Jessirine’s behalf to cover her medical costs. The application was approved by three independent advisors to the fund, which was subsequently able to cover the cost of a Protocol Procedure with the Philippine Breast Cancer Network, along with all the necessary supplements Jessirine needed.

Jessirine’s experience of the support offered by ISWAN to seafarers in distress made her proud to work in the maritime industry, and she contacted her colleagues on board to share that ISWAN would assist those in need, whether on board or ashore.

The assistance from the SEF relieved the financial burden on Jessirine’s family, and although the intensive treatment made her weak, Jessirine noticed improvements and hopes to be back at sea after the healing period is over.

Published: 8th June 2017

7th June 2017

Safety at Sea has announced the shortlist for its 2017 Awards, and SeafarerHelp has been shortlisted for ‘Shoreside Team of the Year’.

Safety at Sea has been promoting safe and secure work practices within the commercial shipping industry for 50 years since its launch in 1967. The Safety at Sea Awards recognise those who improve seafarer competence and risk management with innovations and achievements in the fields of training, operations, equipment and services.

Seafarers rely on shoreside support, and the Shoreside Team of the Year category recognises the efforts of the shoreside team whose actions or intervention has gone beyond the call of duty. ISWAN is delighted that the SeafarerHelp team has been shortlisted for this award, as they regularly go above and beyond their call of duty to assist seafarers and their families in distress, responding effectively and appropriately to diverse situations of varying severity. One such example is the team’s immediate response to the hijacking of the Aris 13 on the 13th March 2017 – read more about the case here.

ISWAN’s SeafarerHelp is a team of ten staff members who often have to work antisocial hours and respond to unexpected crises involving individual seafarers or entire crews. The service is free to seafarers and available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The multilingual team members do everything they can to assist seafarers whatever their problem, wherever they are in the world. In 2016, the team assisted over 11,000 seafarers experiencing a variety of problems such as unpaid wages or health issues such as extreme stress or depression.

The winners of the Safety at Sea Awards will be announced in London, UK on the 12th September as part of London International Shipping Week 2017. For more information, please visit sasawards.com.

Steven Jones, Consultant to ISWAN, looks at the growing importance of cyber security for seafarers.

As vessels increasingly rely on automation and remote monitoring, key components, including navigational systems, propulsion and power management, can be compromised. With potentially devastating consequences for life, the environment and businesses.

There is a growing emphasis on seafarers to be able to respond. It is vital that seafarers are not only aware of the problems, but of what they actually can do as part of the solution.

The solutions are both human and technical:

HUMAN: The 'human element' angle cannot be overstated. Maritime cyber security requires unique skills and mindsets. It also requires an understanding of what can go wrong, when and how.

While seafarers do have more responsibility there is also a need to ensure people are adequately trained and prepared.

STRUCTURAL: There are structural problems too, and there needs to be a reassessment of the vulnerabilities being faced. Ensuring the vessel’s Safety Management Systems (SMS) addresses cyber threats is a good starting point.


Ships need to embark on a simple 'cyber-hygiene' routine to ensure that many of the more obvious vulnerabilities are dealt with. Various best practices would include:

  • Seafarers acting as a human firewall;
  • Seafarers recognising common cyber threats, such as phishing and email scams;
  • Vessels having up-to-date antivirus protection on computers, systems and mobile devices;
  • Vessels using updated operating systems and application software;
  • Administration rights being maintained, and those with access trained;
  • Data being regularly backed up.

In addition, it is vital that a shipping IT security policy is developed which is explicit and sets out penalties for infractions. While dynamic risk assessments which reflect the changing nature of ship life and demands are vital too.

In addition to this guidance and advice, there is a need for seafarers to be able to implement the necessary steps. So there are some absolute basics which vessels need to implement onboard as practicable actions, and crews need to be at the heart of these simple steps to cyber hygiene.

Seafarers should:

  • Set up strong user access control;
  • Set up strong network access control;
  • Perform regular, scheduled back-ups;
  • Test disaster recovery plans;
  • Ensure the SMS reflects cyber issues;
  • Make sure any anti-virus software is kept up-to-date.

With seafarers suddenly having new cyber security responsibilities thrust upon them, it is important that everyone understands what is expected of them and how to deliver.

SeafarerHelp is a free, confidential, multilingual helpline for seafarers and their families, available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Spending long periods of time away from family and friends can make seafarers feel lonely and isolated, and the environment on board can sometimes make this worse. The SeafarerHelp team is here to listen to any seafarer feeling depressed, lonely or unhappy.

SeafarerHelp was contacted in September 2016 by a seafarer on an oil tanker who was the only Indian on board and on his second contract as a deck cadet.

The seafarer felt low and anxious about his future, because he thought that he was not performing tasks given by officers with total satisfaction. He was also feeling homesick and alone because he could not share his feelings and experiences with anyone. In addition, he had recently broken up with his girlfriend.

There was no free internet on board and calls were expensive. The seafarer was in contact with his family but he did not want to worry them. His friends ashore did not understand how he felt and were busy with their own lives. He had also not been ashore since he had joined the ship.

The SeafarerHelp team explained that cadetship is an intense period and can sometimes be discouraging, but it is normal to have these feelings. The team talked to him about his work and his performance and he realised that his knowledge and skills were improving. The team also acknowledged that being the only person of his nationality on board was difficult and that his feelings of being alone were quite understandable.

The SeafarerHelp team suggested that he take some personal time and that he tried exercising on board as this would probably help to make him feel better and more positive. With the team’s support and understanding, the seafarer felt better and started planning projects for his holiday when he finished his contract. He wrote to SeafarerHelp: ‘Your messages were really helpful to me…Nowadays I am more confident in executing my activities which is really positive.’

DOTS Logo ENG HOR UN Blue inverted

This year, once again, the 25th June will mark the annual Day of the Seafarer (DotS), and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has announced its theme of ‘Seafarers Matter’.

The Day of the Seafarer was established in a resolution adopted by the 2010 Diplomatic Conference in Manila to adopt the revised STCW Convention, with the stated purpose of recognising the unique contribution made by seafarers from all over the world to international seaborne trade, the world economy and civil society as a whole.

The resolution ‘encourages Governments, shipping organisations, companies, shipowners and all other parties concerned to duly and appropriately promote the Day of the Seafarer and take action to celebrate it meaningfully’.

The IMO’s theme of ‘Seafarers Matter’ aims to particularly engage ports and seafarer centres to demonstrate how much seafarers matter to them. The idea is for ports and seafarer centres to share and showcase best practices in seafarer support and welfare, and organise special activities for seafarers on the day, such as:

  • A social event organised in port to celebrate seafarers
  • A public open day at seafarer centres
  • Free WiFi in port for a day

Last year, ISWAN held a successful event on Saturday 25th June at the SMX Convention Center in Manila to mark the Day of the Seafarer. The event – which included on-stage entertainment, family activities, an exhibition of company stands and a Health and Wellbeing zone – was attended by over 2,500 seafarers, maritime cadets and their families, as well as IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim. To see the video of the event, please click here.

London and Kuala Lumpur, 4 May 2017 – Pirates and armed robbers attacked 43 ships and captured 58 seafarers in the first quarter of 2017, slightly more than the same period last year, according to the latest ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB) piracy report.

The global report highlights persisting violence in piracy hotspots off Nigeria and around the Southern Philippines – where two crew members were killed in February. Indonesia also reported frequent incidents, mostly low-level thefts from anchored vessels.

In total, 33 vessels were boarded and four fired upon in the first three months of 2017. Armed pirates hijacked two vessels, both off the coast of Somalia, where no merchant ship had been hijacked since May 2012. Four attempted incidents were also received.

IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre has monitored attacks on the world’s seas since 1991. The report highlights three major concerns:

1 - Gulf of Guinea kidnappings

Of the 27 seafarers kidnapped worldwide for ransom between January and March 2017, 63% were in the Gulf of Guinea. Nigeria is the main kidnap hotspot, with 17 crew taken in three separate incidents, up from 14 in the same period last year. All three vessels – a general cargo ship, a tanker and a bulk carrier – were attacked while underway 30-60 nautical miles off the Bayelsa coast. Three more ships were fired upon at up to 110 nautical miles from land, and many other attacks are believed to go unreported.

'The Gulf of Guinea is a major area of concern, consistently dangerous for seafarers, and signs of kidnappings increasing. IMB has worked closely with the response agencies in the region including the Nigerian Navy which has provided valuable support, but more needs to be done to crack down on the area’s armed gangs,' said Pottengal Mukundan, Director of IMB. 'We urge vessels to report all incidents so that the true level of piracy activity can be assessed.'

2 – Growing violence around the Southern Philippines

Here, nine ships reported attacks in the first quarter of 2017 compared with just two in the same period last year. These include an armed attack on a general cargo vessel in which two crew were killed and five kidnapped for ransom. Kidnappers captured five more people in attacks on a fishing trawler and a tug.

According to IMB, militant activity may be behind the escalating violence in waters around the Southern Philippines. Armed groups use speedboats to target seafarers and fishermen in slowmoving, low vessels.

Areas such as the Sulu Sea and Sibutu Passage are particularly risky. IMB recommends that ships avoid these waters by transiting West of Kalimantan, if possible – and, as ever, follow the industry’s latest best practice measures, to protect against attacks.

3 - First Somali hijackings after five-year lull

Somali pirates successfully hijacked a small bunkering tanker and a traditional dhow, both within their territorial waters. A total of 28 crew were taken hostage and subsequently released within a relatively short time. IMB suspects that these incidents were opportunistic, particularly as the hijacked vessels were not following the Best Management Practices for Protection against Somalia Based Piracy (BMP4) recommendations.

'IMB continues to encourage all vessels transiting waters around Somalia to follow the BMP4 recommendations. The recent attacks should serve as a warning against complacency, as Somali pirates are still capable of carrying out attacks,' said Mr Mukundan.

'The presence of international navies who patrol these waters is extremely important as it provides an added layer of deterrence to the pirates and more importantly helps to secure one of the most important trade routes of the world,' he added.

The IMB Piracy Reporting Centre supports the anti-piracy efforts of international navies by relaying all reports to the response agencies, as well as broadcasting alerts to ships via the INMARSAT Safety Net Service.

Piracy and armed robbery prone areas worldwide

IMB’s latest piracy report gives detailed descriptions of all 43 attacks in 16 countries, and advice for mariners, including a list of particularly high-risk areas where extra caution and precautionary measures are vital.

The IMB Piracy Reporting Centre is the world's only independent 24-hour manned centre to receive reports of pirate attacks from around the world. IMB strongly urges all shipmasters and owners to report all actual, attempted and suspected piracy and armed robbery incidents to the IMB PRC. 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, nonpolitical, international organisation can act as a catalyst to achieve this goal.

To read the full report, download the attachment at the bottom of this page.

Follow the @IMB_Piracy via #IMBPiracy

'The State of Maritime Piracy 2016 – Assessing the Human and Economic Cost'
Oceans Beyond Piracy
London, UK - May 3rd
Event Report
Jessica K Simonds BA (Hons) MA

Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP) as a program of the One Earth Future Foundation launched their annual report entitled ‘The State of Maritime Piracy 2016 – Assessing the Human and Economic Cost’ on the 3rd May 2017 at the UK Chamber of Shipping in London UK. This report will outline the event proceedings, summarize the keynote speeches as well as the two panel discussions.

The event was opened by Admiral Sir James Burnell-Nugent a senior fellow of Oceans Beyond Piracy who welcomed the delegates, outlined the importance of the report in the modern context of maritime security and welcomed the keynote speaker Barry Faure, the Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Seychelles. Faure’s keynote speech embodied the importance of maintaining a positive state of maritime security for the Seychelles as a nation of islands.

The report was presented to the conference by the lead authors Dirk Siebels and Masie Pigeon of Oceans Beyond Piracy. The full report can be found here. It is important to note that the report covers the impacts of piracy for the year 2016 and does not include the recent surge in piratical experiences in 2017. The the two most notable trends in the report include the increase in the use of kidnap for ransom which has risen from 13 incidents in 2015 to 18 incidents in 2016 and that the economic cost of Somali piracy has defied its five year downward trend and risen from $1.3 Billion in 2015 to $1.7 Billion in 2016.

The first panel discussion was lead by Masie Pigeon of Oceans Beyond Piracy, Eric Frecon, Assistant Professor at the French Naval Academy and Richard Neylon of Holman Fenwick Willan LLP. The panel discussed the use of kidnap for ransom as a prominent and rapidly developing piratical business model. A prominent element of this discussion was the issues surrounding paying ransoms to piracy groups who are part of terrorist organizations as this poses a legal challenge in terms of funding proscribed organizations. There was also speculation surrounding how groups engaged in conflict in Yemen will profit from piracy and blur the lines between piracy as a criminal or terrorist threat.

The second panel discussion was lead by Col Richard Cantrill, EUNAVFOR Chief of Staff, Dr. Curtis Bell, One Earth Future and John Steed of Oceans Beyond Piracy. The theme of this discussion was maritime security in the Horn of Africa. This session allowed for a discussion on the recent piracy attacks that have occurred in the region. Col Cantrill suggested that the current situation is ‘on a knife edge’ as attacks have been based on opportunity - yet as there are less naval forces dedicated to counter piracy only time will tell whether this means that there is an increase in capability. The rest of the panel also suggested that the criminal model of piracy has become adaptive but is still based on a recruitment strategy based on targeting vulnerable men in an impoverished situation. It was conveyed that for the spike in recent piracy attacks to cease, ships will need to adhere to best management practices, stop taking short cuts and not sail too close to the shore. There are also a number of short term and long term measures that will suppress the threat. These include naval protection, armed security teams, rule of law, legal finish and arrests, regional capacity building, prosecution and imprisonment.

This author believes the most prominent areas of concern to arise at the conference are are the reduction of capabilities when dealing with the terrorist element of piracy as well as the reluctance of some seafarers in adhering to best management practices and appropriate deterrence measures in the region.

6th April 2017

The first network of HIV-positive seafarers has been launched in the Philippines, with technical and financial support from the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) and its union AMOSUP.

Positibong Marino Philippines has been formally registered as a self-help and support group for HIV-positive seafarers. It will work with the ITF, its unions and the Joint Manning Group (JMG) in the Philippines to defend the rights of HIV-positive seafarers, who find it difficult to get employment because of their health status. AMOSUP has welcomed the network by giving it office space in the union’s Manila office.

Jebsen Gamido, chairperson of the new network, said: 'I have been HIV positive for seven years, having got the virus before sailing for the first time as deck cadet. Over the years, I have faced so many challenges to getting employment on board ship. That’s why I am committed to build this network of HIV positive seafarers in the Philippines to provide mental and legal support to all HIV-positive seafarers, irrespective of their nationality.

'We will challenge the stigma and discrimination around HIV/AIDS and fight for our rights, especially in the Philippines, where employment discrimination based on HIV status is prohibited by law.

'The ITF has been with us from the beginning and we hope they will be with us while we grow to be a strong network to fight injustice and harassment and defend our rights.'

ITF maritime co-ordinator Jacqueline Smith welcomed the network and praised Jebsen Gamido for his dedication and hard work. She added that the ITF was committed to keeping seafarers healthy and happy and to remove the stigma and discrimination that workers with HIV/AIDS continue to face, and would continue to support Positibomg Marino Philippines with pride. She said she also hoped other union and health activists would be inspired by its example.

Follow the network on Facebook using @Positibong.MarinoPhil.

Download the ITF’s wellbeing app for seafarers, which contains a wealth of information about HIV/AIDS.

Find out more about how ITF unions are tackling HIV/AIDS.

ISWAN responded quickly when we heard that a ship, the Aris 13, had been hijacked off the coast of Somalia on Monday 13 March. Chirag Bahri, ISWAN’s South Asia Regional Director and piracy survivor, made immediate contact with the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), the piracy reporting centre, to obtain more details of the ship and crew. As soon as the eight crew were confirmed as Sri Lankan, Chirag contacted the local welfare responders in Colombo, including the ITF Inspector, Ranjan Perera. Chirag also made contact with the local crewing agency.

ISWAN was in close touch with John Steed of Oceans Beyond Piracy who is based in the region and has expert knowledge of Somali piracy. He kept ISWAN informed of developments as the situation progressed.

The SeafarerHelp team in the ISWAN office were briefed about supporting the families of the hijacked seafarers and they soon began to receive calls from one of the wives of the seafarers. The situation became tense during the period of captivity when threats were made to the crew by the pirates as the ship was being surrounded by the Puntland Maritime Police Force (PMPF). Thankfully, the crew were released after a few days without a ransom being paid.

This incident shows that piracy has not gone away and the industry, including the welfare organisations, still needs to remain vigilant. Chirag and the SeafarerHelp team responded quickly and appropriately and we will continue to offer support to the crew and their families when the seafarers return home after their ordeal.