23 November 2015 shore

The ITF Seafarers' Trust is launching an enhanced version of its free Shore Leave app – the first app designed to help seafarers looking for reliable transport when in port. Shore Leave only needs to be downloaded once, and after that all the contact details of seafarers' centres all over the world are stored in the user's smartphone and accessible offline, anywhere, anytime. It also includes all the contact details for ISWAN Seafarers Help, the 24/7 helpline for seafarers.

Luca Tommasi, Seafarers' Trust Project Manager explained: "The idea of the original app was to transform the ISWAN seafarers' centres directory into an interactive app that could be used offline. The response from seafarers was very positive and the app was downloaded over 10,000 times. That was a good result but we would like to reach 50,000 downloads; the aim is to have at least one seafarer on every vessel using Shore Leave, and getting the most out of their free time."

The new version includes additional features, for example there is now the possibility for seafarers to leave reviews of seafarers' centres. Kimberly Karlshoej, Head of the Trust said: "The new version of Shore Leave allows seafarers to rate the centres and to leave comments, so that other seafarers will be informed about the quality of facilities and services and know what to expect before visiting."

Dave Heindel, Chair of the Seafarers' Trust Board of Trustees added: "Seafarers face all sorts of difficulty in going ashore. Having an app to get in touch with the right people all over the world will be helpful. Shore Leave is designed to give them the chance to get in touch with the local welfare providers and be just a couple of clicks away from a bus ride to the city, the shopping centre or a seafarers' centre where they can relax and enjoy their free time."

Peter Hinchliffe, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Shipping stated: "ICS always welcomes new tools to help seafarers have a proper and refreshing break. This new Shore Leave app will allow them to make the most of their limited free time."

Shore Leave is available for free for Android and IPhone.
Android: Search for Shore Leave in the Google Play Store or click here.

IPhone: Search for Shore Leave in the Apple App Store or click here.

For more details, please contact Luca Tommasi at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The winners of ISWAN's Photo Competition launched in September 2015, are displayed below.

The winner is Jörgen Språng.

The runners-up are Luisito Garcia Cantona, and Mohd Farhan.

The competition invited a lot of responses, the full shortlist can be viewed here.

Jörgen Språng entry 3


Luisito Garcia Cantona entry 3 

Mohd Farhan entry 5

ISWAN has been in contact with a woman seafarer from India.

Krutika shared her story of why she chose this field, and how she has grown as a person because of it.

"Personally, I chose this field, as my mum used to talk about her voyage from Bombay to Goa on passenger boats. She was just a passenger, but the way she described the deep ocean, and how clear it is, like crystal, made me fascinated in this field. She was my inspiration, and today I am happy I made the right decision,...

I have trained in Nautical Science. The profession has certainly made me more confident and stronger... and it has given a leadership quality, which has helped a lot."

Krutika Updated

A report designed to identify key areas of concern for women seafarers was the centrepiece of a recent meeting held in London. The full report can be read here, and discusses the health and wellbeing of women working at sea. Findings were based on a survey filled out by 595 women seafarers from 54 countries. The Women Seafarers' Health and Welfare Survey was a joint initiative by the International Seafarers' Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN), the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF), the International Maritime Health Association (IMHA), and the Seafarers Hospital Society (SHS).

Speakers at the briefing included Dr.Olivia Swift, Jacqueline Smith, Dr. Ilona Denisenko and Nathalie Shaw. The briefing was presided over by Dr. Tim Carter.

The briefing can be seen in the video below or downloaded as a podcast here.

If you have any questions arising from the film, please contact ISWAN Project Manager, Caitlin Vaughan, on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

10th November 2015

In 2014, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) stated that the rescue of all persons in distress at sea- including illegal migrants – is an obligation under international maritime law, as well as being a long established humanitarian duty. In the same year, seafarers aboard 800 merchant ships rescued 40,000 migrants. Their role in the large scale rescue of migrants should be recognised and commended.

A seafarer involved in an operation which saved the lives of 211 migrants off the coast of Libya has shared his story with ISWAN.

"It was Sunday, and we were relaxing after our duties, when all of sudden there was a call for rescue, and in no time we all got prepared. The Italian navy gave call on vhf [very high frequency] and we proceeded. We all had an equal hand in the rescue operation. The gangway was prepared and lowered, the pilot ladder was lowered and the lifeboats were made ready, the crane was prepared and the first aid team was ready with water and a few provisions... to energize them. The bridge team was in charge of carrying out the operation. During the operation, I was involved in putting out the net, and with the help of that we were able to get alongside [their raft]".

The operation had a profound effect on him: "For me, it was the first encounter with life and death. What extremes a person can go to [in order to] survive seen through my eyes. They were all young people who wanted to just survive. I thank God that he gave me and all of us the opportunity to do something to [help], and not to complain for unnecessary reasons which we cry for each day. I'm being more mature now", he said.

His story drives home the important role seafarers have undertaken in this crisis: "I'm not sure what would have happened if we weren't there. They were thirsty, hungry and praying under the open hot and dry sun to be rescued." He added that "all the training and precautions really helped. Teamwork made the successful operation possible." In this instance, the crew were well trained for rescue operation procedures, and this helped them to save the lives of 211 migrants. Sadly, three people had died on the raft before the seafarers reached them.

In May 2015, ISWAN, along with the International Christian Maritime Association (ICMA), and the International Maritime Health Association (IMHA) called on EU governments to recognise the key role seafarers play in the rescue of migrants at sea. Together, they sent a letter to the heads of governments urgently requesting more resources to be mobilised for search and rescue in the Mediterranean. The letter reminded the governments that seafarers are often facing situations where they must recover bodies and deal with sick or injured people, and this may have an effect on them for which they could need counselling or other forms of support.

Seafarers are to be commended for their work in search and rescue operations, and this account is a prime example of the importance of training and teamwork.

The results of a comprehensive survey by Futurenautics Research, produced in association with Crewtoo, PTC, InterManager, BIMCO and ISWAN have been published.

The survey was conducted between April and August 2015, with an excess of 3,057 seafarers from 30 different countries responding to questions about crew connectivity and communications. 59% of respondents were officers, and 41% ratings. This ratio reflects the greater level of Internet access enjoyed by officers, enabling them to participate in the survey, although officers were 20% more likely to rate themselves as knowledgeable about IT, hinting at a widening gap between officers and ratings.

If the main message of 2014's survey was that access to crew communications was "an improving picture but far from good enough" ( K D Adamson), then 2015's survey message is that ship owners are increasingly aware of the benefits of crew connectivity. "The industry is realising that connecting crew to their families is only the beginning." There is a push towards understanding the need for crew connectivity, in order to maintain a happy workforce.

When asked to rate their computer skills, 57% of respondents said they felt comfortable using IT and 33% felt very knowledgeable, totalling 90% of respondents who rate themselves as having strong computer skills. These figures demonstrate that seafarers are a highly IT literate workforce.

This is reflected in the money spent on communications services. Futurenautics estimates that the value of combined shore and sea-based crew communications is worth in excess of $3.3bn per annum, with the average respondent's Internet-related expenditure ashore alone reaching approximately $70 per month.

Interestingly, there was an increase in 10% from last year of seafarers stating that cost was a primary factor limiting their use of communication methods. When asked about what services they would like to see in the future, most wanted to see free Wifi in ports. The respondents showed more interest in cost effective communications than in new or innovative means of contact. However, Whatsapp (which did not feature on last year's survey at all) is a fast increasing method of contact.

Methods of Communication

In terms of method of contact, respondents preferred to access the Internet via smartphone, with 77% of crews taking a smartphone device on board, up by 20% from 2014. This is an interesting departure from last year's survey, where laptops were cited as the most popular device.

Telephones were still the most common form of communications access on board, with 79% of respondents having access to telephone calling. Internet access came second, demonstrating that ship operators have responded to crew demands for this service. Of the 40% of those with access to Internet on board (an increase of 6% from last year), half had it for free. However, the figures showing the general level of access to Internet are distorted by the Passenger sector, where 85% of respondents had Internet access. Text only email was the most popular non-Internet based communications solution, and was the most commonly free service, compared to satellite phone where only 4% of ship operators allow usage for free.

Frequency of Access

There is a significant shift since last year's survey in the frequency of access. 2014's survey demonstrated that the majority accessed services no more than once a week, whereas this year it had changed to a daily basis, with 60% of those with Internet facilities using them daily.

58% of those with communications access had it always, or most of the time, an increase of 20% from last year. The most encouraging figures were to be found in the Car Carrier sector with 0% never having access. However, 7% overall still stated they never had access, and 38% had access only sometimes.

The worst offenders were the General Cargo and Bulk sectors with 14% and 12% never having access respectively. The report underlines that, while some of these seafarers with no access may not fall under the MLC mandate, a significant proportion must.


Respondents were asked if there had been an improvement in provisions since the introduction of the MLC in 2006. 22% said there had been improvement, 38% said a little improvement, demonstrating that, while progress is slow, the general picture is improving.

Welfare services

The survey shows that only 28% of the respondent base use welfare facilities whilst in port. Of this 28%, 34% use the Wifi services provided by seafarer centres, and 6% use the telephone services, including the ability to purchase local SIM cards.

When asked what additional facilities port –based welfare services could provide, 54% of respondents cited Internet or Wifi access, notably the majority of those requesting these services said they would be prepared to pay.

72% of the respondents noted that they are either never, or rarely able to go ashore on port calls, explaining why only 28% use the welfare services available in port. The ability to access communications methods while on board is therefore increasingly important in a life where seafarers spend very little time ashore.

Looking to the Future

The survey warns that communications are becoming an increasingly important factor for seafarers when choosing which shipping company to work for, with 73% stating that crew connectivity influenced their decision.

This momentum cannot be ignored by shipping companies, who are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of providing the crew with good connectivity.

Roger Harris of ISWAN said "This year's survey findings show once again how vital communication is to seafarers. The significant impact that cost has on their access to communication at sea, as well as the large number of respondents unable to go ashore during port visits, gives welfare organisations and others in the maritime industry, a lot to consider."

The full report can be downloaded below.

Despite an overall global reduction in serious piracy attacks this year, the International Maritime Bureau's Piracy Reporting Centre (IMB PRC) cautions against complacency in its 2015 report for the year to 30 September.

Southeast Asia cracks down

In Southeast Asia, a piracy crackdown appears to be bearing fruit, with only two hijackings reported in the third quarter of the year. Indonesian and Malaysian authorities have also arrested and in some cases prosecuted, members of product tanker hijacking gangs, notably those behind the MT Sun Birdie and MT Orkim Harmony attacks.

"The robust actions taken particularly by the Indonesian and Malaysian authorities – including the arrest of one the alleged masterminds – is precisely the type of deterrent required" commented P Mukundan, IMB Director.

The two hijackings, on a small product tanker in the Straits of Malacca and a fishing vessel 40-miles west of Pulau Langkawi, were among 47 incidents the IMB PRC recorded globally between July and September.

To date, 190 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships have been officially counted. This year, the greatest number was in Indonesia, which tallied 86 mainly low-level incidents, followed by Vietnam with 19 low-level reports.

While only one new incident of an actual attack was reported for the last quarter in the Gulf of Guinea, IMB believes the real number to be considerably higher.

No incidents have been noted off Somalia or in the Gulf of Aden this year, previously a piracy hotspot. IMB says the positive development reflects the combined efforts of navies in the region, along with greater compliance with the Best Management Practices guidelines against Somali piracy, the employment of private security contractors and a stabilizing government. Suspected Somali pirates continue to hold 29 crew members for ransom.

The report urges vessels to maintain vigilance, noting the "increasingly fragile" situation ashore Somalia, with the threat of piracy not "eliminated".

In all, this year has seen 154 vessels boarded, 21 attempted attacks and 15 vessels hijacked. A total of 226 crew were taken hostage, 14 assaulted, 13 injured, 10 kidnapped and one killed.

Download the full report in the link below.

On 21 October the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme (MPHRP) and the Taipei Representative Office in the EU and Belgium signed a Memorandum of Understanding, under which Taiwan will donate €30,000 to a Piracy Survivor Family Fund (PSFF), administered by MPHRP, an ISWAN programme, on behalf of the Contact Group for Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS). The Memorandum was signed by Representative Kuo-yu Tung at the Taipei Representative Office in Brussels, and Mr. Tom Holmer, MPHRP Programme Manager.

The Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme (MPHRP) joins the CGPCS stakeholders in expressing their gratitude to Taiwan for this generous donation. Mr. Holmer said "we are delighted to receive this greatly appreciated grant from the Government of Taiwan to the Piracy Survivor Family Fund, which recognises the suffering of the hundreds of seafarers and their dependents who have been the innocent victims of Somali Piracy and have received no or only very limited support since their attack. It will provide a major contribution to relieve some of their resulting financial hardships as they endeavour to rebuild their lives. We look forward to being able to report on positive outcomes as we work with these seafarers over the coming months."

The PSFF was established by the CGPCS under the EU Presidency, in 2014, to provide financial assistance to seafarers affected by Somali piracy and to their families. It fulfils a crucial role in the rehabilitation of piracy victims: since 2006 it is estimated that more than 4,000 seafarers have been held hostage by Somali pirates and that as many as 80,000 have been subjected to an attack. On their return home, many face continued indebtedness as a consequence of the total or partial loss of their wages during their detention, as well as acute health problems. Bereaved families also have similar needs.

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19th October 2015

Andy Winbow, the recently retired Assistant Secretary-General and Director, Maritime Safety Division at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has joined the board of the International Seafarers Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) as a trustee.

Andy said "I am really pleased to join the board of ISWAN. It is an organisation that focuses on the wellbeing of the seafarer and I feel it has the potential to engage more organisations, maritime companies and individuals in its aim to improve the welfare of ships' crews."

Per Gullestrup, the Chairman of ISWAN said "we are privileged to have Andy join the board. He has a long and distinguished career at the IMO and as a seafarer. He will be able to bring a lot of experience and knowledge to ISWAN. I am looking forward to working with Andy on the ISWAN board."

Among his many achievements Andy directed international initiatives relating to passenger ship safety post-Costa Concordia and developed and implemented the systems and procedures for the receipt and evaluation of information communicated to IMO by the 144 Parties to the STCW Convention.

Andy is a Fellow of the Nautical Institute, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, and a Master Mariner.

Oct 08, 2015

Organisations representing the global shipping and oil industry have announced that the size of the 'High Risk Area' for piracy in the Indian Ocean has been reduced and issued new advice to merchant ship operators.

This reduction to the High Risk Area is in response to the ongoing containment of pirate attacks in the Indian Ocean, but a group of shipping and oil industry organisations (BIMCO, International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), Intercargo, INTERTANKO and the Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF) stressed that a serious threat remains and that correct reporting and vigilance remains crucial.

The reduction of the High Risk Area takes full account of recent shipping industry experience, and follows extensive consultation with governments through the diplomatic Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, and military naval forces, including NATO, Combined Maritime Forces and EU NAVFOR, which continue to provide vital protection to shipping.

The new industry advice, which takes effect from 1 December, changes that currently contained in the latest edition of Best Management Practices for Protection against Somali Based Piracy (BMP 4), which is jointly produced by the industry group.

The amendment to BMP 4 that relates to this issue can be downloaded via each shipping organisations' website (as can BMP4) – a direct link to it on the ICS site is here.

In summary:

• The area previously classified as "high risk" now forms only a part of the area called the Voluntary Reporting Area (VRA);

• Ships entering the VRA must still register with the Maritime Security Centre for the Horn of Africa (MSCHOA) and report to the United Kingdom Marine Trade Operations (UKMTO) to be monitored during transit;

• Pre-transit risk assessments should take into account the latest information from both the Voluntary Reporting Area and High Risk Area.

The industry associations further emphasised that in view of the continuing high risk of pirate attack, shipping companies must continue to maintain full compliance with the BMP and be vigilant in their voluntary reporting on piracy incidents, sighting of potential pirates, and any suspicious activity – as this provides crucial intelligence on risk levels in the area.


Original press release available here