Amit * contacted SeafarerHelp to say that six months prior, the vessel which his brother was working on had sunk. The crew had been rescued by the local Port Authority and their P&I club had placed them in a hotel. The ship owner showed no sign of helping to repatriate the seafarers. It was then discovered that the ship had been carrying illegal weapons and the crew were put in prison.

Amit was very worried about his brother. The crew and their family had been in touch with their embassy, who had suggested the seafarers would be released soon, however they were becoming increasingly distressed as nothing had happened for six months.

A SeafarerHelp Officer contacted two ITF representatives in the country who established that the crew had been arrested because the ship had been carrying arms. The ITF sent a letter to the judge on the case, who had attempted to summon the ship owner. The seafarers were later released and told they would be repatriated because the tribunal had rejected the theory of illegal arms trafficking. The crew's release had been negotiated until the Magistrate could decide how to proceed in the ship owner’s absence. The seafarers stayed in their embassy’s guest house instead of prison, which was a much safer environment.  They were repatriated soon after, and Amit and his brother were finally reunited.


Finn* contacted SeafarerHelp concerning his wife, Laila*, who was travelling with him on board. The ship had docked in Russia, and Laila had been issued a fine of USD 51 for not possessing a Russian visa. The seafarers sailing on the ship were all in possession of a seamen’s book and so did not need visas. The ship had docked in Russia for less than 24 hours and Laila had not gone ashore at all.

Finn contacted us as he was concerned that as the crew would be returning to Russia multiple times, his wife would receive increasingly large fines on each visit. He was even more concerned about the possibility that Laila could be imprisoned. He had been informed that returning to Russia for a third time without a visa could result in imprisonment or being barred from the country.

Our Russian speakers contacted the Russian visa application helpline asking whether Laila would be exempt under this specific set of circumstances. They confirmed that the seafarer’s wife required a multiple entry tourist visa. The SeafarerHelp team managed to set the seafarer’s mind at rest and to advise him on the course of action to take. Laila disembarked in a port in Europe and applied for the visa there. She later returned to the ship with the necessary paperwork which meant that she and her husband could continue to sail together without worry.


Ambrose* contacted us when on the fourth day of hunger strike. He hadn’t been paid and was refusing food until he received his wages.

A SeafarerHelp Officer spoke to Ambrose in his native language and ascertained the detail of the situation. He had completed his contract some months ago, but had refused to leave the ship until his wages were paid; he had been assigned a cabin in the base of the ship and was told to have no contact with the rest of the crew.

The SeafarerHelp team contacted the ITF inspector in his next port and encouraged Ambrose to return home and follow up the case from there with the local ITF inspector, stressing that continuing the strike would be dangerous for his health. The SeafarerHelp team continued to facilitate contact between the ITF, Ambrose and his family, as he did not have the funds to make phone calls himself. The ITF received a letter saying Ambrose’s wages would be paid. Ambrose was worried that it was a ruse, so he contacted his brother who checked his bank account for the transaction. Upon finding that he had received some wages he ended his hunger strike and returned home.  He remained in contact with the SeafarerHelp team and the ITF until he received the rest of the money.

After he had returned home, Ambrose rang our helpline team.  He thanked us for all of our assistance and said he would not have made it through all this without our help.  Often seafarers find the emotional support to be the most vital part of our services. Our team is always here to offer both practical and emotional support to any seafarer in need, and we are happy to have supported Ambrose in this difficult time. 

*all names changed for privacy

If you are a seafarer in distress, or a family member needing support, contact our team at

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A United Nations summit on refugees and migrants has heard a special tribute to the Merchant Navy's vital role and risks to seafarers in rescuing survivors during dangerous sea migrations.

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) special advisor on maritime security and facilitation Chris Trelawny told a round table meeting at the UN summit, that: 'IMO member states recognise that using the search and rescue systems enshrined in the SOLAS and SAR conventions to respond to mass mixed migration was neither foreseen nor intended.

'Although governments and the merchant shipping industry would continue to carry out rescue operations, safe, legal, alternative pathways to migration must be developed, including safe, organised migration by sea if necessary.'

Mr Trelawny asked the meeting on 19 September 2016 to record 'the thanks of the IMO membership to the search and rescue authorities, navies and coastguards, as well as to the masters of the hundreds of merchant ships diverted from going about their lawful occasions to rescue mixed migrants, with attendant risks to the seafarers concerned.'

IMO films

IMO also highlighted three short films it has produced examining the issues on migration at sea, including insights into what it is like for seafarers to take survivors onboard. The videos explore the perspectives of the migrants, the seafarers who rescue them and the international response.

The IMO has a number of treaties with provisions relating to migration by sea. These include SOLAS chapter V on Safety of Navigation, which requires 'the master of a ship at sea able to provide assistance to persons that are in distress at sea; to do so regardless of the nationality or status of such persons or the circumstances in which they are found'.

Guidance on the legal framework for rescue at sea has been also been prepared by IMO, International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), and UNHCR.

One film from the rescuer perspective points out however, that while the 'international law reinforces the age old tradition that seafarers will always try and rescue people from the sea,' this obligation is now 'nearing breaking point'. This is because, despite best intentions a 'modern merchant vessel is completely unsuited to carrying large numbers of survivors,' explains the film. 'For the captain finding somewhere to disembark his passengers can be as challenging a task as coping with them during their stay onboard.'

In 2014, nearly 900 merchant ships were diverted by Italian authorities to participate in rescue operations, and of those, 254 took migrants on board — saving the lives of more than 42,000 people.

The UN General Assembly adopted the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, which refers to a pledge to facilitate 'orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people, including through the implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies.'


Original article:

Since 2011, Oceans Beyond Piracy has convened Working Group meetings for maritime stakeholders and experts to share information and discuss challenges and opportunities regarding how to address maritime piracy in the Western Indian Ocean and in the Gulf of Guinea. These meetings are always held under the Chatham House Rule in order to facilitate and encourage a frank and open exchange of views.
In anticipation of the African Union Extraordinary Summit on Maritime Security and Safety and Development in Africa, to be held in Lomé, Togo, on 15 October 2016, OBP convened a Working Group meeting in London to discuss the current state of maritime piracy off the east and west coasts of Africa. ISWAN / MPHRP were present at this discussion, and the attached document below provides a summary of the primary messages and observations discussed during the meeting.


The news of Hanjin's recent bankruptcy has raised concerns among welfare organisations and unions about the company's 2500 seafarers who could run out of food, fuel and other essentials. Recent reports state that there are around 85 vessels which are currently stranded off 50 ports in 26 countries. Reports indicate that arrangements are in place to resupply all vessels with vital provisions, but ISWAN is concerned about the uncertainty over a long term solution for Hanjin's seafarers.

Welfare organisations and unions are working to lessen the impact on seafarers caused by the financial collapse, and to ensure they are prepared for any potential problems. ITF Maritime Coordinator Jacqueline Smith told ISWAN:

"The welfare of Hanjin seafarers is being monitored by the ITF and our affiliate union the Federation of Korean Seafarers (FKSU), which is part of a Korean government taskforce, along with the Korean Shipowners' Association. That governmental taskforce is clearly addressing the problems. Its first priority was to ensure that provisions and water were put onboard all ships, and we understand that insurance has also been taken out to cover three months' wages for all crew as well as three years' pension entitlements.

"ITF inspectors have visited Hanjin ships in many countries, and the news from crews so far is that they are being paid, have food and are in good spirits."

The Mission to Seafarers has also issued a statement of support for Hanjin's seafarers, and urged the company to ensure crews know how to find emergency help if needed. The 200 MTS Port Welfare teams around the world are well prepared to care for seafarers who have been affected in any way.

ISWAN's SeafarerHelp team are on hand to assist any seafarers or their family members who are affected by the situation.

ISWAN along with other seafarer welfare organisations will continue to monitor the situation and will be ready to assist if necessary.

The International Seafarers' Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) is holding a seminar on seafarers' health, in collaboration with the Danish Seafarers' Service, to look at the most prevalent health issues affecting seafarers, and to explore how organisations can work together to reduce ill health on board. The event is supported by Shipowners' P&I Club - the leading mutual P&I insurer in the smaller and specialist vessel sector. The Club recently partnered with ISWAN to promote the Seafarers' Health Improvement Programme (SHIP) to their members and other interested parties.

Louise Hall, Head of Loss Prevention at Shipowners' P&I Club said "We are excited to be partnering with ISWAN, whose ethos sits naturally alongside the Club in aiming to assist Members with all aspects of risk mitigation. As a Club, we see many crew related illnesses especially concerning heart problems, stomach issues and illnesses related to blood pressure. ISWAN, through their own research, have produced excellent materials that address the areas of concerns we see from incident notifications, but also those reported by the industry as a whole. We very much look forward to contributing towards the seminar".
The seminar will be held on the 10th November 2016, the day after the ISWAN Annual General Meeting in Copenhagen. Delegates from shipping companies, maritime unions and welfare organisations are invited to attend the event which will be held at the Danish Shipowners' Association.

ISWAN has a long history of promoting the health of seafarers through programmes such as the Seafarers' Health Improvement Programme (SHIP), Training on Board and the HIV awareness pilot programme (2013-2015). In addition, ISWAN's 24 hr multilingual helpline SeafarerHelp handles a number of cases relating to seafarers' health concerns.
Roger Harris, ISWAN Executive Director said ""ISWAN is pleased to be able to hold this seminar on the health of seafarers. The seminar will emphasise the vital need for collaboration and partnership to improve the overall wellbeing of seafarers. We look forward to working with the Danish Seafarers' Service and the Shipowners' P&I Club on what will be a very informative day"

ISWAN is committed to continuously reviewing the health challenges faced by seafarers and encouraging collaborative efforts to improve the health and wellbeing of seafarers. This seminar aims to achieve the following:

1. Highlight the most prevalent health issues affecting seafarers
2. Discuss current programmes with proven positive impacts on seafarers' health
3. Focus on areas of health improvement that need further development

Opening with an introduction from ISWAN's Chair, Per Gullestrup, the seminar will feature presentations by several key figures in the industry, including Anne Steffensen, Director-General of Danish Ship Owners Association. There will also be presentations from shipping companies, unions, and welfare organisations. The agenda covers topics such as the top health concerns at sea, the mental wellbeing of seafarers, diet and nutrition on board, and case studies in both physical and mental health. The afternoon sessions will be chaired by Dr Suresh Idnani, ISWAN Trustee and Senior Medical Advisor to the Norwegian centre of Maritime Medicine in Norway.

The seminar agenda and Registration can be found here:

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. if you need further information.

About our Sponsor

The Shipowners' Club is a mutual insurance association. It offers Protection & Indemnity (P&I), Legal Assistance and Defence cover (also known as FD &D) and associated insurances to smaller and specialist vessel owners, operators and charterers around the world.
As a mutual association, the Club is owned and governed by its Members. Members share risk and operate on a non profit-making basis. The board of directors is drawn from the membership. Underwriting, claims and loss prevention services are provided by the Managers of the Club.
We have a wide spread of Members across a range of vessel types, operating sectors and geographical areas. This brings stability to the Club. Insurance is made available to the following vessels types: barge, cargo, fishing, offshore, passenger/tour boat, tanker and yacht. Building on almost 160 years of experience, the Shipowners' Club works closely with Members and their brokers to provide tailor-made insurance packages for each operator according to their particular need.
The Club is a member of the International Group of P&I Clubs which represents over 90% of the world's ocean-going tonnage. Group members participate in common reinsurance programmes and share larger claims. The International Group provides a voice for vessel owners' views on legislation, conventions and regulations that impact upon their operation.



Our SeafarerHelp Team are trained to 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, wages issues, repatriation, emotional problems, or issues such as a health problems or a death on board.

In some cases, a seafarer’s situation may need financial support. In desperate cases, where no other help is available, the Seafarers Emergency Fund (SEF) can be applied for. The SEF can make grants from $250 to $5000 US dollars. Applications must be made by organisations on behalf of seafarers in dire need and they must meet the SEF criteria.

One such case was Samuel*. Samuel had been working on board a vessel, but had not received any wages for over 7 months. 21 other crewmembers were also left without wages. Having received assistance from the ITF, the vessel was eventually detained in port under the terms of the MLC 2006. The crew had taken the ship-owners to court to try and claim their wages, but in the meantime were living in the local seafarer centre, supported by the ITF inspector and the local mission. Samuel was a long way from home, and had no way to support his family.

Samuel’s daughter was very ill with cancer. She had been receiving chemotherapy, but without Samuel’s wages, the family could no longer afford to pay for her essential medical treatment. The ITF and the seaman’s union from Samuels’s home country made the application to the SEF on behalf of Samuel and his family. The application was granted, and $5000 dollars was paid to the hospital where the daughter was receiving treatment.  The hospital continued her medical care and she was discharged from hospital not long after.

If you or a family member are a seafarer in distress orhave some other problem visitwww.seafarerhelp.organd we will do our best to help.

For more information about our work visit

For more information about the Seafarer Emergency Fund, and how to apply, visit here

*name has been changed for privacy

The Seafarers Hospital Society has joined forces with Big White Wall to fund a new online mental health and wellbeing service for serving merchant seafarers. Launched on 1st June 2016, the new service is open to all UK- based merchant navy personnel. It's free, safe, supportive and anonymous, and is available 24/7 via an online portal. It includes information, self-help resources, a supportive community, and one-to-one help from trained counsellors.

Launching the new service, Peter Coulson, SHS Secretary said: "We talk openly about some of the physical challenges of working at sea but mental health and wellbeing is a topic we find harder to discuss. One in four people experience a mental health problem in their lifetime and seafarers are no different – in fact they are probably under more pressure than most. Whether it's general stress and anxiety, or feelings of depression, it can be hard to know what to do and difficult to know who to talk to. We recognise that and we want to do something about it, which is why we're funding this new service in partnership with Big White Wall."

Big White Wall is an anonymous online support service where merchant navy officers and ratings can access information and tools, talk to like-minded people and seek advice from professionals about things that are worrying them. Help is available on a wide range of issues, whether it's coping with stress, reducing alcohol intake or dealing with depression – BWW gives men and women in the merchant navy a chance to talk about what's worrying them.

Big White Wall works across many different sectors, providing services to the NHS, Armed Forces, universities and many employers. 70% of users report improved wellbeing, including reduced isolation, with almost half sharing something for the first time. One commented, "Big White Wall's community is wonderful. Everyone is so supportive. It helps to know that others are going through similar things."

Tina Trenkler, UK President at Big White Wall, said: "We offer free support to the Armed Forces so we understand the sorts of pressures that merchant seafarers will be faced with, and we know how difficult it can be to get help or even just to talk about some of these issues. We offer a unique combination of services from online information and courses, to peer support and one-to-one counselling. And we cover a wide range of issues, from managing anxiety and depression to quitting smoking or healthy eating. So whatever the problem you're struggling with Big White Wall can help. Access is easy and it really does work."

Access to the new service is via the SHS website. Users will be asked to complete a short questionnaire to confirm their eligibility and will then be directed to the Big White Wall site. This process is entirely anonymous.

For more information email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

. The Seafarers Hospital Society is a charity that has been caring for the health and welfare of seafarers since 1821.
. For more information about SHS go to
. Big White Wall is an anonymous online community of people who are experiencing common mental health and wellbeing problems such as feeling down, depressed, anxious or stressed. Trained counsellors are on hand at all times to moderate and facilitate the service. Big White Wall is registered with the Care Quality Commission.
. Big White Wall has reached over 40,000 people to date and is commissioned to reach thousands more. It was founded in 2007, and now operates in areas across the UK, as well as in the US and New Zealand.
. For more information, go to

Nautilus International has published updated guidance to members on their maternity, paternity and parental rights as seafarers.

The revisions expand previous advice on a wide range of issues relating to maternity, paternity and parental rights, and reflect associated increased statutory payments. They also provide practical guidance on the special considerations that must be given to new or expectant mothers who work at night, and actions that must be taken under health and safety regulations if there are deemed to be risks associated with certain working conditions and hours of work.

The guide contains a revised 'need help' section which gives a brief overview of how to take your claims to UK employment tribunals, as well as handy links to further sources of information.

The updated Nautilus booklet also reflects the new M-notice relating to expectant mothers in the Merchant Navy and fishing vessels issued by the UK Maritime & Coastguard Agency — MGN 522, which replaces MGN 460.

General secretary Mark Dickinson outlined the importance of the guide: 'Nautilus believes that, in order to grow and prosper, the UK maritime industry should be open and welcoming to male and female workers, and make allowances for people's lives to change as they get older. Seafarers should, as a matter of principle, receive the same basic levels of employment protection that their shore-side colleagues enjoy.'

The guidance has been written with a focus on UK rights for new and expectant mothers, and UK paternity and parental rights and will mainly apply to seafarers working on UK-flagged vessels — but it should also be noted that many of these rights also apply to adoptive parents. If in doubt members should contact the Union for specific advice.

For those serving on non-UK vessels, the guide explains there are other sources of rights, depending on the individual's circumstances. Such rights may derive from the flag state, country of residence, collective bargaining agreements or company staff handbook or maternity/paternity policies.

Due to the nature of their work — often moving regularly between various countries — seafarers can face jurisdictional barriers in accessing employment-related rights. However it should be noted that the UK's maternity and paternity rights derive from EU law, so any seafarer serving on an European Economic Area (EEA)- registered vessel, residing in the EU or working for an EEA employer, may qualify for such rights in the relevant EEA member state. Members wanting further information about their own situation are advised to contact their industrial organiser in the first instance.

Nautilus director of legal services Charles Boyle said: 'It is hoped our members find the new guide useful, and we welcome any feedback.

Two introductory events were organised in Malaysia in the week of 22nd August 2016. ISWAN / MPHRP participated in awareness sessions which were hosted by IKMAL (the Marine Department of the Government of Malaysia, association of professionals), MYMET (Maritime Educational Training Institute Association) and Johor Port Authority.

Training was opened in Port Klang on 23rd August by IKMAL president Dato' Abdul Jamil b. Murshid. Dato' Baharin b. Dato' Abdul Hamid, the Director General Department of Shipping followed with the keynote address on the importance of humanitarian response towards maritime piracy incidentsin Malaysia. He applauded the efforts undertaken by MPHRP in supporting seafarer's welfare issues and noted the continued need of this support given the recent kidnapping of Malaysian seafarers recently.

The training was provided by Capt. Abdul Aziz Abdullah, Chirag Bahri and a panel session including representatives of Mymet, IKMAL and the Marine Department. The presentations aimed to raise awareness of the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme (MPHRP), the International Seafarers' Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) and the training programmes and resources provided for the survivors of piracy and their families.

Chirag spoke about his ordeal while he was held by Somali pirates for nearly eight months and referred to other case histories of seafarers and their families facing the horrifying ordeal of piracy. About 50 people attended, among them officials from the Department of Shipping, Malaysian Navy and Coast Guard, Marine Police, manning agencies, trainers from maritime institutes and trade union representatives.

The next event was held in Miri, Sarawak on 25th August, where smaller tug boats and offshore supply vessels are vulnerable to the increase in pirate activity in the Sabah region and Sulu Sea. The event drew the attention of 20 local ship owners and trainers as they wish to be better prepared with humanitarian assistance during and following an incident.

ISWAN / MPHRP are thankful to all the organisers of the event for coming together to invite the programme to Malaysia and the support and wishes of all the participants who attended these events. This could not have happened without the support of IKMAL and Seafarers UK.

meeting with DG Marine Department

The International Transport Workers' Federation has pledged solidarity with Nautilus NL/FNV Waterbouw – its Dutch affiliate – in its fights to stop maritime and energy giant Boskalis sacking skilled seafarers and downgrading the quality of jobs.
The company plans to cut 650 jobs worldwide, including 150 in the Netherlands, and scrap 24 ships despite making EUR440 million profit in 2015 and EUR148 million in the first half of 2016.

In the Netherlands, Fairmount Marine - a wholly owned subsidiary of Boskalis – is attempting to replace permanent seafaring officers with lower paid nationals by outsourcing its entire ship management and crewing to Anglo Eastern.

So far Boskalis and Fairmount have refused requests from Nautilus NL/FNV Waterbouw to see the financial data that the company says justifies its plan.

ITF maritime coordinator Jacqueline Smith said: "Boskalis continues to make a healthy profit, so it is clear that this is another case of crude social dumping – using highly vulnerable workers to do skilled work for low pay. The company plans to use this attack on seafarers to cut salaries, but with no regard for the impact on workers. The ITF is fully behind Nautilus NL/FNV Waterbouw in opposing and exposing these actions, which are bad for workers and bad for good business.

General secretary of Nautilus International Mark Dickinson said: "If there has to be redundancies as a result of declining volumes of work, then Boskalis should show us the financial data proving this. Then we can work with the company to ensure that the workers affected are redeployed - something that should be easy for a global company like Boskalis that employs more than 8,000 people. Until they do this we will fight this proposal and we welcome the backing of the ITF."

For more information contact Andy Khan-Gordon on tel: +44 (0)20 7940 9282 / +44 (0)77 1135 6964.

THE INTERNATIONAL TRANSPORT WORKERS' FEDERATION (ITF): ITF House, 49-60 Borough Road, London, SE1 1DR. Tel: +44 (0)20 7403 2733. Fax: +44 (0)20 7357 7871. Twitter: Facebook: