26th June 2017

Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Permanent Secretaries, Director Generals, Ambassadors and other government representatives as well as non-governmental organisations and professional individuals from over 50 States around the world, near and far, crowded into the headquarters of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) on Friday to honour seafarers in the run up to the annual Day of the Seafarer on 25 June and to mark their commitment to the fair treatment of seafarers.

Organised by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and Seafarers’ Rights International (SRI), this was the first international workshop to promote the Guidelines on fair treatment of seafarers in the event of a maritime accident and to discuss guidance on the implementation of those Guidelines.

The international workshop was opened by Deirdre Fitzpatrick, Executive Director of Seafarers’ Rights International and opening addresses were delivered by Stephen Cotton, General Secretary of the ITF, Kitack Lim, Secretary General of the IMO, Corinne Vargha, Director of Labour Standards of the ILO and Jacqueline Smith, Maritime Coordinator of the ITF.

The opening was following by over 30 powerful statements endorsing the fair treatment of seafarers, beginning with statements from the Minister of Justice from the Philippines and the Minister of Ports and Shipping from Sri Lanka. In thanking the ITF for organising the international workshop, some countries offered to host similar workshops in their regions with the assistance of the ITF.

Masters and seafarers and welfare agencies were also present to evidence their deep concern about criminalization of seafarers and to explain the consequences when seafarers are not treated fairly.

In the next session, a distinguished panel of three judges, an emeritus professor of maritime law, a casualty investigator, a prosecutor and an IMO member state lead auditor discussed guidance on implementing the Guidelines on the fair treatment of seafarers into national laws, followed by questions and support from the floor.
Stephen Cotton, General Secretary of the ITF said: 'This international workshop is yet another important step in the work that ITF is doing to ensure the fair treatment of seafarers. A survey was carried out in 2012 that showed that 81% of seafarers did not think they had been treated fairly in investigations. That is a situation that I am determined to change for the better. The extremely positive results of this international workshop and overwhelming political support from the leading labour supply countries will be very carefully considered by the ITF. I will ensure that the momentum from this workshop is carried forward by even more initiatives'.

Jacqueline Smith, Maritime Coordinator of the ITF emphasised her commitment to provide an immediate response and practical assistance to seafarers on the ground when they are facing an investigation. She set out her detailed and far reaching vision to bring together all those who can mutually cooperate to ensure the fair treatment of seafarers at a time when they are most vulnerable. She said: 'The ITF wants to encourage cooperation and open dialogue as much as possible. There are no acceptable arguments against the fair treatment of seafarers and we consider it is the moral and legal obligation of all members of the industry to support our work to ensure the fair treatment of seafarers. Seafarers deserve nothing less.'

25th June marks the annual Day of the Seafarer, a celebration designated by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to recognise the unique contribution made by seafarers from all over the world to international seaborne trade, the world economy and civil society.

SEAFARERS MATTER

This year the theme is ‘Seafarers Matter’, and we thought it was a good time to explore some of the issues which matter to seafarers. At the International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN), especially through SeafarerHelp and the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme (MPHRP), we hear firsthand the tales from seafarers.

Working with our members and welfare partners, we know what moves seafarers, what impacts them and the extent to which they have to deal with so many challenges.

So, on this Day of the Seafarer, we wanted to delve a bit further into why seafarers matter. Each year we work to promote this important day in order to appreciate all that seafarers do and so that we can raise the profile of their vital welfare needs and rights. In 2016, we held an event for 2,500 seafarers and their families in Manila, the Philippines, with IMO Secretary-General Mr Kitack Lim as Guest of Honour. This year our London team came together to celebrate with different cultural food, music and decorations in recognition of the diverse nationalities of seafarers working in this global industry. ISWAN’s regional representatives are also involved in local celebrations in Nigeria, India and the Philippines, home to large numbers of the world’s seafarers.

MISSING PIECE OF THE JIGSAW

It’s true that seafarers matter not only on 25th June but every single day of the year, and this theme underpins our work all year round. It is vital that the real lives and experiences of seafarers shape the way we deal with issues at sea. Seafarers are the lifeblood of the industry, so while it is wholly positive to celebrate and recognise the contribution they make, there should be no glossing over the need to ensure their experiences of seafarers are as positive as possible.

Welfare at sea matters, but there are challenges to deliver it. As so many surveys and studies testify, seafarers want to feel positive about their lives, hopes, options and careers.

They want to feel connected, supported, listened to and respected. They want the trappings of modern life, such as connectivity and the internet. They want their time at sea to be as enjoyable as it can be. It is work, yes, but the experience needs to be a positive one.

When things go wrong seafarers want and need somewhere to turn to. When they contact us through SeafarerHelp, they want reassurance and advice. They want to know that someone cares, that someone is listening and that someone can help.

It is not just seafarers, the families and loved ones need support too. A matter which is often overlooked, but is hugely significant. Having happy family at home eases the burden on those at sea. It can be a fraught, frantic time if seafarers are unable to contact, support and help the people left behind at home. So, we need to remember both sides of the seafaring equation – those at home as well as away.

SeafarerHelp is often the first port of call for seafarers and their families when they need help. This day to day contact with seafarers means that our dialogue is about the things which matter, and which affect them. Nothing in a seafarer’s life happens in a vacuum, so every change can have implications to the most fundamental aspects of life at sea.

CARING FOR CREWS

We believe it is vital to maintain an ongoing and positive dialogue with seafarers. Our multilingual team has its finger on the pulse of seafaring, and in talking to crews we understand the range of key issues affecting them.

In recent years we have highlighted the shift of internet usage, and the fact that young seafarers are increasingly led by connectivity. We have helped lead the way in disseminating seafarer views on health, security and wellbeing, as well as fitness and tackling obesity.

From safety to fatigue, career development to abandonments, we hear the problems first hand. The list of challenges goes on, and by providing seafarers with an outlet and a means to talk, then we are giving them relief from the pressures which can build. It is incumbent on us to not fix merely the ills of individuals, we must ensure needs of seafarers are understood and used to find answers within the shipping industry.

We encourage all across shipping to work together, to talk about the things seafarers tell us, and to develop solutions to make life at sea better. While also improving the lives of those who are left behind when seafarers depart for work.

On this day of celebration, let us all think of those on ships. Let’s also commit to continuing to connect seafarers with their ambitions, hopes and dreams. We at ISWAN are proud to be a part of this, and in recognising the unique contribution of seafarers, we salute all who work at sea and thank each and every one of you. To find out more about our work, see seafarerswelfare.org/what-we-do.

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12th June 2017

SeafarerHelp – a free, confidential helpline for seafarers around the world – can now be contacted using mobile messaging app WhatsApp.

Communication is often the biggest barrier to seafarers seeking help, and ISWAN is keen to offer a wide range of ways in which seafarers of different nationalities can contact SeafarerHelp. WhatsApp is a free, convenient and widely used mobile messaging service, and its use of the phone’s internet connection to send messages and make calls means seafarers can avoid SMS fees and calling charges (although SeafarerHelp will always call seafarers back if they have no internet connection and are only able to phone).

SeafarerHelp can be contacted via WhatsApp on +44 (0)7909 470732. ISWAN aims for this contact method to be available for as many hours as possible, so the SeafarerHelp team will be online on WhatsApp from Monday to Friday between 8am and 6pm (UK time). Any messages received outside these hours will be responded to within the monitored times. All other contact methods for SeafarerHelp remain available 24 hours a day.

For more information on SeafarerHelp and details of how to contact our helpline team, please visit the SeafarerHelp website: www.seafarerhelp.org.

When a seafarer and their family are directly involved in sudden and unforeseen circumstances, they may require financial support. In desperate cases where no other help is available, the Seafarers Emergency Fund (SEF) can provide immediate, essential aid. Applications are made on the seafarer’s behalf of by a welfare organisation, and if the criteria are met, the organisation is provided with a grant to help the seafarer and/or their family.

At a health check-up in Singapore, Jessirine – a Cruise Entertainer from the Philippines – was diagnosed with breast cancer and advised to undergo a lumpectomy operation.

After the operation, Jessirine was repatriated to Manila to continue medical treatment. She was referred to AMOSUP Seamen’s Hospital where it was recommended she had an urgent scan to help identify how to proceed with future treatment. Jessirine expected the medical assistance from her manning agent to continue at this stage, but was concerned to find out that she was not covered by the insurance since her medical condition was not work-related.

Jessirine had only finished four months of her last contract and although her husband was working on the same cruise ship, they did not have enough money to cover the medical costs. They were paying rent on their home and school fees for their children. Jessirine was worried that delaying the scan would make her condition worse.

The case was reported to Jun Pablo, ISWAN’s Regional Representative in the Philippines, who submitted a Seafarers Emergency Fund (SEF) application on Jessirine’s behalf to cover her medical costs. The application was approved by three independent advisors to the fund, which was subsequently able to cover the cost of a Protocol Procedure with the Philippine Breast Cancer Network, along with all the necessary supplements Jessirine needed.

Jessirine’s experience of the support offered by ISWAN to seafarers in distress made her proud to work in the maritime industry, and she contacted her colleagues on board to share that ISWAN would assist those in need, whether on board or ashore.

The assistance from the SEF relieved the financial burden on Jessirine’s family, and although the intensive treatment made her weak, Jessirine noticed improvements and hopes to be back at sea after the healing period is over.

Published: 8th June 2017

7th June 2017

Safety at Sea has announced the shortlist for its 2017 Awards, and SeafarerHelp has been shortlisted for ‘Shoreside Team of the Year’.

Safety at Sea has been promoting safe and secure work practices within the commercial shipping industry for 50 years since its launch in 1967. The Safety at Sea Awards recognise those who improve seafarer competence and risk management with innovations and achievements in the fields of training, operations, equipment and services.

Seafarers rely on shoreside support, and the Shoreside Team of the Year category recognises the efforts of the shoreside team whose actions or intervention has gone beyond the call of duty. ISWAN is delighted that the SeafarerHelp team has been shortlisted for this award, as they regularly go above and beyond their call of duty to assist seafarers and their families in distress, responding effectively and appropriately to diverse situations of varying severity. One such example is the team’s immediate response to the hijacking of the Aris 13 on the 13th March 2017 – read more about the case here.

ISWAN’s SeafarerHelp is a team of ten staff members who often have to work antisocial hours and respond to unexpected crises involving individual seafarers or entire crews. The service is free to seafarers and available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The multilingual team members do everything they can to assist seafarers whatever their problem, wherever they are in the world. In 2016, the team assisted over 11,000 seafarers experiencing a variety of problems such as unpaid wages or health issues such as extreme stress or depression.

The winners of the Safety at Sea Awards will be announced in London, UK on the 12th September as part of London International Shipping Week 2017. For more information, please visit sasawards.com.

Steven Jones, Consultant to ISWAN, looks at the growing importance of cyber security for seafarers.

As vessels increasingly rely on automation and remote monitoring, key components, including navigational systems, propulsion and power management, can be compromised. With potentially devastating consequences for life, the environment and businesses.

There is a growing emphasis on seafarers to be able to respond. It is vital that seafarers are not only aware of the problems, but of what they actually can do as part of the solution.

The solutions are both human and technical:

HUMAN: The 'human element' angle cannot be overstated. Maritime cyber security requires unique skills and mindsets. It also requires an understanding of what can go wrong, when and how.

While seafarers do have more responsibility there is also a need to ensure people are adequately trained and prepared.

STRUCTURAL: There are structural problems too, and there needs to be a reassessment of the vulnerabilities being faced. Ensuring the vessel’s Safety Management Systems (SMS) addresses cyber threats is a good starting point.

CYBER HYGIENE

Ships need to embark on a simple 'cyber-hygiene' routine to ensure that many of the more obvious vulnerabilities are dealt with. Various best practices would include:

  • Seafarers acting as a human firewall;
  • Seafarers recognising common cyber threats, such as phishing and email scams;
  • Vessels having up-to-date antivirus protection on computers, systems and mobile devices;
  • Vessels using updated operating systems and application software;
  • Administration rights being maintained, and those with access trained;
  • Data being regularly backed up.

In addition, it is vital that a shipping IT security policy is developed which is explicit and sets out penalties for infractions. While dynamic risk assessments which reflect the changing nature of ship life and demands are vital too.

In addition to this guidance and advice, there is a need for seafarers to be able to implement the necessary steps. So there are some absolute basics which vessels need to implement onboard as practicable actions, and crews need to be at the heart of these simple steps to cyber hygiene.

Seafarers should:

  • Set up strong user access control;
  • Set up strong network access control;
  • Perform regular, scheduled back-ups;
  • Test disaster recovery plans;
  • Ensure the SMS reflects cyber issues;
  • Make sure any anti-virus software is kept up-to-date.

With seafarers suddenly having new cyber security responsibilities thrust upon them, it is important that everyone understands what is expected of them and how to deliver.

SeafarerHelp is a free, confidential, multilingual helpline for seafarers and their families, available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Spending long periods of time away from family and friends can make seafarers feel lonely and isolated, and the environment on board can sometimes make this worse. The SeafarerHelp team is here to listen to any seafarer feeling depressed, lonely or unhappy.

SeafarerHelp was contacted in September 2016 by a seafarer on an oil tanker who was the only Indian on board and on his second contract as a deck cadet.

The seafarer felt low and anxious about his future, because he thought that he was not performing tasks given by officers with total satisfaction. He was also feeling homesick and alone because he could not share his feelings and experiences with anyone. In addition, he had recently broken up with his girlfriend.

There was no free internet on board and calls were expensive. The seafarer was in contact with his family but he did not want to worry them. His friends ashore did not understand how he felt and were busy with their own lives. He had also not been ashore since he had joined the ship.

The SeafarerHelp team explained that cadetship is an intense period and can sometimes be discouraging, but it is normal to have these feelings. The team talked to him about his work and his performance and he realised that his knowledge and skills were improving. The team also acknowledged that being the only person of his nationality on board was difficult and that his feelings of being alone were quite understandable.

The SeafarerHelp team suggested that he take some personal time and that he tried exercising on board as this would probably help to make him feel better and more positive. With the team’s support and understanding, the seafarer felt better and started planning projects for his holiday when he finished his contract. He wrote to SeafarerHelp: ‘Your messages were really helpful to me…Nowadays I am more confident in executing my activities which is really positive.’

DOTS Logo ENG HOR UN Blue inverted

This year, once again, the 25th June will mark the annual Day of the Seafarer (DotS), and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has announced its theme of ‘Seafarers Matter’.

The Day of the Seafarer was established in a resolution adopted by the 2010 Diplomatic Conference in Manila to adopt the revised STCW Convention, with the stated purpose of recognising the unique contribution made by seafarers from all over the world to international seaborne trade, the world economy and civil society as a whole.

The resolution ‘encourages Governments, shipping organisations, companies, shipowners and all other parties concerned to duly and appropriately promote the Day of the Seafarer and take action to celebrate it meaningfully’.

The IMO’s theme of ‘Seafarers Matter’ aims to particularly engage ports and seafarer centres to demonstrate how much seafarers matter to them. The idea is for ports and seafarer centres to share and showcase best practices in seafarer support and welfare, and organise special activities for seafarers on the day, such as:

  • A social event organised in port to celebrate seafarers
  • A public open day at seafarer centres
  • Free WiFi in port for a day

Last year, ISWAN held a successful event on Saturday 25th June at the SMX Convention Center in Manila to mark the Day of the Seafarer. The event – which included on-stage entertainment, family activities, an exhibition of company stands and a Health and Wellbeing zone – was attended by over 2,500 seafarers, maritime cadets and their families, as well as IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim. To see the video of the event, please click here.

London and Kuala Lumpur, 4 May 2017 – Pirates and armed robbers attacked 43 ships and captured 58 seafarers in the first quarter of 2017, slightly more than the same period last year, according to the latest ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB) piracy report.

The global report highlights persisting violence in piracy hotspots off Nigeria and around the Southern Philippines – where two crew members were killed in February. Indonesia also reported frequent incidents, mostly low-level thefts from anchored vessels.

In total, 33 vessels were boarded and four fired upon in the first three months of 2017. Armed pirates hijacked two vessels, both off the coast of Somalia, where no merchant ship had been hijacked since May 2012. Four attempted incidents were also received.

IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre has monitored attacks on the world’s seas since 1991. The report highlights three major concerns:

1 - Gulf of Guinea kidnappings

Of the 27 seafarers kidnapped worldwide for ransom between January and March 2017, 63% were in the Gulf of Guinea. Nigeria is the main kidnap hotspot, with 17 crew taken in three separate incidents, up from 14 in the same period last year. All three vessels – a general cargo ship, a tanker and a bulk carrier – were attacked while underway 30-60 nautical miles off the Bayelsa coast. Three more ships were fired upon at up to 110 nautical miles from land, and many other attacks are believed to go unreported.

'The Gulf of Guinea is a major area of concern, consistently dangerous for seafarers, and signs of kidnappings increasing. IMB has worked closely with the response agencies in the region including the Nigerian Navy which has provided valuable support, but more needs to be done to crack down on the area’s armed gangs,' said Pottengal Mukundan, Director of IMB. 'We urge vessels to report all incidents so that the true level of piracy activity can be assessed.'

2 – Growing violence around the Southern Philippines

Here, nine ships reported attacks in the first quarter of 2017 compared with just two in the same period last year. These include an armed attack on a general cargo vessel in which two crew were killed and five kidnapped for ransom. Kidnappers captured five more people in attacks on a fishing trawler and a tug.

According to IMB, militant activity may be behind the escalating violence in waters around the Southern Philippines. Armed groups use speedboats to target seafarers and fishermen in slowmoving, low vessels.

Areas such as the Sulu Sea and Sibutu Passage are particularly risky. IMB recommends that ships avoid these waters by transiting West of Kalimantan, if possible – and, as ever, follow the industry’s latest best practice measures, to protect against attacks.

3 - First Somali hijackings after five-year lull

Somali pirates successfully hijacked a small bunkering tanker and a traditional dhow, both within their territorial waters. A total of 28 crew were taken hostage and subsequently released within a relatively short time. IMB suspects that these incidents were opportunistic, particularly as the hijacked vessels were not following the Best Management Practices for Protection against Somalia Based Piracy (BMP4) recommendations.

'IMB continues to encourage all vessels transiting waters around Somalia to follow the BMP4 recommendations. The recent attacks should serve as a warning against complacency, as Somali pirates are still capable of carrying out attacks,' said Mr Mukundan.

'The presence of international navies who patrol these waters is extremely important as it provides an added layer of deterrence to the pirates and more importantly helps to secure one of the most important trade routes of the world,' he added.

The IMB Piracy Reporting Centre supports the anti-piracy efforts of international navies by relaying all reports to the response agencies, as well as broadcasting alerts to ships via the INMARSAT Safety Net Service.

Piracy and armed robbery prone areas worldwide

IMB’s latest piracy report gives detailed descriptions of all 43 attacks in 16 countries, and advice for mariners, including a list of particularly high-risk areas where extra caution and precautionary measures are vital.

The IMB Piracy Reporting Centre is the world's only independent 24-hour manned centre to receive reports of pirate attacks from around the world. IMB strongly urges all shipmasters and owners to report all actual, attempted and suspected piracy and armed robbery incidents to the IMB PRC. This first step in the response chain is vital to ensuring that adequate resources are allocated by authorities to tackle piracy. Transparent statistics from an independent, nonpolitical, international organisation can act as a catalyst to achieve this goal.

To read the full report, download the attachment at the bottom of this page.

Follow the @IMB_Piracy via #IMBPiracy

London and Kuala Lumpur, 4 May 2017 – Pirates and armed robbers attacked 43 ships and captured 58 seafarers in the first quarter of 2017, slightly more than the same period last year, according to the latest ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB) piracy report.

The global report highlights persisting violence in piracy hotspots off Nigeria and around the Southern Philippines – where two crew members were killed in February. Indonesia also reported frequent incidents, mostly low-level thefts from anchored vessels.

In total, 33 vessels were boarded and four fired upon in the first three months of 2017. Armed pirates hijacked two vessels, both off the coast of Somalia, where no merchant ship had been hijacked since May 2012. Four attempted incidents were also received.

IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre has monitored attacks on the world’s seas since 1991. The report highlights three major concerns:

1 - Gulf of Guinea kidnappings

Of the 27 seafarers kidnapped worldwide for ransom between January and March 2017, 63% were in the Gulf of Guinea. Nigeria is the main kidnap hotspot, with 17 crew taken in three separate incidents, up from 14 in the same period last year. All three vessels – a general cargo ship, a tanker and a bulk carrier – were attacked while underway 30-60 nautical miles off the Bayelsa coast. Three more ships were fired upon at up to 110 nautical miles from land, and many other attacks are believed to go unreported.

'The Gulf of Guinea is a major area of concern, consistently dangerous for seafarers, and signs of kidnappings increasing. IMB has worked closely with the response agencies in the region including the Nigerian Navy which has provided valuable support, but more needs to be done to crack down on the area’s armed gangs,' said Pottengal Mukundan, Director of IMB. 'We urge vessels to report all incidents so that the true level of piracy activity can be assessed.'

2 – Growing violence around the Southern Philippines

Here, nine ships reported attacks in the first quarter of 2017 compared with just two in the same period last year. These include an armed attack on a general cargo vessel in which two crew were killed and five kidnapped for ransom. Kidnappers captured five more people in attacks on a fishing trawler and a tug.

According to IMB, militant activity may be behind the escalating violence in waters around the Southern Philippines. Armed groups use speedboats to target seafarers and fishermen in slowmoving, low vessels.

Areas such as the Sulu Sea and Sibutu Passage are particularly risky. IMB recommends that ships avoid these waters by transiting West of Kalimantan, if possible – and, as ever, follow the industry’s latest best practice measures, to protect against attacks.

3 - First Somali hijackings after five-year lull

Somali pirates successfully hijacked a small bunkering tanker and a traditional dhow, both within their territorial waters. A total of 28 crew were taken hostage and subsequently released within a relatively short time. IMB suspects that these incidents were opportunistic, particularly as the hijacked vessels were not following the Best Management Practices for Protection against Somalia Based Piracy (BMP4) recommendations.

'IMB continues to encourage all vessels transiting waters around Somalia to follow the BMP4 recommendations. The recent attacks should serve as a warning against complacency, as Somali pirates are still capable of carrying out attacks,' said Mr Mukundan.

'The presence of international navies who patrol these waters is extremely important as it provides an added layer of deterrence to the pirates and more importantly helps to secure one of the most important trade routes of the world,' he added.

The IMB Piracy Reporting Centre supports the anti-piracy efforts of international navies by relaying all reports to the response agencies, as well as broadcasting alerts to ships via the INMARSAT Safety Net Service.

Piracy and armed robbery prone areas worldwide

IMB’s latest piracy report gives detailed descriptions of all 43 attacks in 16 countries, and advice for mariners, including a list of particularly high-risk areas where extra caution and precautionary measures are vital.

The IMB Piracy Reporting Centre is the world's only independent 24-hour manned centre to receive reports of pirate attacks from around the world. IMB strongly urges all shipmasters and owners to report all actual, attempted and suspected piracy and armed robbery incidents to the IMB PRC. This first step in the response chain is vital to ensuring that adequate resources are allocated by authorities to tackle piracy. Transparent statistics from an independent, nonpolitical, international organisation can act as a catalyst to achieve this goal.

To read the full report, download the attachment at the bottom of this page.

Follow the @IMB_Piracy via #IMBPiracy