Working away from loved ones for long periods of time can be a lonely and isolating experience for seafarers, who can find themselves missing out on so much while they’re away. SeafarerHelp was contacted by a seafarer who had tragically lost his wife while he was on board and wanted to share his experience with us. Unfortunately he also recently lost his mother but was unable to attend her funeral as he was at sea. SeafarerHelp has supported him through this difficult experience. You can read his story in his own words below.

“We have just battled with hurricane Irma within the last few days... and I believe we seafarers always think of one thing: until when can I stop sailing? However, rough seas and bad weather are only few of the things we encounter. What about family matters? What about problems at home and not to mention, home sickness? What about loss of our loved ones?

At the age of 39 after being married for three years, my wife passed away during the time she gave birth on the eve of Christmas 2016 while I was on board. I want to share my how I handled (and still handling) this lowest downfall of my life.

Let me tell you how we met. She was so naive when I first saw her on Facebook (FB). She was into a failing relationship and I was coping with my breakup with previous girlfriend. I should say, the common link between us is her previous boyfriend and admittedly I contacted her to win their relationship back.

To cut this part shorter, her relationship with her ex-boyfriend didn’t work at all so during her curing stage, and mine as well, we started chatting thru Skype and FB (and Yahoo Messenger that time) and it all continued for over a year. In 2011, most of the ships are already starting to have an internet access but mine was using the old fashioned e-mail system. We communicated in my on-board stage still, and to avoid divulge of our precious “friendly” communication we devised our own language that worked for us. When we were asked what was that, we said it was combination of German and our own terminologies when in fact, it was just done with letter replacement. THERE WAS NO SINGLE DAY THAT WE NEVER COMMUNICATED.

She was 24, I was 36. She calls me Kuya (term of endearment for a big brother in Filipino) because she’s the eldest in the family and no Kuya at all; and I called her Sis. But the Kuya-Sis relationship flourished into something better in about one and a half year. This time, when I finally had her YES, I was assigned into another vessel with internet this time. Our email system became something more tangible, more real time, more realistic. Our communication became as often as five times at least in a day and summing them all up, around one hour spent in one single day. :)

I had my vacation that time and even when having vacation we were still having our relationship flourishing.... I am from Cavite (near Philippine capital Manila), she’s from Bacolod (somewhere in Visayas) and we're an hour away by plane. I decided to visit her, I met her family for the first time. They are all wonderful people, and my intuition of her being the perfect woman to be my wife became stronger despite my age.

Honestly I felt like I was running out of time so I decided to propose. Still, we were still away when we were fixing our wedding. I was onboard, she was still in Bacolod. When I had my vacation around 3 months before our wedding, it was the only time when we really spent together. However, my father was so ill that time so I had to leave Bacolod and attend to my father. (My father passed away a month after our wedding).

After getting married, I was assigned to my new company with 1MBPS shared connection so video calling thru FB worked well. We were granted with 2 hours time in a day that resets every GMT+00 so our 1 hour sometimes became the full two hours. That happened every day.

During vacation however, I always made it a point to get some bucks enjoying our lives together travelling. We went to various Philippine tourists spots: Sagada, Baguio, Pagudpud, Boracay, Negros’ Lakawon Island, Guimaras, and many more. We went to Singapore and let her experienced the cozy stay at Marina Bay Sands for an overnight. We went to Malaysia and stroll there for several days. We went flying with a parasail… and it made me so amazed the way she conquered her fear of heights only because she was with me. We also went hiking in Mt. Maculot.

We were so happy when she got pregnant on early 2016 while I was having my vacation. I left on September 2016 without having any clue that sooner, something life changing would take place. In her pregnancy we were still chatting. She’s showing me every kick made by the baby… when she feels vibration of fixed manner that we thought to be the baby doing hiccups, and even when the baby tries to change her position by persistently pushing one side of her tummy. I witnessed all those via video calling and some recorded videos. She would tell me “Hon, batiin mo muna si Baby oh… Nagwawala na naman, nagpapapansin.” (Honey, the baby wants you to say Hi to her. She's restless catching your attention). And she would stop after I greet her.

We celebrated our third anniversary on December 22, 2016. She asked me if she could go out with her mom who happened to be with her. She said she wants to take long walks because sooner our baby was on due (for birth) so she needed some effort to do strenuous activities for easier birth. She had a date with her Mom saying that would be the last time we’d celebrate with her “alone”, because next year, there will be three of us. After her date with Mom, I had my one final chat to her… the usual one full hour of chat. And we said goodbye without a clue, it was final.

December 23. When I woke up (I was in Brazil) she left me with an offline FB message “Hon, I think this is it. I had spotting so by the time you get this message, we’re in the hospital. Don’t worry, I will be fine. :) I’m so excited!”

In around my noontime at Brazil, I was informed by my mother in law… I already had my child and I am already a father. But my wife’s blood pressure was dropping. I never expected things would go wrong because as always, I trusted the Lord things won’t go wrong.

December 24, I asked them what was going on, they told me there was a condition called “Amniotic Fluid Embolism” taking place. I googled and I felt sudden rush of my blood to my head… It was really scary. Still, I mumbled, “Lord I trust you nothing bad will happen.”

My sister was asking if I could come home. My mother in law asked me too, if I could come home. It was when I thought something bad already happened… “Is my wife dead?” and had a very tragic “yes…”

I went home on Christmas Day with my wife in a casket. The over 24 hours of travel all the way from Brazil to Qatar (plus several hours of waiting) and finally to Manila; was the longest time of my life. I’d always think of nothing but be composed.

Nothing in her live looks resembled her appearance inside the casket. She was so pale, bloated, and the only thing I remember it was her was the shape of her forehead and her cute button nose...

We were almost perfect. We both lived a comfortable life. We travelled, we endured every moment of our lives together. We also endured moments of being together when we were physically away.

With her death, sometimes I have unanswered questions… but the mere fact I am alive is I am still loved. It is hard for me to confide because I always think everything every people will say to me, I already know them. I do not know God plans…. YET at least. But I do know He has plans. I am thankful though, that our child is healthy.

In every tear shed, in every mourning casted, in every burst of emotion; there is my wife up there hurting the most. That is why I always tell myself lessen my shedding of tears, mourning, and just continue life.

Being a seafarer is indeed a challenge. It would have been greater if it didn’t end up with her leaving me, but I am so confident that it has always been possible to be happy with it. I am happy though, because I have good memories to recall. I have good memories to tell to my child.”

If you are a seafarer going through a similar experience and need someone to talk to, you can contact SeafarerHelp at any time – all our contact details can be found at seafarerhelp.org.

13th December 2017

ISWAN is delighted to announce the judges who will decide which nominees will be honoured for their excellent seafarers’ welfare provision at its International Seafarers’ Welfare Awards next year.

Each of the four awards categories will be judged by an esteemed panel of representatives from across the maritime industry. The panels are as follows:

Port of the Year
Pradeep Chawla – Managing Director, QHSE and Training, Anglo Eastern
Kimberly Karlshoej – Consultant, ITF Seafarers’ Trust
Peter Tomlin – Chief Executive, Merchant Navy Welfare Board

Seafarers’ Centre of the Year
Tomas Abrahamsson – Acting Head, ITF Seafarers’ Trust
Robert Kledal – Chief Executive Officer, Wrist Ship Supply
Jan Oltmanns – Managing Director, DUCKDALBEN International Seamen’s Club
Jason Zuidema – Executive Director, North American Maritime Ministry Association

Shipping Company of the Year
Karin Orsel – Chief Executive Officer, MF Shipping Group
Natalie Shaw – Director of Employment Affairs, International Chamber of Shipping
Jacqui Smith – Maritime Coordinator, International Transport Workers’ Federation
Niels Snog – Chief Executive Officer, Garrets International

The Dr Dierk Lindemann Welfare Personality of the Year
Drew Brandy – Senior Vice President Market Strategy, Inmarsat
Marissa Oca – Founder, Gig and the Amazing Sampaguita Foundation
Natalie Shaw – Director of Employment Affairs, International Chamber of Shipping
Ankita Srivastava – Voyage Manager, Commercial Operations, Teekay

The International Seafarers’ Welfare Awards are made possible by a generous grant from the ITF Seafarers' Trust and Gold sponsor Inmarsat. In addition, ISWAN is pleased to announce MF Shipping Group as the sponsor of the Port of the Year award. The other awards sponsors are the International Chamber of Shipping (Dr Dierk Lindemann Welfare Personality of the Year), Garrets International (Shipping Company of the Year), and Wrist Ship Supply (Seafarer Centre of the Year).

The awards are also supported by the International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Christian Maritime Association (ICMA) and the International Transport Workers Federation  (ITF).

Nominations for the awards have now closed and ISWAN is currently inviting nominees to submit their entries. The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony held at the International Labour Organization in Geneva next April.

On 29th November 2017, 70 representatives from across the maritime industry gathered in Rotterdam with the common goal of exploring how to provide seafarers with the highest standard of port-based services and facilities.

Karin Orsel

ISWAN’s Seminar on Ports and Seafarers’ Welfare, sponsored by the International Port Welfare Partnership Programme (IPWP), began with a welcome from ISWAN Trustee Andy Winbow, acting as the Chairman for the day’s proceedings. This was followed by a keynote speech from Karin Orsel (pictured), another of ISWAN's Trustees as well as Co-Chair of the Royal Association of Netherlands Shipowners and CEO of MF Shipping Group. Karin highlighted the good practices followed by her company, MF Shipping Group, along with challenges to the shipping industry, such as the fact that technical developments are now so rapid that regulation cannot keep up.

Delegates were given an overview of the IPWP and its basis in the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC 2006) by Sharon Coveney (Deputy Chief Executive of the Merchant Navy Welfare Board), Captain David Parsons (IPWP Special Advisor) and Susan Newcombe (IPWP Special Advisor). A successful pilot project of 10 Port Welfare Committees (PWCs) in nine countries has led to a three-year programme aiming at establishing at least 30 PWCs. 66 countries have expressed an interest in participating, covering 158 ports internationally.

The Port of Rotterdam’s Senior Advisor within its Harbour Master Division, Ingrid Romers, provided a case study of the port, describing how its development, location and industrial nature has had a negative impact on traditional seafarers’ welfare facilities. The port has recognised that its lack of public transport limits shore leave opportunities for seafarers and has established a fund to support the development of accessible facilities. The aim is to be a port that welcomes seafarers, not just cargo.

Jan Oltmanns, Director of DUCKDALBEN International Seamen’s Club in Hamburg, began his presentation by welcoming ISWAN’s International Seafarers’ Welfare Awards, speaking as a winner of the Judges Special Award last year. He described his work in providing access to medical facilities for seafarers in Hamburg and emphasised that there is often a lack of confidentiality for seafarers experiencing health problems on board.

The seminar continued with a report on the early results of a 2017 survey on the provision of WiFi access for seafarers in port, presented by ISWAN’s Project Manager Caitlin Vaughan. Not much had changed since an earlier survey in 2011, but results indicated an improvement in access for seafarers to ports’ own WiFi networks. Caitlin also highlighted the issues surrounding the purchase and use of SIM cards in port and the relatively high costs for seafarers to access internet-based services such as Skype.

15. Portable Communications Pod IMG 0139

Next, Kimberly Karlshoej, Consultant to the ITF Seafarers’ Trust, demonstrated with statistics how little-used port-based welfare facilities were by many seafarers. She highlighted the number of good apps available to provide support to seafarers, along with the development of a Maritime Welfare Workers course in conjunction with the World Maritime University. Kimberly then introduced a new concept – a Portable Communications Pod which could be easily transported to and set up at suitable locations to provide seafarers with access to the internet. The delegates were then taken outside the venue to view one of these pods (pictured), which had been transported to Rotterdam especially for the seminar.

After a champagne toast to the launch of the Portable Communications Pod project followed by lunch, the seminar resumed with a presentation from the North American Maritime Ministry Association’s Executive Director and General Secretary of the International Christian Maritime Association, Jason Zuidema. Jason expressed the view that adequate funding was critical to success and highlighted the benefits of collaboration through Port Welfare Committees. He also demonstrated the advantages to be gained from sound branding and adopting best practice.

Dr Iven Kramer of the Port of Bremerhaven and Werner Gerke of the Seamen’s Club ‘Welcome’ Bremerhaven gave a joint presentation, using Bremerhaven as a case study. They stressed the positive benefits of ISWAN’s International Seafarers’ Welfare Awards and explained how the Bremerhaven Welfare Committee is a key meeting place for port-based organisations. The voluntary port levy system has been widely taken up, with some 85% of Bremerhaven port users contributing. They reported that adaptation to changing circumstances is important and the growing competition between ports is adding to pressures for resources.

3. Delegates 20171129 103521

Lena Dyring, Assistant Director of Cruise Operations at the Norwegian Seafarers’ Union, spoke to delegates about the responses received when cruise ship crews were questioned about welfare provisions in cruise terminals. Time pressure, particularly on turnaround days, was a particular barrier to crew getting ashore. Shopping, transport and the ability to eat out and go on activities or excursions were all identified as cruise ship crew needs, as was access to WiFi, preferably free.

The final presentation was given by Toon van de Sande, Director of Spiritension. He spoke about bullying and harassment of seafarers, which he described as toxic behaviour that can be just as serious whether it is real or perceived. Giving examples of available guidance for seafarers to combat bullying and harassment, Toon drew attention to the need to take into account cultural differences such as the varying physical and emotional responses by different nationalities.

Summing up, Andy Winbow highlighted two issues which would require further consideration: better promotion of ISWAN’s activities and better links and coordination with port health authorities. The speakers, attendees, organisers and sponsors were thanked and all were urged to keep up the good work in support of seafarers’ welfare and wellbeing in the future.

Photos from the seminar can be viewed here.

1. Thon Hotel IMG 0080

A new self-help guide has been launched by ISWAN as part of its series of Good Mental Health Guides for seafarers.

Psychological Wellbeing at Sea provides seafarers with guidance on how best to enhance their wellbeing despite many of the challenges of life at sea. This new guide brings together evidence from the field of Positive Psychology to help seafarers recognise critical elements of their psychological wellbeing, and provides straightforward, practical tips that could help while they’re away at sea. The guide provides a detailed background to ISWAN’s Steps to Positive Mental Health – launched earlier this year – and aims to provide seafarers with the necessary tools to feel their best at sea.

Psychological Wellbeing at Sea has been produced by Consultant Clinical Psychologist Dr. Pennie Blackburn and is sponsored by Shipowners’ Club, whose continued support has enabled ISWAN to extend its Good Mental Health Guides for Seafarers.

The new guide complements ISWAN’s free, 24/7 helpline, SeafarerHelp. Seafarers and their family members can get in touch via a range of channels to speak to someone confidentially in their own language, and the helpline team is trained to effectively provide emotional support to seafarers who may need to talk through a problem.

Mental health is currently a prominent topic for discussion within the maritime industry, with reduced crew numbers and fast turnaround of ships in port potentially placing a strain on seafarers, who can spend months at a time working away from family and friends. A recent survey by Nautilus International reported that only 57% of seafarers have personal e-mail access at sea and only 6% are able to make video calls. Psychological Wellbeing at Sea offers ways in which seafarers can take care of their own mental health while on board. ISWAN aims to work with as many different areas of the industry as possible to ensure the guide is widely distributed to seafarers around the world.

Psychological Wellbeing at Sea is available to download below and on the SeafarerHelp website.

ISWAN’s Jun Pablo joined an aerial search last week for the missing crew of the Emerald Star, which sunk off the Philippines last month.

The Emerald Star, which was carrying nickel ore from Indonesia to China with a crew of 26 Indian seafarers, sunk in the Philippines Sea in the early hours of the 13th October 2017. 16 crew members were rescued but 10 remain missing.

On 17th November, Jun Pablo, ISWAN’s Regional Representative in the Philippines, accompanied the Philippine Coast Guard on an aerial search over the islands of Babuyan, Calayan, Dalupiri and Fuga with the hope of spotting any remains or debris from the vessel.

Sadly, no findings were made on this mission but the Philippine Coast Guard plans to continue search efforts in order to achieve closure for the families of the missing crew after this tragic incident. ISWAN’s Regional Director in India, Chirag Bahri, is also coordinating with various stakeholders in the region to provide humanitarian support to the families of the missing crew.

Jun on Emerald Star search 3

ISWAN's Jun Pablo, fifth from left, with the Philippine Coast Guard

3rd November 2017

The ITF Seafarers’ Trust has launched a new version of its Shore Leave app for seafarers, with features designed to encourage seafarers to visit their local seafarer centres and have more fun using the app.

One new feature enables seafarers to enter a raffle each time they visit a seafarers’ centre, which has a QR code specific to the centre or location. Seafarers scan the code with the app to receive an electronic raffle ticket and a winner will be selected from all the entrants every four months – the first winner will receive an iPad.

The app also includes a map system which can be used either while the user is online or downloaded and used offline. Seafarers can post pins on the map about places of interest such as sports facilities, bars and even bus stops in order to share their recommendations with others visiting that particular port or city.

More customisation options have been added to the app so that seafarers can upload a profile photo and keep track of their carrier on board, adding the name of the ship they are sailing with, their rank, and where and when they sign on or off.

Shore Leave was first launched in 2014 as the very first app specifically developed for seafarers. The aim was to collect the contact details of all seafarers’ centres in an app, knowing that most seafarers cannot rely on an internet connection. The app, once downloaded, functions offline and all the contacts are stored in seafarers’ phones. This makes them easily accessible at any time so that seafarers can always call for a bus to give them a ride to the seafarers’ centre, mall or nearby city.

The Shore Leave app can be downloaded on Google Play for Android and the App Store for iOS devices.

The Trafigura Foundation awards ISWAN a grant to improve its helpline and support dedicated emergency funds for seafarers experiencing difficult situations at sea.

London 1 November 2017. The Trafigura Foundation and ISWAN have begun a collaboration to improve ISWAN's assistance to seafarers.

Seafarers, who are responsible for transporting 90% of the world's goods, lead tough lives with fast turnaround of ships in ports, months at a time spent on board, reduced crew numbers and increased workloads. They also face long periods away from family and friends with limited or no communication back home for weeks on end.

ISWAN's 24-hour multilingual helpline, SeafarerHelp, provides a lifeline for seafarers experiencing critical situations at sea or needing emotional support to cope with the time spent away from home. The Trafigura Foundation's grant will be used to replace ISWAN's current customer relationship management software with a new system to enable the helpline to offer a better service and improved data monitoring of seafarers in need.

This collaboration will also benefit seafarers through two specific funds administered by ISWAN: the Seafarers' Emergency Fund, which provides immediate, essential aid to seafarers and their families who are directly involved in unforeseen crises; and the Piracy Survivors Family Fund (PSFF), created to help seafarers affected by piracy attacks around the Horn of Africa. The PSFF offers vital support during and after seafarers' captivity by providing livelihood and living expenses to their families, as well as mental and physical rehabilitation. The fund is providing ongoing support to seafarers held hostage by Somali pirates.

Roger Harris, Executive Director of ISWAN said: 'We warmly welcome the Trafigura Foundation's new funding and their commitment to ISWAN and the welfare of seafarers. We are looking forward to a long term productive partnership with the foundation'.

Vincent Faber, Executive Director of the Trafigura Foundation, said: 'Our partnership with ISWAN not only makes sense in the framework of our philanthropic strategy promoting clean and safe supply chains. It is also a pioneering collaboration able to engender a strong positive impact on the lives of seafarers, whose working category deserves special support and welfare measures. We are proud to support ISWAN's commitment and help this Association reach out to more beneficiaries'.

ABOUT ISWAN

ISWAN is an independent international not-for-profit organisation/charity supporting seafarers and their families worldwide. We provide a 24/365 helpline, emotional support, health information, and support for seafarers affected by piracy and other traumatic events. ISWAN works in partnership with a range of different organisations to promote the wellbeing of seafarers.

ABOUT THE TRAFIGURA FOUNDATION

Established in November 2007 as an independent philanthropic entity, the Trafigura Foundation provides long-term funding and expertise to improve socio-economic conditions of vulnerable communities around the world. It joins forces with experienced organisations working on the field to achieve long-lasting impact with programmes tailored on local realities.

The Foundation's action is based on two pillars. The first one is the provision of support in the social entrepreneurship's field, with the aim of boosting sustainable employment for the most vulnerable categories and creating economic opportunities in the poorest regions of the world. The second is the promotion of clean and safe supply chains, which focuses on enhancing the livelihood of populations impacted by logistic activities and mitigating environmental and social issues caused by transportation or infrastructure at land and sea.

31st October 2017

Unsafe mixed migration by sea continues to claim many lives, despite the strenuous efforts made by Governmental and naval rescue services, often supported by merchant vessels, abiding by the long-standing tradition and legal obligation to go to the rescue of persons in distress at sea.

The complexities of this humanitarian challenge were discussed on Monday (30th October) at a meeting hosted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), bringing together representatives of UN agencies, the maritime industry and European Union naval forces.

For the rescued and seafarers alike, the experience can be harrowing. A modern merchant vessel is unsuited to carrying large numbers of survivors, offering inadequate shelter, medical care or sanitation in such situations, and with limited spare food and water on board.

Three rescues involving merchant ships in the Mediterranean illustrate the challenges.

In October 2016, the fully-laden oil tanker Okyroe, with a crew of 21 seafarers on board, rescued 1,536 people from rubber dinghies; 778 were transferred to rescue vessels over a two-day period and 758 were transferred by the vessel to port of Augusta, Italy.

In August 2016, the platform supply vessel OOC Jaguar rescued 501 people from several rubber boats, including one just-delivered baby and her mother. A crew member unwrapped the umbilical chord from the baby’s neck and helped the mother deliver the placenta.

In April 2016, the container ship Hamburg Bridge rescued 310 people who had been crammed aboard one small boat.

Reports show that this year (up to 29th October), some 149,785 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea. The majority arrived in Italy and the remainder were divided between Greece, Cyprus and Spain. But 2,826 individuals who attempted the journey, during the same time frame, lost their lives at sea. Although the number of deaths in the Mediterranean has seen a decline, year on year, the ratio of fatalities to attempted journeys is increasing.

Merchant vessels become involved in about one in ten rescue operations in the Mediterranean - 101 cases to date in 2017, and in 112 cases in 2016 - in the sea area covered by the Rome, Italy, Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre, the meeting was told.

While search and rescue operations continue, the meeting participants recognized that the systems established under IMO’s Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and the Search and Rescue (SAR) Convention were never envisaged as, or intended to be, a response to mass migration.

'Although governments and the merchant shipping industry will continue rescue operations, safe, legal, alternative pathways to migration must be developed, including safe, organized migration by sea, if necessary,' said IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim.

The solutions to reducing the loss of life at sea were discussed. These include addressing 'push' factors, tackling the criminal activity involved in people trafficking and enhanced collaboration amongst international agencies and States.

Attending the meeting were representatives from International Organization for Migration (IOM), the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), United Nations Human Rights (OHCHR), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the European Union Naval Forces (EU NAVFOR), BIMCO, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), the International Federation of Shipmasters' Associations (IFSMA) and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF).

The record of views of the meeting will be fed into the Global Compact on Migration, a UN Member State-led process that emanated from the 19th September 2016 New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants approved by Heads of State during the UN General Assembly. This two-year long process is expected to culminate in the adoption of the GCM at an intergovernmental conference on international migration in 2018.

Note:
Rescue at Sea: A guide to principles and practice as applied to refugees and migrants, prepared jointly by IMO, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), is available to download.

IMO – the International Maritime Organization – is the United Nations specialized agency with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships.

Website: www.imo.org

18th October 2017

A total of 121 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships were reported in the first nine months of 2017, according to the International Chamber of Commerce’s (ICC) International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB) latest quarterly report on maritime piracy.

The flagship global report notes that, while piracy rates were down compared to the same period in 2016, there is continuing concern over attacks in the Gulf of Guinea and in South East Asia. The increase in attacks off the coast of Venezuela and other security incidents against vessels off Libya – including an attempted boarding in the last quarter – highlights the need for vigilance in other areas. In total, 92 vessels were boarded, 13 were fired upon, there were 11 attempted attacks and five vessels were hijacked in the first nine months of 2017.

No incidents were reported off the coast of Somalia in this quarter, though the successful attacks from earlier in the year suggest that pirates in the area retain the capacity to target merchant shipping at distances from the coastline. Here are four main takeaways from the report:

1. Malaysia’s success story

One vessel was reported hijacked in the third quarter of 2017 when a Thai product tanker was attacked off Pulau Yu in Malaysia in early September. However, thanks to the prompt intervention of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, 10 hijackers were successfully apprehended and the tanker was safely escorted to a nearby port. The pirates were quickly tried and sentenced to long periods of imprisonment.

'The Malaysian response demonstrates exactly the type of speedy and robust action that is needed to deter such attacks.' said Pottengal Mukundan, Director of IMB.

2. Nigeria remains risky

A total of 20 reports against all vessel types were received for Nigeria, 16 of which occurred off the coast of Brass, Bonny and Bayelsa. Guns were reportedly used in 18 of the incidents and vessels were underway in 17 of 20 reports. 39 of the 49 crewmembers kidnapped globally occurred off Nigerian waters in seven separate incidents. Other crew kidnappings in 2017 have been reported 60 nautical miles off the coast of Nigeria.

'In general, all waters in and off Nigeria remain risky, despite intervention in some cases by the Nigerian Navy. We advise vessels to be vigilant,' said Mr Mukundan. 'The number of attacks in the Gulf of Guinea could be even higher than our figures as many incidents continue to be unreported.'

3. An uptick in violence off Venezuela

While only three low-level incidents took place in Venezuela during the same period in 2016, the number this year racked up to 11. All vessels were successfully boarded by robbers armed with guns or knives and mostly took place at anchorage. Four crewmembers were taken hostage during these incidents, with two assaulted and one injured.

4. Tackling piracy is a team effort

Perhaps the biggest takeaway of this quarter’s report is the proven importance of the 24-hour manned IMB Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC), which has provided the maritime industry, governments and response agencies with timely and transparent data on piracy and armed robbery incidents received directly from the vessels or owners, flag states or navies. The PRC’s prompt forwarding of reports and liaison with response agencies—using Inmarsat Safety Net Services and email alerts, all free of charge—has already helped bolster the response against piracy and armed robbery, keeping seafarers safe.

'One of the strongest weapons triggering the fight against piracy is accurate statistics,' said Mr Mukundan. 'There should be free and reciprocal sharing of information between the IMB PRC and regional information centres. With a clearer picture of when and where violent incidents are taking place, authorities are able to better allocate their resources to tackle this global issue.'

Attacks in the first three quarters of 2017 may be viewed on the IMB Live Piracy Map.

10th October 2017

Today is World Mental Health Day. SeafarerHelp is ISWAN's free, confidential, multilingual helpline for seafarers and their families, available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. When a seafarer is feeling low or having suicidal thoughts, the team is there to provide support and a listening ear, just like they did in the following case.

An Indian seafarer who ‘felt like committing suicide’ contacted SeafarerHelp for help with his personal problems. He had been feeling lonely throughout the four months that he had been on his vessel, and did not want to burden his family by sharing these emotions with them. He did not feel comfortable discussing his concerns with his colleagues either, for fear of being reported and sent home by his company.

The seafarer explained: ‘Everyone has problems. My inner self used to tell me that disclosing it to everyone would not make it right or return happiness.’

Providing emotional support is part of SeafarerHelp’s service and since the team is multilingual this was given to the seafarer in his own language, enabling him to express himself fully. The team reassured him about the confidentiality of the exchange and the non-judgemental nature of the service, which prompted him to open up about the things that had been bothering him.

The seafarer had first experienced homesickness when he had to leave home at an early age to study at an all-boys boarding school, away from his family. Growing up in an exclusively male environment, he felt that his lack of exposure left him unprepared for relationships with the opposite sex. After joining a vessel, the seafarer later had two difficult and unsuccessful relationships after which he found himself developing suicidal thoughts. The seafarer shared his worries on how the combination of his past experiences continued to affect him.

The SeafarerHelp team acknowledged the seafarer’s courage to admit his suicidal thoughts. The team reviewed the self-care strategies already being used by the seafarer and offered help in finding a professional who could provide specialist assistance. With his consent, the SeafarerHelp team located a Mumbai based professional counsellor and organised counselling sessions based on his availability, while he was at sea.

The seafarer ultimately chose not to take the free counselling sessions, but over the next six months, the SeafarerHelp team kept in contact with him to check on his progress. He said that he appreciated how the team continued to follow up on how he was feeling and the fact that he was given continued support. He said that knowing that the SeafarerHelp service was there helped to ease his burden and he was very grateful.

As this story is written, the seafarer is at home on vacation. He has confirmed that he is doing very well and is addressing his issues. He told us that he is now channelling his energies into taking courses and preparing for his career advancement exams.

The SeafarerHelp team happily provides long term support to seafarers who are experiencing personal difficulties.

If you are a seafarer or family member of a seafarer and need someone to talk to, you can speak to a member of the SeafarerHelp team confidentially – all our contact details can be found at seafarerhelp.org.

 

01/11/17: This article has been amended - the source of the statement regarding the risk of suicide in the seafaring profession was found to be unreliable, so the statement has been removed from our introduction.