Anglo-Eastern Ship Management Limited in cooperation with WISTA International and ISWAN have published a new booklet on building and maintaining gender diversity on board merchant ships. The booklet addresses critical social, cultural and interpersonal issues that can obstruct productivity of a shipboard team.

More than a manual, the booklet aims to sensitise junior and senior officers to the challenges women seafarers may face. From sexual harassment and bullying to negative attitudes faced by male colleagues, the booklet addresses a wide range of challenges reported by women seafarers.

'Shipping is a global industry that strengthens each year thanks to increasing gender diversity. This booklet represents an important collaboration between the corporate, welfare, and non-profit sides of shipping to create a global industry that is inclusive, diverse, and strong,' said Despina Panayiotou Theodosiou, president of WISTA International.

'Women form 39.3% of the workforce globally. However, women seafarers constitute only 2% of the total number of seafarers sailing on the high seas. There is a need to bridge this gender gap, and this can only happen if we bring more awareness of this profession to the general public and at the same time sensitise the male seafarers towards acceptance of women on board the ship as equals, giving due respect to their viewpoints and working well together as colleagues,' said Capt. K. N. Deboo, Anglo-Eastern Maritime Training Centre Director and Principal. 'Keeping this in mind, Anglo-Eastern Ship Management Ltd. developed this booklet with valuable inputs from WISTA and ISWAN.'

'We are delighted to have been involved in the production of a resource that will contribute a great deal to understanding the value of increasing gender diversity across the shipping industry,' said Roger Harris, ISWAN Executive Director.

Download the booklet below.

15 February 2018

From the best port, seafarer centre and shipping company to the organisation and individual who have done so much for seafarers – the International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) has announced the shortlist for the 2018 International Seafarers’ Welfare Awards.

These are the companies, organisations and individuals who have offered exceptional levels of welfare services and facilities to seafarers, and are now in with a chance of landing this prestigious and influential award at a ceremony held at the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Switzerland.

Roger Harris, Executive Director of ISWAN, says: ‘These awards give seafarers the chance to recognise, and say thank you to, those who have offered them high quality welfare services and facilities. More than 2,300 individual nominations have been received from seafarers from all over the world’.

Nominees were asked to submit their entries explaining what they do for seafarers’ welfare, and the sheer scale of support from seafarers for their chosen welfare heroes makes these the biggest awards yet. The competition for the top candidates in four awards categories was intense and hard fought, and ISWAN is delighted to announce the following shortlist:

Port of the Year
Port of Barcelona, Spain
Port of Brisbane, Australia
Port Houston, USA
Port of Montreal, Canada
Port of Rotterdam, Netherlands
Port of Singapore, Singapore

Seafarers’ Centre of the Year
Durban Seafarers’ Mission, South Africa
Liverpool Seafarers’ Centre, UK
Mariners’ House of Montreal, Canada
Mission to Seafarers Brisbane, Australia
SCI Philadelphia, USA
United Seafarers’ Mission Tauranga, New Zealand

Shipping Company of the Year
Eaglestar
P&O Ferries
Scorpio Ship Management
Seaspan
Thome
Wallem

The Dr Dierk Lindemann Welfare Personality of the Year
Individuals:
Dan Tolentino, International Maritime Employers’ Council (IMEC)
David Rozeboom, Mariners’ House Montreal
Jasper de Rosario, Sailors’ Society
Maggie Whittingham-Lamont, The Mission to Seafarers

Organisations:
International Maritime Employers’ Council (IMEC)
Nautilus Welfare Fund

The winner of each category will now be decided by a judging panel formed of experts from across the maritime industry – view the judges’ profiles here. The winners will be announced at the awards ceremony on 23rd April 2018, to be held at the ILO headquarters in Geneva. The awards will be presented by Guy Ryder, Director-General of the ILO.

The 2018 awards are made possible by a generous grant from the ITF Seafarers' Trust and the support of Inmarsat (Gold sponsor), the International Chamber of Shipping (Dr Dierk Lindemann Welfare Personality of the Year Award), Garrets International (Shipping Company of the Year Award), Wrist Ship Supply (Seafarers’ Centre of the Year Award) and MF Shipping Group (Port of the Year Award). The awards are also supported by the International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Christian Maritime Association (ICMA) and the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF).

For more information, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit www.seafarerswelfareawards.org.

ISWAN’s SeafarerHelp is a free, confidential, multilingual helpline for seafarers and their families. The helpline is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year so even if it is a weekend or public holiday, a member of our team will always be here to help.

During the Tall Ships shipping festival on the River Thames in the UK, SeafarerHelp was contacted by the husband of a seafarer who was at the event. His wife’s health had been deteriorating over the last few days but the captain would not allow her to leave the vessel for medical attention. It was also the weekend and he was not sure what services would be available to help his wife.

The vessel was only a few hours away from setting sail so the SeafarerHelp team had to act quickly. They contacted the event organisers who arranged for someone to visit the ship. They confirmed that the seafarer was unwell and took her to see the port doctor. The doctor diagnosed the seafarer’s condition, gave her the appropriate medication and she returned to the ship with instructions to rest.

The seafarer’s husband was grateful to SeafarerHelp for the assistance, and explained that ‘it would have been impossible’ to get help for his wife if the helpline was not available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

If you are a seafarer or their family member and need assistance, all our contact details can be found at seafarerhelp.org. Make a note of our details or save them on your phone in case you ever need our help or support.

With support from a number of partners in India, ISWAN has launched a campaign to discourage Indian seafarers from signing up with crewing agencies which have not registered with the Directorate General of Shipping (DGS).

Every year, thousands of Indian seafarers join merchant shipping through unregistered crewing agencies. Many of them have been left stranded outside India or not been paid their wages. Some have even fallen into the trap of working on a ship carrying illegal cargo, and have had to spend a considerable amount of time in prison, most likely through no fault of their own. Another problem is that seafarers with unregistered crewing agencies will not be able to appear for higher grade examinations conducted by the Mercantile Marine Department (MMD) of the DGS. All these difficulties affect not only the seafarers themselves but also their families, who can find themselves financially at risk without a reliable income upon which to survive. ISWAN has been contacted by a number of Indian seafarers in such situations through its SeafarerHelp helpline, and aims to address this critical problem with the campaign.

ISWAN’s campaign aims to discourage Indian seafarers from signing up with unregistered crewing agencies by raising awareness of the risks they would face by doing so. A poster and flyer have been produced to promote the campaign’s message – these can be downloaded at the bottom of this page. The DGS has issued a circular advising Maritime Training Institutes, RPSL manning agents and other relevant departments and organisations to support the campaign. Adverts will also run on ISWAN’s social media pages to spread the message amongst seafarers in India.

It is mandatory for all Recruitment and Placement Services (RPS) providers in India to register with the DGS and obtain a Recruitment and Placement Services Licence (RPSL). The full list of registered agencies can be found on the DGS website – see here. ISWAN recently conducted an online survey of Indian seafarers, which received over 200 responses, to find out how much they knew about the risks of signing up with unregistered crewing agencies. Around 90% knew what an RPSL was and how to find out if an agency had one; however, when asked if they had ever signed up with an unregistered crewing agency in the past, 13% of survey respondents said they had. These respondents had experienced problems such as delayed or unpaid salaries, sea time not counted by the MMD, and money lost after paying the agency. Around 20% of respondents did not think that contract issues and sea time not being counted were potential risks, and nearly a third did not realise that they would risk abandonment or even their entire career. Six respondents stated that they would sign up with an unregistered crewing agency in future, with some saying they would do so if they could not find a job elsewhere. ISWAN will conduct a follow-up study to gauge the impact of the campaign and review where future work may be needed.

ISWAN would like to thank the Directorate General of Shipping for its support, as well as the following campaign partners: the Maritime Association of Ship Owners & Ship Managers (MASSA), the Foreign Ship-owners Representatives and Ship Managers Association (FOSMA), the Indian National Shipowners’ Association (INSA), the Indian Coastal Conference Shipping Association (ICCSA), the Maritime Union of India (MUI), the National Union of Seafarers of India (NUSI), the Forward Seamen's Union of India (FSUI) and the Maritime Awareness Program Society (MAPS).

SeafarerHelp is a free, confidential, multilingual helpline for seafarers and their families, available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. When seafarers are being treated badly and forced to work and live in substandard conditions on board, the SeafarerHelp team can provide support and assistance.

SeafarerHelp was contacted by a Filipino seafarer in Sudan who complained that the crew on board his ship was not being provided with proper meals; in addition, there were a number of other problems on board. He said that the cook did not want to provide food for the Filipinos on board and had given the responsibility to the mess boy, but the subsequent quality of the food was poor. The master had also ordered for the galley to be closed after the evening meal, which meant those on the midnight to early morning watch often missed breakfast. When the deck officer requested for the galley to be kept open so he and his crew mates could prepare their own breakfasts, he said the master shouted at him and refused. In addition, there was no running water and hygiene in the galley was not up to standard. The crew asked for immediate repatriation due to stress, the conditions on board and the lack of proper food.

With the seafarer’s consent, SeafarerHelp notified the ITF Seafarers Support team in London and referred the case to the Philippines Consulate in Sudan in order to try and sort out the problems the crew were facing and get them repatriated. The SeafarerHelp team kept in constant contact with the crew, who were refusing to work or obey orders due to the discrimination they were experiencing on board and the general living conditions. To add to their stress, the ship was arrested due to debts that had not been paid. While all this was going on, the aunt of one of the seafarers passed away and the SeafarerHelp team provided emotional support to him. The team also supported the seafarers when they raised concerns about documents they had been asked to sign, which were provided by a law firm hired by their manning agency.

Three months later, the crew of 15 was still on board in Sudan and the situation was getting worse. There was very little diesel for the generators and most of the time the ship was in darkness. There was no refrigeration or air conditioning and life on board was extremely unpleasant. The crew had been told a couple of times that they were going to be repatriated but it had not happened. They complained that they had been abandoned by the owner in very poor conditions and were desperate to go home. The SeafarerHelp team continued to support the crew while ISWAN’s representative in the Philippines took the case up with the Government Department in the Philippines.

The seafarers were eventually repatriated four months after their first contact with SeafarerHelp. The crew were grateful for the SeafarerHelp team’s assistance and one said: ‘Thank you teamhelp, I will never forget everything you did…I am so proud to know you…walang katapusang pasasalamat [infinite gratitude]’.

If you are a seafarer or family member of a seafarer and need assistance with repatriation or poor conditions on board, you can speak to a member of the SeafarerHelp team confidentially – all our contact details can be found at seafarerhelp.org.

24 January 2018

With support from a number of partners in India, ISWAN is launching a new campaign to discourage Indian seafarers from signing up with crewing agencies which have not registered with the Directorate General of Shipping (DGS).

Every year, thousands of Indian seafarers join merchant shipping through unregistered crewing agencies. Many of them have been left stranded outside India or not been paid their wages. Some have even fallen into the trap of working on a ship carrying illegal cargo, and have had to spend a considerable amount of time in prison, most likely through no fault of their own. Another problem is that seafarers with unregistered crewing agencies will not be able to appear for higher grade examinations conducted by the Mercantile Marine Department (MMD) of the DGS. All these difficulties affect not only the seafarers themselves but also their families, who can find themselves financially at risk without a reliable income upon which to survive. ISWAN has been contacted by a number of Indian seafarers in such situations through its SeafarerHelp helpline, and aims to address this critical problem with the new campaign.

ISWAN’s campaign aims to discourage Indian seafarers from signing up with unregistered crewing agencies by raising awareness of the risks they would face by doing so. A poster and flyer have been produced to promote the campaign’s message – these can be downloaded at the bottom of this page. The DGS has issued a circular advising Maritime Training Institutes, RPSL manning agents and other relevant departments and organisations to support the campaign. Adverts will also run on ISWAN’s social media pages to spread the message amongst seafarers in India.

It is mandatory for all Recruitment and Placement Services (RPS) providers in India to register with the DGS and obtain a Recruitment and Placement Services Licence (RPSL). The full list of registered agencies can be found on the DGS website – see here. ISWAN recently conducted an online survey of Indian seafarers, which received over 200 responses, to find out how much they knew about the risks of signing up with unregistered crewing agencies. Around 90% knew what an RPSL was and how to find out if an agency had one; however, when asked if they had ever signed up with an unregistered crewing agency in the past, 13% of survey respondents said they had. These respondents had experienced problems such as delayed or unpaid salaries, sea time not counted by the MMD, and money lost after paying the agency. Around 20% of respondents did not think that contract issues and sea time not being counted were potential risks, and nearly a third did not realise that they would risk abandonment or even their entire career. Six respondents stated that they would sign up with an unregistered crewing agency in future, with some saying they would do so if they could not find a job elsewhere. ISWAN will conduct a follow-up study to gauge the impact of the campaign and review where future work may be needed.

ISWAN would like to thank the Directorate General of Shipping for its support, as well as the following campaign partners: the Maritime Association of Ship Owners & Ship Managers (MASSA), the Foreign Ship-owners Representatives and Ship Managers Association (FOSMA), the Indian National Shipowners’ Association (INSA), the Indian Coastal Conference Shipping Association (ICCSA), the Maritime Union of India (MUI), the National Union of Seafarers of India (NUSI), the Forward Seamen's Union of India (FSUI) and the Maritime Awareness Program Society (MAPS).

23 January 2018

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) Federal Transport Authority – Land and Maritime has issued a circular requiring all UAE-flagged ships trading internationally and all ships operating in UAE waters above 200 gross tons to have a contract of insurance to protect seafarers.

The insurance relates to cases of abandonment, death or serious injury of seafarers and covers up to four months’ owed contractual wages and entitlements. The measure is due to enter into force on 20th February, 2018.

‘Hundreds of Indian seafarers have been subjected to inhumane treatment on board a few merchant vessels and gone through an extremely difficult ordeal,’ said Chirag Bahri, ISWAN’s Regional Director – South Asia. ‘Some of these incidents took place in UAE waters so it is a very welcome step by the UAE Government to safeguard the basic rights of seafarers in their waters and internationally.

‘ISWAN’s 24-hour, free, multilingual helpline, SeafarerHelp, has registered a number of such cases over the last few months and has extended moral humanitarian support to the crew. A few seafarers have sadly lost their lives due to an accident on board such ships and others have to go through long, impatient and very stressful lives with little or no food, no power and having to survive in extreme, harsh and unhygienic conditions on the ship. Their families, who had taken out loans to send to their loved ones in order to maintain their livelihood, are equally the worst sufferers. In one of the cases, the families of the seafarers who died in an accident on board seven months ago are still waiting for any compensation or any such relief from the ship owner. This has led to a loss of trust and aggregated more financial stress on the grieving families.’

Recent reports suggest that the UAE will soon ratify the Maritime Labour Convention. Chirag Bahri added: ‘It is hoped that such incidents will eventually die down and the seafarers will get the due dignity and respect that they deserve by working on vessels at high seas. ISWAN welcomes the decision of the UAE Federal Transport Authority and hopes that it will enforce such ship owners who had previously abandoned crew to look after them as a valuable and precious asset serving on board.’

15 January 2018

Jakir Hossain, a young cadet from Bangladesh, was captured by Somali pirates on MV Albedo in 2010 and spent almost four long, traumatic years in captivity. He was released in June 2014 and finally the enormous stress and anxiety he and his family suffered have come to a promising end.

ISWAN previously published Jakir’s story (which can be found here) following his release, which highlighted the far-reaching effects of such an ordeal on a seafarer who had spent so long in captivity. Following the incident, the crew were concerned about their future careers but ISWAN’s Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme (MPHRP) continued its support of the seafarers and their family members after they were released.

Jakir was provided with all the fees he needed towards his higher grade examinations and training courses, and his parents were assisted with medical care since their son was not yet able to support them. Jakir has now cleared all his higher grade examinations with the Department of Shipping in Bangladesh and has now joined a merchant vessel to pursue his dream of sailing on the high seas once more.

Thanking ISWAN, Jakir said that today he and his parents are very happy that he could rejoin a ship and that his dream and passion to sail will become a reality again: ‘This would not have been possible without the generous support and grant of funds by MPHRP and ISWAN. My parents join me to express our sincere gratitude to the funders and all those who assisted me and my family towards my rehabilitation post release from captivity.’ 

Chirag Bahri, ISWAN’s South Asia Regional Director, said: ‘It is matter of great pride that Jakir is back again at sea, leaving behind all the bad memories and looking forward to a very bright future. He is an inspiration for thousands of seafarers that, after having gone through crisis, he stood up again and is confident to achieve his goals. We wish him all the success in his life.’

Roger Harris, Executive Director of ISWAN, added: ‘We are so pleased that Jakir can resume his career at sea and we wish all the best for his future career. However, a number seafarers held hostage by Somali pirates are still having problems getting back to sea. ISWAN is still supporting many of these seafarers. It is important that they are not forgotten.’

12 January 2018

A total of 180 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships were reported to the International Chamber of Commerce’s (ICC) International Maritime Bureau (IMB) in 2017, according to the latest IMB report. This is the lowest annual number of incidents since 1995, when 188 reports were received.

In 2017, 136 vessels were boarded, while there were 22 attempted attacks, 16 vessels fired upon and six vessels hijacked. In 15 separate incidents, 91 crewmembers were taken hostage and 75 were kidnapped from their vessels in 13 other incidents. Three crewmembers were killed in 2017 and six injured. In 2016, a total of 191 incidents were reported, with 150 vessels boarded and 151 crewmembers taken hostage. Beyond the global figures, the report underlined several takeaways from the past year.

Persistent danger in the Gulf of Guinea

In 2017, there were 36 reported incidents with no vessels hijacked in this area and 10 incidents of kidnapping involving 65 crewmembers in or around Nigerian waters. Globally, 16 vessels reported being fired upon – including seven in the Gulf of Guinea.

‘Although the number of attacks is down this year in comparison with last year, the Gulf of Guinea and the waters around Nigeria remain a threat to seafarers. The Nigerian authorities have intervened in a number of incidents helping to prevent incidents from escalating,’ said Pottengal Mukundan, Director of IMB.

Sentencing Somali pirates

Nine incidents were recorded off Somalia in 2017, up from two in 2016. In November, a container ship was attacked by armed pirates approximately 280 nautical miles east of Mogadishu. The pirates, unable to board the vessel due to the ship’s evasive manoeuvring fired two RPG rockets, both of which missed, before retreating.

Six Somali pirates were subsequently detained by European Union Naval Force, transferred to the Seychelles and charged with ‘committing an act of piracy’ where they face up to 30 years’ imprisonment, if convicted.

‘This dramatic incident, alongside our 2017 figures, demonstrates that Somali pirates retain the capability and intent to launch attacks against merchant vessels hundreds of miles from their coastline,’ said Mr Mukundan.

Mixed results in Southeast Asia

Indonesia recorded 43 incidents in 2017, down from 49 in 2016. The IMB report notes that Indonesian Marine Police patrols continue to be effective in the country’s 10 designated safe anchorages.

In the Philippines, however, the number of reported incidents has more than doubled, from 10 in 2016 to 22 in 2017. According to the report, the majority of these incidents were low-level attacks on anchored vessels, mainly at the ports of Manila and Batangas. Vessels underway off the Southern Philippines were boarded and crew kidnapped in the first quarter of 2017. However, alerts broadcast by the IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC), on behalf of the Philippine authorities, have since helped to avoid further successful attacks.

Roger Harris, Executive Director of ISWAN said: ‘Although the decrease in the number of attacks is welcome, piracy, kidnap, and armed robbery is still a live threat to many seafarers around the world. Governments still need to protect ships and seafarers and bring pirates and armed robbers to justice.’

The full report can be downloaded below.

20th December 2017

ISWAN’s Steps to Positive Mental Health for seafarers is now available in four additional languages and two infographics produced using extracts from the guide.

Steps to Positive Mental Health has been produced by Consultant Clinical Psychologist Dr. Pennie Blackburn with support from Shipowners’ Club. It contains skills, exercises and coping strategies to help seafarers deal with their emotions when they are experiencing stress or feeling low.

The guide, forming part of ISWAN’s Seafarers’ Health Information Programme (SHIP), has been translated from English into Filipino, Russian, Chinese and Arabic. These versions, in some of the languages most commonly spoken by seafarers, can all be accessed on the SeafarerHelp website (seafarerhelp.org). Additional translations of the guide in Hindi and Spanish will be available on the website in the New Year.

Two infographics have also been produced to highlight some of the advice and coping strategies found in Steps to Positive Mental Health. The first summarises key areas in which seafarers can take care of their mental health (Body, Achieve, Connect, Enjoy and Step Back), and the second explains a mindful breathing exercise to calm the mind and body during times of stress. The infographics can be found on the SeafarerHelp website or downloaded below.

Steps to Positive Mental Health is part of a series of Good Mental Health Guides produced with the support of Shipowners’ Club. More information on the other guide in this series, Psychological Wellbeing at Sea, can be found here.