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.

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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

January sees the launch of a brand new monthly newsletter as part of the Training on Board project.

Training On Board is an international training, nutrition and health project initiated by the Norwegian Maritime Authority in Haugesund on behalf of ISWAN. Training on board offers seafarers an accessible, free, and motivational programme that will encourage them to take care of their own health and fitness. The site features workouts developed specifically for seafarers, concentrating on plans that are easy to follow with little or no access to equipment.

The newsletter will feature exclusive added workout tips and health information.

Seafarers signing up will also benefit from new articles added to the Training on Board site discussing topics such as vitamins, salt, how to keep track of calories and much more.

For more information on the project click here.

If you have any questions about the project, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">

Download January's newsletter below.



Maritime employers and seafarers' unions have joined forces to publish new international 'Guidance on Eliminating Shipboard Harassment and Bullying'.

The new Guidelines, developed by the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF), can be downloaded from the ICS and ITF websites.

These Guidelines have been launched in advance of an important International Labour Organization (ILO) Special Tripartite Committee on the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC), to be held in February in Geneva, at which ICS and ITF will co-ordinate the representation of the social partners alongside governments.

Under the ILO MLC, governments are already required to satisfy themselves that their laws and regulations respect the fundamental right of seafarers not to be discriminated against during their employment on board ships.

Recognising that any form of harassment and bullying can have serious consequences for seafarers, the new industry Guidance takes the additional step of setting out what shipping companies, seafarers and seafarers' organisations can do to help prevent bullying and harassment from becoming a serious concern.

As well as providing advice on company policies on reporting, complaints and grievance procedures, the Guidance addresses the responsibilities of seafarers and their employers to use these procedures appropriately and for being aware of any harassment or bullying that might occur within the maritime workplace. This includes any instances of cyber-bullying.

The important role of seafarers' organisations in these awareness raising activities is also underlined. ICS Secretary General, Peter Hinchliffe, remarked: "Shipowners fully accept the need to develop policies and plans to eliminate harassment and bullying as a matter of good employment practice. Bullying has serious consequences for the physical and emotional health of seafarers and can also compromise teamwork with negative consequences for the safety of the ship and its crew. The fact that ICS and ITF have collaborated to produce this new Guidance is therefore a very positive development." 2

ITF General Secretary, Steve Cotton, said: "Bullying and harassment in the workplace are unacceptable wherever they happen – but they have a particular horror at sea, where those affected may be isolated and alone, hundreds of miles from home. Until now there has been a lack of practical common sense guidelines and we're delighted that we have been able to work side by side with the ICS to address this need."

The Guidelines are now being distributed throughout the global shipping industry via ICS national shipowners' associations and ITF union affiliates. The authors are also encouraging their use by maritime training providers and other parties with an interest in promoting the elimination of harassment and bullying within the global shipping industry.

Since 2013, ISWAN has run a fitness and training programme specifically designed for seafarers, called Training on Board. The aim is to encourage seafarers to develop their strength, endurance and flexibility while on board, by providing workout plans devised by a professional physiotherapist. These plans can be performed with little or no equipment. Seafarers are also encouraged to keep track of their progress by logging their activities on their account.

Training on Board then spurs seafarers on further by encouraging them to get their crew members involved, and to compete against other ships. The site calculates their scores and shows a scoreboard of the top competing ships.
Training on Board is based on a points system, therefore every time a user records an activity, such as running for thirty minutes or skipping for ten, they gain points. The average score per participant is then recorded in order to compare with other vessels' scores. This system allows smaller crews to compete against larger vessels without finding themselves at a disadvantage.

The site also encourages seafarers to measure their resting heartrate and waist circumference and to be more generally aware of various indicators of health. Training on Board calculates its users' fitness age, and then seafarers can monitor its improvement over time and with regular exercise. ISWAN aims to empower seafarers to exercise independently or as part of a team and to break away from an increasingly sedentary lifestyle.

ISWAN is currently developing the information available on the site, by adding extra tips and workout plans, and by launching a monthly newsletter packed with fitness information for seafarers.

If you have any queries, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit the Training on Board website.

Training on Board is funded by the ITF Seafarers' Trust.

SeafarerHelp is a free and confidential service provided by ISWAN. Seafarers or their families finding themselves in a difficult situation and in need of support and assistance can contact SeafarerHelp 24/7, 365 days of the year. The team can speak languages including Russian, Georgian, Tagalog, Hindi, Arabic, Polish and Urdu. Whether seafarers are seeking advice about unpaid wages, poor working or living conditions, or simply want someone to talk to, SeafarerHelp is there to listen. The team deals with a range of cases from all over the world. Here is one example:

SeafarerHelp was contacted by a seafarer's wife involving the arrest of an oil tanker in Yemen. Her husband had been working on the oil tanker, which had been arrested due to debts the company had incurred. The caller was concerned that her husband's wages had not been paid, and described the lack of water on board. She was also concerned that the crew were exposed to explosions on the shores of Yemen, a war zone. She explained that two armed guards had been placed on the ship, and the medical needs of the seafarers were purportedly not being provided for. The crew had been held in the port waters for four months.

The SeafarerHelp team member advised the seafarer's wife to contact the ITF inspector in her homeland, as there was no inspector in Yemen. The shipping company informed the ITF that a special representative would be sent to Yemen to negotiate with the local oil company responsible for the arrest of the vessel. The inspector underlined that the seafarers would then have to sail to a neighbouring country to be repatriated as there was no functioning airport in Yemen.

At this stage, the seafarer admitted he had suffered from severe pains in his hand but had continued to work in order to support his family, however the pains had increased and he had passed out twice. The company had been informed but had urged him to continue working. He decided to go on hunger strike as a threat so he could receive medical treatment as well as his wages, but the company purportedly threatened him with sending him to a psychiatric unit. Subsequently, the seafarer gave up his strike.

In the meantime, the ship had ceased to be under its original flag state and this was causing issues. The company needed an amicable settlement with the local oil company and a decision regarding their flag state before the ship could be moved on. The ITF in various locations such as Spain became involved with urging the company to pay the seafarers' wages.

At this stage, the seafarer's wife admitted that her child was suffering from an illness for which she needed expensive treatment that she could no longer afford. The SeafarerHelp officer advised her to apply for the Seafarers' Emergency Fund (SEF) in order to pay for the medical fees.

SeafarerHelp was then contacted by the wife of another seafarer on board, who declared that her husband needed medical treatment which was not available on board. She was concerned for his health and described how the crew were using the condensation from the air conditioning units as a source of water for washing. She also said that there were tensions between the different nations on board. Her husband consequently contacted the team stating he was considering escaping the ship via rescue boat, as the fuel on board was running out and he felt he could not stand the heat without working air conditioning. He declared that the Port Authorities would not cooperate until the debt was paid off, and that Ramadan would delay the official repatriation papers coming through, therefore he wanted to find his own means of getting home. The SeafarerHelp team member urged him strongly not to risk his safety, and to wait for the official papers. He accepted this advice.

Lastly, the first seafarer's wife contacted SeafarerHelp when the flag was taken under the control of a new state. She wrote to the Flag State Authorities who had stated that the wages would be paid. Throughout this case, the seafarer's wife had been under considerable distress, and regularly contacted SeafarerHelp for reassurance and comfort; the team were able to offer her advice on multiple occasions in her native language. In the end, she found a children's hospital where her child could be treated and she was granted the SEF funds to pay for the medical treatment.

This case is merely one example of how SeafarerHelp offers advice, assistance and comfort in times of need. If you are interested in learning more about SeafarerHelp and their work, you can find more information here.

SeafarerHelp Website
SeafarerHelp Facebook Page

Introducing NUSI (National Union of Seafarers of India), Winners of the 2015 Dr Dierk Lindemann Welfare Personality (Organisation) of the Year Award

This award is bestowed upon the organisation which has made an outstanding contribution to seafarers' welfare.

Who are NUSI?

NUSI, the National Union of Seafarers of India, represents more than 80,000 Indian ratings and petty officers. NUSI is over 100 years old, and celebrated its centenary in 1996. It has also initiated a range of welfare activities through its trust for both active and retired seafarers and their families.

What services are provided by NUSI?

NUSI provides pre- and post-sea residential training and statutory courses at its maritime academies in Goa and Nhava, and residential training at its institute exclusively for seafarers in the Offshore industry. Its resort in Lonavala includes a home for elderly seafarers, a holiday home, as well as a trade union training centre. It also runs a hospital in Goa for seafarers and their families. NUSI's support office offers unlimited free snacks, as well as a free computer service to all seafarers.

Over 3,000 widows have already benefited from NUSI's financial assistance, while over 7,000 seafarers have benefitted from its medical benefits. The children of ratings and petty officers can get education grants. NUSI also has a scholarship grant which gives girls an extra 50 percent. The NUSI youth committee organises welfare and medical camps which include an HIV/AIDS awareness programme and inform seafarers and their families about NUSI's services.

What does winning mean to NUSI?

"It definitely means a lot to me and my organisation", says Mr. Abdulgani Y. Serang, NUSI General Secretary, "Winning the Dr. Dierk Lindemann Welfare Personality of the Year Award has further motivated us to work towards the welfare and benefit of the seafarers and their families."

What has happened since winning the Award?

One very recent welfare scheme is the Education grant for Wives of Seafarers. NUSI conducted a study and came to realise that many seafarers' wives are also undertaking college studies and other courses. NUSI noted that some of the wives of the seafarers are studying Ph. D., Chartered Accountancy and other similar courses. It has been decided that NUSI Education Grants will be extended to the seafarers' wives who wish to pursue higher studies.

What are NUSI's upcoming plans?

The Offshore and Cruise line industries are fast growing sectors and have increased considerably the world over, including in India. Several major international offshore and cruise companies are scheduled to launch over the next few years in India. NUSI has been actively involved in organising and educating the seafarers working on offshore and cruise ships. Seminars and workshops are also being conducted for the benefit of the seafarers. The above mentioned seminar gains significance as there is a tremendous potential for jobs for Indian seafarers and also for other hopeful applicants in the Offshore and Cruise Line industries.

NUSI, along with the industry stakeholders, has also initiated various skill enhancement training courses in order to increase the proportion of Indian seafarers in national and international shipping.

In terms of technology, NUSI has begun the development of a "NUSI APP". The "NUSI APP" apart from providing details of various welfare activities, will also provide details related to Maritime administration. Furthermore, NUSI is in the process of providing seafarers with WI-FI facilities at the Indian Seamen's Hostel & Indian Sailors Home. More than 1500 seafarers reside at these premises in Mumbai. They are often required to access internet for various work-related activities. As such, they have to frequently visit internet cafes and spend good amount of their earnings there. NUSI will bear the expenses of setting up the WiFi facilities and the monthly expenses for its usage so that seafarers can have free Internet access.