15 March 2018

ISWAN has produced four new infographics, in partnership with the Shipowner’s Club, using extracts from its latest self-help guide for seafarers, Psychological Wellbeing at Sea.

Psychological wellbeing enables us to function well, feel good about ourselves, and feel a sense of purpose and life satisfaction. With restrictions to wellbeing such as spending time away from family and friends, limited shore leave and long working hours, it is important for seafarers to take care of their mental health while working on board. ISWAN’s new infographics, sponsored by Shipowners’ Club and overseen by Consultant Clinical Psychologist Dr Pennie Blackburn, describe ways in which seafarers can boost their psychological wellbeing.

Drawing on guidance in Psychological Wellbeing at Sea, part of ISWAN’s Good Mental Health Guides for Seafarers, the infographics identify some of the critical factors which characterise wellbeing and suggest how seafarers can enhance them. These include connecting with others on board, doing more of what makes you happy and how to find support while at sea.

ISWAN will reach seafarers with these new resources via various methods, including its large Facebook following, its network of members and other stakeholders around the world.

The infographics can be downloaded below or on the SeafarerHelp website.

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

8 March 2018

Today is International Women’s Day and we are celebrating all the women who work as seafarers, making up 2% of the workforce. One of our SeafarerHelp team’s Russian speakers recently interviewed Ekaterina, a third officer from Ukraine, about her experience of being a woman seafarer.

How did you get into the marine profession?

In high school I had to decide which university to enter and what profession to choose. I knew that in the end I wanted to achieve a few things: interesting speciality, as well as the employment opportunities, a job in which I could apply and develop my strengths, ability to see the world, last but not the least important a good salary. That is how I decided to get a degree at Odessa National Maritime Academy.

What is your current rank and how did you get started?

I am 21 years old now. In July 2017 I graduated with a degree of a navigating officer. I started as a cadet. Now I'm doing my fourth contract and my rank at the moment is third officer.

Do male colleagues treat you in a different way because of your gender?

In all my marine experience (and I have always been working with mix nationalities crew), gender did not play a big role. I did and still do the same job as the men at my post. I cannot say that everything was always cloudless and wonderful – but the problems I faced were never gender-based.

Some seafarers comment negatively about the idea of women at sea. How do you feel about it?

I was faced with a lot of negativity from people whose work is mostly not connected with the sea. It seems ironic to me. I am a bit sad that stereotypes are quite strong in our society, but most of the seamen whom I know and work with are positive and supportive.

How would you describe your character and how does it help you in your work?

The desire to learn and know how things works and why, as well as doing work beyond basic requirements, are very important qualities for me. Equally important is a concern for colleagues.

Seafarers face a lot of challenges today. How do you cope with them?

Challenges are different. If something does not work out, I ask colleagues for help and always try to figure out the best way myself. If I make mistakes, I correct them as soon as possible and learn how to avoid them in the future. Of course, it's difficult to stay away from family and loved ones, but what can you do about it? All sailors go through this, in my opinion it helps us to appreciate loved ones even more. Unfortunately, not all problems can be solved quickly and simply. For example, I had a problem with career growth, so I had to change the type of ships and company and learn a lot from scratch. But it seems to me that in the end difficulties often turn out to be for the better.

As for the heavy workload, it is a common myth that women are not able to cope with the demand of the profession. Today physical work has its limitations; there are safety rules and standards aimed at preventing accidents and so on. Following them, as well as maintaining a good physical shape, it is easy to perform the required physical work. For my cadet practice I worked on deck doing the same job as male colleagues and received a huge amount of valuable experience. The officer’s work is mostly mentally focused, although we sometimes have to work with our hands. But it is always enjoyable work for me.

What would you like to say to all women considering a career at sea?

I would like to wish all women in the world: do not limit yourself, do not be afraid of criticism, do things that you like most, strive for your dream and enjoy life. Because life is beautiful, we are beautiful and we can succeed!

28 February 2018

With the public ballots now closed, the International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) is offering a limited number of places on its teams in two of this year’s most exciting fundraising events.

For those fancying a challenging day in the saddle, ISWAN has five places in the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 on Sunday 29 July 2018. The 100-mile route was made famous by the world’s best cyclists at the London 2012 Olympics – starting in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, it offers a traffic-free ride along closed roads in the capital and through stunning countryside in Surrey, with a spectacular finish on The Mall in central London. The event is suitable for a range of cycling abilities and 25,000 amateur cyclists are expected to take part this year. We ask that team members raise £575 each in sponsorship, which will go towards our work for seafarers’ welfare worldwide.

For those preferring running over cycling, ISWAN has 15 spots to fill on its team for this year’s Royal Parks Half Marathon, taking place on Sunday 14 October 2018. 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. We are asking anyone joining our team to raise £400 each in sponsorship.

If you are up for the challenge or would like to 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!

21 February 2018

International maritime charity Sailors’ Society is mourning the loss of its regional superintendent in India, Pastor Joseph Chacko who died earlier today (21 February) in a traffic collision in Gandhidham along with his wife, Leena, and Meru Kaku, a driver at the Deendayal Seafarers’ Centre.

Joseph, who was 54, joined Sailors’ Society in 2012 and was instrumental in the foundation of the Deendayal Seafarers’ Centre.

He was also responsible for setting up ear and eye testing within the centre, which has helped hundreds of seafarers by identifying medical issues before they became potentially career threatening.

In 2016, Joseph was nominated for the International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network’s (ISWAN) Dr Dierk Lindemann Welfare Personality of the Year, for his outstanding contribution to seafarers’ welfare.

Stuart Rivers, Sailors’ Society’s CEO, said: 'Joseph was a true friend to seafarers and a champion of improving their health and well-being.

'He worked tirelessly to better seafarers’ welfare not just in India but beyond.

'He and Leena, who was a great support to her husband in his welfare work, are a great loss to the Society and the wider maritime community and our thoughts and prayers are with their family.'

Chirag Bahri, ISWAN's Regional Director in South Asia, said: 'Myself and [ISWAN's Executive Director] Roger Harris had just visited Kandla Seafarers Centre on 10 February and had a great time with him. We were highly impressed by seeing the activities at the centre.

'Mr Chacko was very passionate about seafarers' welfare matters and his untimely death has left a big hole in the shipping fraternity. He will always remain in our hearts and we are indebted to him for his contribution to our Programme Steering Group.

'We offer our deepest condolences to his family, friends, colleagues and all well wishers in this tragic time.'

Joseph and Leena’s funerals will take place on Friday (23 February).

19 February 2018

On Friday 9th February, the International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) held a seminar/workshop at the Maritime Training Institute in Powai, Mumbai with the theme: ‘Further Enhancing Seafarers’ Welfare – Challenges and Opportunities – Going Forward’.

The venue hosted a gathering of representatives from the shipping industry, maritime unions, administration, training institutes and the welfare sector, along with seafarers and cadets. The Chief Guest was Dr Malini Shankar, IAS, Directorate General of Shipping India and the Guest of Honour was Dr Sujata Naik, Chairperson at Tolani Shipping Company Ltd & Tolani Maritime Institute.

ISWAN Trustee Deepak Shetty opened the seminar with a summary of national perspectives on fostering seafarers’ welfare. ISWAN’s Executive Director Roger Harris followed with a presentation on the mental health and wellbeing of seafarers and how ISWAN is addressing the issue. Michael Pinto, ISWAN Trustee and Chair of ISWAN India’s Programme Steering Group (PSG), then chaired and moderated an interactive session with four of the speakers representing different areas of the maritime field.

Delegates heard from Gaurav Trivedi, a seafarer sailing with the Shipping Corporation of India (SCI), about the challenges currently faced by seafarers and what more can be done to provide them with better welfare facilities. Former seafarer Suneeti Bala moved the audience with her powerful presentation on promoting gender diversity in the maritime workforce.

Dr Sanjay Bhavnani, representing a crewing agency, shared perspectives on how seafarers’ welfare could be improved, and Abdul Gani Serang from the National Union of Seafarers of India (NUSI), spoke on the various initiatives that his maritime union had undertaken to provide welfare support to seafarers and their families.

Finally, the day concluded with the chance for delegates to take part in an interactive question and answer session. The Chief Guest, Guest of Honour and ISWAN’s Regional Director of South Asia, Chirag Bahri, expressed their thanks to all involved with the event.

ISWAN wishes to thank all the participants along with its partners and funders for their continued support in facilitating the best possible welfare support mechanism for seafarers and their families. ISWAN would also like to thank the Shipping Corporation of India and Maritime Training Institute for hosting the seminar.

Mumbai seminar IMG 1440

Pictured (left to right): Abdul Gani Serang, Michael Pinto, Suneeti Bala, Dr Sanjay Bhavnani and Gaurav Trivedi

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
P&O Ferries
Scorpio Ship Management

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

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.