18 May 2018

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Federal Transport Authority (FTA) have signed a ground-breaking Memorandum of Understanding to work together to protect the rights of all seafarers operating in UAE waters.

On signing the memorandum at the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in London, ITF general secretary Stephen Cotton said: 'We at the ITF are committed to ensuring seafarers are protected all around the world. This is a significant opportunity to work with our partners in the UAE to bring seafarers and workers’ safety to forefront of the conversation.

'This agreement is just the beginning and will hopefully pave the way for similar agreements in other territories. We are keen to work for greater cooperation, in all areas of transportation.'

Dr. Abdullah Belheif Al Nuaimi, minister of infrastructure development and chairman of the FTA board of directors, spoke at the event: 'This agreement allows us to consult, cooperate and coordinate jointly and continuously to find legal solutions regarding the abandonment of seafarers aboard ships, by ship owners and operators, and to work together to combat and prevent the occurrence of this phenomenon in the future.'

This is the first agreement of its kind between a government authority and the ITF. The two parties are committed to working closely together and sharing information to provide comprehensive and timely support to in need vessels and seafarers within UAE waters.

ISWAN warmly welcomes this agreement and hopes that it will lead to a dramatic decrease in the number of abandoned seafarers in the UAE. ISWAN is committed to working with both the ITF and the FTA in seeking solutions to this problem.

16 May 2018

On 15 May 2018, the International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) and the Taipei Representative Office in the EU and Belgium signed a Memorandum of Understanding, under which Taiwan will donate another USD 30,000 to the Piracy Survivor Family Fund (PSFF), administered by ISWAN, on behalf of the UN Contact Group for Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS). The Memorandum was signed by Representative Harry Tseng at the European Parliament in Brussels and Roger Harris, Executive Director of ISWAN.

Taiwan granted USD 30,000 to PSFF in 2015 and this is the second time that they have given a donation. Roger Harris of ISWAN said: ‘ISWAN deeply appreciates this generous donation from the Government of Taiwan. We are delighted to receive another large grant from Taiwan to the Piracy Survivor Family Fund. The Fund supports seafarers and their families who have been the innocent victims of Somali piracy and who have received no or only very limited support since their attack.’

The PSFF was established by the CGPCS under the EU Presidency in 2014 to provide financial assistance to seafarers affected by Somali piracy and to their families. It fulfils a crucial role in the rehabilitation of piracy victims. Since 2006, it is estimated that more than 4,000 seafarers have been held hostage by Somali pirates and that as many as 80,000 have been subjected to an attack. Although ships are not being hijacked off the coast of Somalia, the threat of piracy still remains. The donation to the Fund will enable it to respond quickly should there be a resurgence of piracy off the coast of Somalia.


Signing ceremony of MOU between ISWAN and Government of Taiwan at the European Parliament

In partnership with the Shipowners’ Club, ISWAN has produced a 13-minute audio relaxation exercise to help seafarers cope with stress at sea. The exercise – Managing stress with relaxation techniques - is accessible online and is also available for download.

The exercise is the latest addition to ISWAN's Good Mental Health Guides for Seafarers.

We talk about feeling stressed when the pressures or demands of life get on top of us. We all feel stressed at times. Stress is not only normal but essential for survival and can be beneficial to us.
Although stress has a useful function, the effects of stress can be unpleasant or uncomfortable. If the stress is prolonged or repeated, many of the changes in our body can have longer term effects on our physical health and our wellbeing. For all these reasons, it is important to recognise stress and take measures to manage it.

Relaxation and Controlled Breathing are both ways to relax your body. These work by calming your body and mind and reversing the physiological changes which happen in our bodies at times of stress.

Progressive Muscular Relaxation is the easiest method for learning how to relax your body. The idea of the exercise is to learn the difference between how your muscles feel when they are tense and how they feel when they are relaxed. It is physically impossible to be stressed and relaxed at the same time. Practising relaxation techniques helps us to build up some resilience to stress and makes it easier to use the techniques when we need them.

Controlled Breathing Technique:  All the physical effects of stress begin with the breath.
If we control our breathing (that is we breathe slowly and deeply from the bottom of our lungs), the heart slows down and the body returns to its resting state. You can use controlled breathing any time you notice your breathing is a little shallow or fast or whenever you notice sensations of stress, anxiety, fear or even anger. Controlled breathing can help you take a moment out before reacting and is excellent to use quickly just before you enter into a difficult situation.

Our new audio relaxation exercise combines muscle relaxation with the controlled breathing technique. Practising them together helps your mind to associate relaxation with controlled breathing. This means that when you need to relax quickly and easily you can take a slow deep breath in, from the bottom of your lungs, remind yourself to relax and release the tension from your muscles. Like any new skill, relaxation does take time to learn.
Practise every day at least once a day for 10 days to 2 weeks to get the most from the technique.

Mindful breathing: In mindful breathing, we notice our breath without trying to change it; in the controlled breathing technique, we deliberately alter our breathing. More information about mindful breathing can be found in our guide, Steps to Positive Mental Health.

A one page guide on Managing Stress at Sea is available to download here.

Further to a request from the National Seafarers Welfare Board of Nigeria (a voluntary organisation) and following a substantial amount of preparatory work, Peter Tomlin of the UK Merchant Navy Welfare Board representing the IPWP recently visited and helped set up new Port Welfare Committees (PWCs) in 3 major Nigerian ports. The ports of Apapa and Tin Can Island are located near Lagos. The Port of Onne, Port Harcourt, is situated some 450km from Lagos and is classified as an ‘essential travel only’ region. Nigeria has ratified ILO MLC, 2006.

All 3 major ports are located within a piracy region that remains active. Indeed, a piracy incident occurred off the coast during the visit. All vessels take appropriate precautions such as barbed wire around their guard rails etc. Each one of the ports is extremely busy and conditions within the port are generally better than those immediately outside the port boundaries, which no doubt influences seafarers plans to proceed ashore. Only Apapa port has any dedicated shore based seafarers’ welfare facilities in the form of an old, well-used ‘portacabin’ style ‘drop in’ centre located next to the Port Offices. This small ITF Seafarers Trust funded centre has been repaired after severe storm damage, however, it remains in very poor condition, in need of further repairs and is probably beyond economic repair. The Apostleship of the Sea and Mission to Seafarers Port Chaplains, and a Seafarers UK funded social worker in combination with trained volunteers provide welfare services. An ITFST funded 8 seater minibus is fully utilised to provide a ship welfare visiting programme and is also used to take seafarers ashore for shopping. Tin Can Island does not have any welfare facilities but it is understood there are plans in place for an ITFST Communications Pod to be situated within the port. The Port of Onne also has no dedicated welfare facilities. Notwithstanding, like Tin Can Island and Apapa, Onne does have strong, supportive port management and now possesses a PWC, under the national welfare board, that is capable of reviewing, supporting and overseeing the maintenance of future seafarers’ welfare improvements.

Nigeria is greatly dependant on its ports and is one of the few countries that has actually formed a national seafarers’ welfare board i.a.w. MLC, 2006 with proactive government support. Each new PWC has been formed with attendance from Government, Shipowners, Unions, Port Owners/Authorities and Voluntary Organisations. The port of Apapa benefits from the support of proactive Mission to Seafarers & Apostleship of the Sea Port Chaplains and a Seafarers UK funded social worker who are doing an excellent job of providing welfare support to seafarers and their families. Welfare support extends to visiting seafarers on ships, those affected by piracy, hospitalised and in prison.

It is recommended that the newly formed PWCs review the seafarers’ welfare facilities in their ports at the earliest opportunity. Grants are probably required to financially support improvements to seafarers’ welfare in any or all of the aforementioned ports. There are further plans to establish new PWCs in the ports of Warri and Calabar.

26 April 2018

This month, the International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network’s (ISWAN) Regional Director in South Asia, Chirag Bahri, delivered ISWAN’s Pre-Departure Piracy Awareness Training during a visit to Chennai.

Chirag was invited by the Indian Maritime University to deliver the training to 17 participants from Africa, who were on an Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) course under the Ministry of External Affairs exchange programme. He introduced Best Management Practices and trained participants on preparing vessels and crew prior to sailing in high risk areas, coping in captivity and what precautions should be taken during the release process. The day-long course was a success and participants requested that Chirag explored the possibility of delivering the training in maritime institutes in their own countries.

While in Chennai, Chirag also presented to seafarers at MASSA Maritime Academy and the Hindustan Institute of Maritime Training (HIMT) on the importance of being prepared for a crisis. He spoke about ISWAN’s current campaign encouraging Indian seafarers to seek employment through registered crewing agencies. He also strongly advised the seafarers not to be complacent while transiting through piracy-infested waters.

Chirag also met with port officials and the Mercantile Marine Department (MMD) Principal Officer in Chennai, who he briefed on ISWAN’s work around encouraging ports to establish Port Welfare Committees (see portwelfare.org for more information). The senior port officials pledged their support to the programme.

In addition, Chirag represented ISWAN at a National Maritime Day celebration event on 5th April at the Seafarers’ Club in Chennai. He briefed guests, including the senior maritime fraternity, on ISWAN’s work and appealed for support of its campaign against unregistered crewing agencies.

ISWAN would like to thank its partners and the maritime institutes in Chennai for their kind support.

Itec training 2

24 April 2018

Last night, the International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) revealed the 2018 winners of its prestigious International Seafarers’ Welfare Awards at a high-profile ceremony in Geneva.

The awards honour those who have offered exceptional levels of welfare services and facilities to seafarers. The International Labour Organization (ILO) hosted the ceremony, which took place after the third meeting of the Special Tripartite Committee of the MLC, 2006.

The evening began with a video message from the ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder. Greg Vines, ILO Deputy Director-General for Management & Reform who was presenting the awards, then addressed the guests with a short speech. This was followed by speeches from the event’s main funder and Gold Sponsor, respectively – Tomas Abrahamsson, Acting Head of the ITF Seafarers’ Trust, and Drew Brandy, Senior Vice President of Market Strategy at Inmarsat.

The chair for the evening, MF Shipping Group’s Chief Executive Officer and ISWAN Trustee Karin Orsel, announced the first award of the night. The ISWAN Posthumous Award for Outstanding Services to Seafarers’ Welfare was awarded to Joseph Chacko and Leena Joseph, who tragically passed away in February. Pastor Joseph Chacko was the Regional Superintendent at Sailors’ Society and a trailblazer in seafarers’ welfare, and Leena was a constant supporter of his work. Their daughter, Neha Joseph, accepted the award, which paid tribute to the exceptional difference that Joseph and Leena made to the lives of seafarers.

The Flying Angel Club Fremantle was presented with a certificate of commendation for their continued outstanding services to seafarers’ welfare. Since winning the Seafarer Centre of the Year award in 2014, the centre has increased the transport offered to seafarers and refurbished their accommodation facilities.

Chair Karin Orsel then announced the following winners, chosen by four judging panels formed of experts from across the maritime industry:

Shipping Company of the Year: WALLEM
Award sponsored by Garrets International

Wallem previously won the Shipping Company of the Year award in 2014 for its strong support of seafarers’ families as well as excellent on-board communications provision. Since its previous win, Wallem has implemented a Wellness at Sea Programme for all seafarers and continued to improve on-board communications among other new initiatives aimed at benefitting seafarers.

Port of the Year: PORT OF ROTTERDAM
Award sponsored by MF Shipping Group

The Port of Rotterdam, together with various other stakeholders, has greatly improved welfare services for seafarers in the area and is working on a number of other future initiatives to continue to provide for visiting seafarers.

Seafarer Centre of the Year: MISSION TO SEAFARERS BRISBANE
Award sponsored by Wrist Ship Supply

The Mission to Seafarers Brisbane welcomes an estimated 12,000 seafarers each year and maximises seafarers’ time ashore with its free on-demand bus service. In addition to its wider stakeholder cooperation, the MTS Brisbane works with students at Queensland University of Technology to help them meet the constantly evolving media needs of seafarers.

The Dr Dierk Lindemann Welfare Personality of the Year (Organisation): NAUTILUS WELFARE FUND
Award sponsored by the International Chamber of Shipping

The Nautilus Welfare Fund provides accommodation and care services for some 170 mariners and their dependants. It also provides a one-off grants service to needy mariners across the UK who need essential items or household repairs. This service supports over 300 mariners and generates £800,000/annum in benefits and grants.

The Dr Dierk Lindemann Welfare Personality of the Year (Individual): JASPER DEL ROSARIO
Award sponsored by the International Chamber of Shipping

Jasper Del Rosario is a highly experienced and well-trained Sailors’ Society chaplain who is fully committed to supporting seafarers any time of the day or night. He visits seafarers on ships, in hospital, in prison and at home and provides holistic coaching in the Philippines as a Wellness at Sea trainer. He provided exceptional support to seafarers and their families in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in 2013.

ISWAN’s Executive Director, Roger Harris, said after the ceremony: ‘Tonight’s awards celebrate the heroes of seafarers’ welfare provision. It is fantastic to see the exceptional standards of services and facilities being offered to seafarers around the world every time we hold the International Seafarers’ Welfare Awards, and the achievements of this year’s winners set an excellent example to others. We would like to congratulate all of tonight’s winners and thank them wholeheartedly for everything they are doing for seafarers.’

Photos of the awards ceremony and the drinks reception afterwards can be viewed here.

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, the International Maritime Organization, the International Christian Maritime Association and the International Transport Workers Federation.

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.


We have charity places in this year's Royal Parks Half Marathon on Sunday 14th October and we need you!

The stunning 13.1-mile route on closed roads passes some of the capital’s world-famous landmarks, including Buckingham Palace and Horse Guards Parade, and travels through four of London’s eight Royal Parks – Hyde Park, The Green Park, St James’s Park and Kensington Gardens.

Are you up for the challenge? Can you raise £400 in sponsorship for us? The money you raise will support our work for the welfare of seafarers worldwide.

To claim your place or find out more, please contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We hope to see you there!

For more information about the event, visit the Royal Parks Half Marathon website.

13 April 2018

IMG 0199

This month, the International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) celebrates five years of supporting seafarers and promoting their welfare worldwide.

On 1 April 2013, the International Committee on Seafarers' Welfare (ICSW) and the International Seafarers' Assistance Network (ISAN) formally merged to form ISWAN. Five years later, ISWAN marked the anniversary with a celebratory drinks reception in London. ISWAN members, supporters and friends from across the maritime industry gathered at the White Chapel Building in London on Wednesday evening to mark five years of the organisation’s dedicated work for seafarers’ welfare (the photos can be viewed here). The venue was kindly provided by the Shipowners’ Club.

Speaking at the reception, ISWAN’s Chairman Per Gullestrup (pictured above proposing a toast) said: ‘It’s hard to believe that it’s already five years since ISWAN came into existence. We look back at those five years and a lot has happened since then.’ Here are some of the organisation’s highlights…

SeafarerHelp square white

Over 44,000 seafarers assisted by SeafarerHelp

ISWAN’s free, 24/7, multilingual helpline is the first port of call for seafarers and their families anywhere in the world needing help, support or guidance. Since ISWAN’s launch in April 2013, SeafarerHelp has assisted a total of 44,290 seafarers, dealing with concerns such as family issues, contractual difficulties, repatriation, personal problems and health issues. The SeafarerHelp team now deals with more cases in-house as a result of extensive training to expand their emotional support and counselling skills. ISWAN still works in partnership with a wide range of organisations who are often involved in helping with SeafarerHelp cases.

Keen to make it as easy as possible for seafarers and their families around the world to get in touch with SeafarerHelp, ISWAN has widened the range of contact methods on offer over the past five years. The newest platforms to be introduced are WhatsApp and Viber.

Safety at Sea Awards SeafarerHelp team

Helpline wins award and gains accreditation in 2017

The SeafarerHelp team gained recognition for their hard work and dedication when they were named Shoreside Team of the Year at the 2017 Safety at Sea Awards (pictured).

In the same year, the helpline was accredited with the nationally recognised Helplines Standard by Helplines Partnership. SeafarerHelp was the first helpline operating on a global basis to achieve this accreditation.

Over $400,000 awarded to seafarers via Seafarers Emergency Fund

The fund has provided seafarers and their families directly involved in unforeseen crises with a total of $416,442.95 of immediate, essential aid since April 2013.

…including $131,000 raised for Filipino seafarers affected by Typhoon Haiyan

Funds from ISWAN’s 2013 appeal were distributed to seafarers’ centres all over the world to provide free calls and WiFi to Filipino seafarers needing to contact their families and loved ones back home. The money raised was also used to assist in rebuilding homes and develop a children’s resource centre in the Philippines.

International Seafarers Welfare Awards 2015

Five years of events around the world to promote seafarers’ welfare

ISWAN has so far honoured the companies, organisations and individuals offering exceptional welfare services and facilities to seafarers at three international awards events. The 2018 International Seafarers’ Welfare Awards will take place at the International Labour Organization in Switzerland later this month.

2,500 seafarers and their families joined ISWAN to celebrate the Day of the Seafarer in Manila on 25 June 2016. ISWAN has also held seminars on topics around seafarers’ welfare every year since 2013 with delegates from across the maritime industry.

Naham 3 hostages and plane in Somalia editedA dedicated programme to support those affected by piracy

ISWAN expanded its support of piracy survivors and their families with the inclusion of the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme (MPHRP) into the organisation in 2015. ISWAN updated the Good Practice Guide for Shipping Companies and Manning Agents the same year to provide recommendations for the support of seafarers and their families before, during and after piracy incidents.

ISWAN and MPHRP supported the families of the crew of Naham 3 (pictured after their release), who were held captive by pirates for four and a half years and finally released in October 2016. ISWAN provided financial support to the families, and upon the crew’s release, it provided the seafarers with medical and psychological support as well as funds to assist them in the aftermath of their ordeal.

Information materials for seafarers produced and distributed worldwide

Since 2013, ISWAN’s Seafarers’ Health Information Programme (SHIP) has continued to produce health guides and posters along with a multilingual medical assessment booklet and distributed them to shipping companies, ports and seafarers’ centres worldwide. ISWAN’s latest materials, a series of Good Mental Health Guides available in both digital and hard copies, have so far been accessed online a total of more than 7,000 times.

In 2014, ISWAN produced and distributed 60,000 updated Seafarer Centre Directory booklets around the world and maintains an online version on the SeafarerHelp website. The data from this feeds into the ITF Seafarers’ Trust’s Shore Leave app. Since the launch of the new SeafarerHelp website in November 2016, the directory homepage has been visited over 13,000 times.

IPWPPort welfare committees set up worldwide and vital research published

ISWAN’s International Port Welfare Partnership (IPWP) Programme was launched in 2017 following a highly successful pilot project, which established seafarers’ welfare boards in ports across four continents.

Over the past five years, ISWAN has also conducted research into port levies and the health and wellbeing of women working at sea, as well as social isolation and the effects of digital technology on seafarers’ mental wellbeing.

Over 370,000 followers of SeafarerHelp on Facebook

ISWAN also shares information, news on seafarers’ welfare and photos on its website, which is in the process of being revamped, along with other digital platforms including the main ISWAN Facebook page (over 13,000 followers), Twitter (followers now exceed 3,000), LinkedIn and Instagram.

Roger Harris, ISWAN’s Executive Director, said: ‘ISWAN has come a long way in the last five years and we are proud of our achievements. We have a committed staff team dedicated to improving the wellbeing of seafarers worldwide. We are looking forward to the challenges of the next five years as there is still a lot more to do to develop welfare services and facilities for seafarers and their families around the world.’

ISWAN would like to sincerely thank its members – including the International Transport Workers’ Federation, the International Chamber of Shipping and the International Christian Maritime Association – and its funders – the ITF Seafarers’ Trust, the TK Foundation, Seafarers UK, the Trafigura Foundation and Trinity House – who make ISWAN’s work possible through invaluable support, funding and ongoing partnership working.

11 April 2018

A surge in armed attacks against ships around West Africa is pushing up global levels of piracy and armed robbery at sea, warns the International Chamber of Commerce's (ICC) International Maritime Bureau (IMB).

IMB's Piracy Reporting Centre recorded 66 incidents in the first quarter of 2018, up from 43 for the same period in 2017, and 37 in Q1 2016.

Worldwide in the first three months of 2018, 100 crew were taken hostage and 14 kidnapped from their vessels. A total of 39 vessels were boarded, 11 fired upon and four vessels hijacked. IMB received a further 12 reports of attempted attacks.

The Gulf of Guinea accounts for 29 incidents in 2018 Q1, more than forty percent of the global total. Of the 114 seafarers captured worldwide, all but one were in this region.

All four vessels hijackings were in the Gulf of Guinea, where no hijackings were reported in 2017. Two product tankers were hijacked from Cotonou anchorage in mid-January and early February, prompting the IMB PRC to issue a warning to ships. Towards the end of March, two fishing vessels were hijacked 30nm off Nigeria and 27nm off Ghana.

‘The hijacking of product tankers from anchorages in the Gulf of Guinea is a cause of concern. In these cases, the intent of the perpetrators is to steal the oil cargo and kidnap crew. The prompt detection and response to any unauthorised movements of an anchored vessel could help in the effective response to such attacks,’ commented an IMB spokesperson.

Nigeria piracy hotspot

Nigeria alone recorded 22 incidents. Of the 11 vessels fired upon worldwide, eight were off Nigeria – including a 300,000 MT deadweight VLCC tanker more than 40nm off Brass.

‘Attacks in the Gulf of Guinea are against all vessels. Crews have been taken hostage and kidnapped from fishing and refrigerated cargo vessels as well as product tankers. In some cases, the attacks have been avoided by the early detection of an approaching skiff, evasive action taken by the vessel and the effective use of citadels. The IMB is working with national and regional authorities in the Gulf of Guinea to support ships and coordinate counter piracy actions. The authorities from Benin, Nigeria and Togo have sent out boats in response to several incidents,’ said an IMB spokesperson.

Somali risk remains

One incident was reported off Somalia, where a product tanker was fired upon and chased by two skiffs around 160nm SE of Hobyo. At the end of March, a 160,000 DWT tanker reported being fired upon in the Gulf of Aden, while transiting within the Maritime Security Transit Corridor. The distance from land, sighting of ladders and firing upon ships continues to illustrate that the Somali pirates retain the capability and intent to attack merchant shipping in the wider Indian Ocean.


Indonesia recorded nine low level attacks against anchored vessels. Five bulk carriers reported actual or attempted attacks at Muara Berau anchorage in Samarinda, while waiting to load coal cargoes.

The full report can be downloaded below.

9 April 2018

Later this month, ISWAN’s Executive Director Roger Harris will present on the mental health of seafarers at a seminar on ‘The Future of Maritime Professionals’.

Regulations, enforcement of Conventions, technology, connectivity, social isolation and mental health all have an effect on today’s seafarer. The seminar, organised by The Nautical Institute London Branch, will focus on these topics and how they affect the future of maritime professionals.

Ahead of his presentation, Roger Harris said: ‘The mental wellbeing of seafarers is becoming an important issue and it is good to see that The Nautical Institute London Branch are highlighting it at their conference.’

The seminar will be held at the Novotel Hotel Bristol from 20th to 21st April 2018. For more information, visit The Nautical Institute’s website. The seminar programme can be downloaded below.