The maritime community turned out in force to support the launch of our International Port Welfare Partnership Programme (IPWP), which took place in Trinity House during London International Shipping Week 2017.

Over 90 representatives from across the maritime industry attended the launch event, which was followed by a lively and informative panel debate entitled ‘Fair Shipping – Does it Really Exist?’. The debate was chaired by Stuart Rivers of Sailors’ Society with a panel made up of Tom Holmer of ISS, Nicola Good of Fairplay Magazine, Natalie Shaw of ICS, Andrew Wright of Mission to Seafarers, Kuba Syzmanski of Intermanager and Phil Parry of Spinnaker International.

The ISWAN IPWP programme aims to support the establishment of welfare boards which, according to MLC,2006 “shall regularly review welfare facilities and services to ensure that they are appropriate in the light of changes in the needs of seafarers resulting from technical, operational and other developments in the shipping industry”.

The programme is match funded by the ITF Seafarers’ Trust, TK Foundation, Seafarers’ UK and Merchant Navy Welfare Board (MNWB) with an Executive Committee made up of Ship owners, Unions, Port Authorities/Owners, Government, Maritime Funders and Voluntary Organisation representatives, all keen to promote better seafarers’ welfare in ports.

Brandt Wagner of ILO stated ‘The ILO’s Maritime Labour Convention, 2006, as amended, among other things, calls for States to promote the development of welfare facilities in designated ports in order to provide all seafarers with access to adequate welfare facilities and services.’ He added ‘We recognise that the great bulk of the current work to provide seafarers’ welfare is done by those who, every day, operate seafarers’ welfare centres, hotlines, and by other means assist seafarers.’Mr. Wagner was particularly pleased to note that IPWP funding and governance reflected the spirit of tripartism and social dialogue so central to the work of the ILO, and he was honoured to be invited to declare the ISWAN partnership programme officially started.

ISWAN Executive Director, Roger Harris, said ‘The IPWP programme opens a new phase of ISWAN’s work and we are looking forward to bringing the maritime community together to better support organisations that provide seafarers welfare in ports, worldwide.’

Peter Tomlin, Chief Executive of MNWB, who are project managing the programme on behalf of ISWAN, added ‘Good working practice and common sense dictates that seafarers visiting ports should be able to enjoy their limited time off ashore in a safe and welcoming environment. Whilst this is true of nearly 500 ports, there are many other ports where common sense is not yet common practice and our IPWP programme aims to help the maritime sector address the situation’

Further details of the IPWP can be found at:

ISWAN is holding a day long seminar in Rotterdam on 29th November on Ports and Seafarers' Welfare, where many of the challenges to supporting seafarers in ports will be discussed. See here for more information and to register.


Calling All Seafarers to Nominate the Best in Seafarers' Welfare

ISWAN's International Seafarers' Welfare Awards recognise the best in shipping when it comes to looking after people at sea. This year, with support from some of the biggest names in the industry, the awards are set to be better than ever, but it all starts with the nominations. This is the chance for seafarers to have their say.

Now in its 7th year, the International Seafarers' Welfare Awards recognise excellence in seafarers' welfare provision and those who are helping to raise standards across the industry. The nominations process is now open, and seafarers are being encouraged to have their say about the individuals, organisations and companies who offer the highest quality welfare services.

ISWAN need nominations across 4 awards categories:

• Shipping Company of the Year
• Seafarer Centre of the Year
• Port of the Year
• Dr Dierk Lindemann Welfare Personality of the Year

The deadline for nominations is 1st December 2017. Candidates will then be invited to submit an entry to a panel of judges made up of experts from the shipping industry. Winners will be flown to Geneva to attend the award ceremony which will be held at the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in April 2018.

Speaking on the opening of the nominations, Roger Harris Executive Director of ISWAN said, "The International Seafarers' Welfare Awards continue to recognise excellence in the care that seafarers receive from shipping companies, ports, welfare centres and dedicated individuals while working away from home".

He added, "The work of seafarers can be dangerous, exhausting and isolating, but there are exemplary companies and organisations who ensure seafarers have access to the best possible services and support. It is important we commend those candidates - nominated by seafarers - to encourage everyone across the industry to raise the profile of seafarers' welfare."

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), and Wrist Ship Supply (Seafarer Centre of the Year Award). The awards are also supported by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), The International Christian Maritime Association (ICMA) and The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF).

The shortlist of nominations will be announced in February 2018, and more information on the process can be accessed online at

So have your say today, and recognise those who do so much to care for seafarers across the world.

13th September 2017

ISWAN’s SeafarerHelp, a free, confidential, 24/7 helpline which supports thousands of seafarers every year, was named ‘Shoreside Team of the Year’ at last night’s 2017 Safety at Sea Awards, held during London International Shipping Week.

Members of ISWAN and the SeafarerHelp team joined a host of representatives from the shipping industry at last night’s ceremony, which took place at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in London. The Safety at Sea Awards are one of the most prestigious maritime industry awards and SeafarerHelp was announced as the winner out of four shortlisted entrants in the Shoreside Team of the Year category, recognising the team’s actions and intervention which went beyond the call of duty.

SeafarerHelp is often the first port of call for seafarers when they need support and someone to turn to, and the helpline recently reported a record-breaking year. The number of contacts from seafarers in 2016 was higher than ever before, with 3,073 new cases involving 11,228 seafarers and their families making contact from 122 different countries. Issues of social isolation and mental health continue to be key concerns, as do welfare issues and the problems of bullying, harassment and abuse.

According to Roger Harris, Executive Director of ISWAN, ‘The Safety at Sea award is recognition of the amazing hard work and dedication of the SeafarerHelp team. It is also testament to the support we receive from our funders’.

He added: ‘While reaching out to SeafarerHelp is the first port of call when crews face problems, they also turn to the service as a last resort, and in desperation. Working with partner organisations we do everything possible to help’.

Winning the awards is a source of immense pride and satisfaction for the multilingual SeafarerHelp team and is recognition of the importance of the link between ship and shore, and between seafarers and welfare workers. Knowing that there is somewhere to turn, and that someone will help, support, guide and advise, is so vital for those working at sea, or indeed the families who are left behind at home.

ISWAN would also like to thank the panel of judges and the organisers, Safety at Sea, and congratulate the other winners on the night.

If you are a seafarer in need of assistance, please visit where you will find all the contact details you need to speak to a member of our team.

We rely on charitable grants and donations for our work with seafarers. If you would like to make a donation, please visit our Virgin Money Giving or JustGiving page.

In the face of tough shipping markets and dogged by mental and physical health concerns, worries about pay, careers and abandonment, more seafarers than ever before have been turning to SeafarerHelp for assistance and support.

According to the newly released 2016 annual report from the free, confidential, multilingual helpline for seafarers and their families, there are serious problems facing those at sea, and seafarers desperately need help.

The annual report looks back on a tough year, as vessel over-capacity hit freight rates, bringing with it severe uncertainty across many markets. Once again, it was seafarers who bore the brunt of change, cuts and confusion. The SeafarerHelp report shows how the industry was left wrestling with a number of problems, which delivered serious knock on effects for people working at sea.


The helpline, part of the International Seafarers' Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN), saw a record number of contacts from seafarers, and in a year which saw major shipping companies fall bankrupt, crews, customers and the logistics chain were left in disarray. It was clear that seafarers needed somewhere to turn to for advice, guidance, support and a place to be heard.

In 2016, SeafarerHelp dealt with 3,073 new cases, involving 11,228 seafarers and their families. In addition, the helpline received a further 4,548 successive contacts and dealt with 4,073 different issues raised by seafarers, while the free service helped seafarers of 99 different nationalities making contact from 122 different countries.

Writing in his introduction to the report, Per Gullestrup, Chairman of ISWAN, says, “The ISWAN SeafarerHelp team played an important role in raising awareness about social isolation and mental health issues among seafarers. In 2016 we have continued in this vein and have seen our emotional support service develop and mature”.

He added, “A difficult year for the shipping industry means it was also a difficult year for many seafarers. The reality is that when the maritime industry needs to make cost savings, seafarers are often negatively affected”.


SeafarerHelp is often the first port of call for seafarers when they need help, and as such the helpline is uniquely placed when it comes to gathering contemporary data and for spotting trends affecting seafarers. The latest report stresses that issues of social isolation and mental health continue to be key concerns, as do welfare issues and the problems of bullying, harassment and abuse.

According to Roger Harris, Executive Director of ISWAN, “While reaching out to SeafarerHelp is the first port of call when crews face problems, they also turn to the service as a last resort, and in desperation. Working with partner organisations we do everything possible to help”.

While issues such as mental health are receiving more attention, other issues stubbornly remain. Threats posed by piracy and robbery, as well as the abandonment of seafarers, continue to take their toll on those working at sea.The issue of owners abandoning their responsibilities and their vessels, leaving crews to sit on ships as water, food and fuel run out, was often reported by seafarers to the helpline.

Amendments to the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) now mean that insurers and flag states are involved in repatriating crews, that is positive, but the problem has not gone away. On the contrary, problems are frequently reported to SeafarerHelp and the organisation is supporting crews of a number of vessels in various locations around the world.


The data and intelligence generated by SeafarerHelp serves as a bellwether for the changes which are over the horizon for shipping. There are still many problems and concerns and action needed to head them off.

ISWAN is keen to leverage that insight, and ensure that while seafarer anonymity, safety and welfare remains paramount, that the insight from seafarers informs the industry response to the problem areas and issues which impact so heavily on the quality of life and working in the merchant navy today.

The report is being distributed to key decision makers across the shipping industry, as well as to the funding bodies and organisations which fund this vital resource for seafarers.

Roger Harris says, “SeafarerHelp is free to all seafarers and their families wherever they are in the world thanks to the continuing support of funders, The TK Foundation, the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) Seafarers' Trust, Seafarers UK, and Trinity House. We are incredibly grateful for this support, and we see the difference it makes to seafarers”.

The SeafarerHelp Annual Review can be downloaded below.

The Royal Parks Half Marathon celebrates its 10th birthday this year and ISWAN is delighted that six supporters will be running on Sunday 8th October to raise money for our organisation.

Our marathon runners this year are:

Emily Richmond, Hetty Pugh and Steven Williams – International Registries (The Marshall Islands Registry), London office

James Lawson and Jessica Swallow – The Shipowners’ Club

Garry Strickland – Sharpness Dock and Bristol Port Welfare Committee

This stunning central London half marathon takes in the capital's world-famous landmarks on closed roads, and four of London's eight Royal Parks – Hyde Park, The Green Park, St James's Park and Kensington Gardens. Since 2008, more than 112,000 runners have crossed the finish line raising over £30m for more than 750 charities, so ISWAN is excited to be a part of the event in this special year.

We would like to wish our runners the best of luck for their training and the upcoming marathon. Please follow our Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts for updates.

To show your support for our marathon runners, you can donate via Virgin Money Giving by clicking on their names above.

The International Seafarers Welfare Assistance Network (ISWAN) will officially launch its highly acclaimed International Port Welfare Partnership (IPWP) programme during London’s International Shipping Week.

The launch will take place at a formal Business Breakfast in the historic setting of Trinity House from 08:00 to 10:00 on Wednesday 13 September 2017. The IPWP programme is based on a small but highly impressive pilot project that ended in May 2016, having successfully established seafarers’ ‘welfare boards’ in Europe, Africa, Australia and America.

As part of the same event the four maritime welfare charities that LISW17 is supporting have also organised a debate entitled ‘Fair Shipping: does it exist?’. The panelists are: Tom Holmer of ISS, Nicola Good of Fairplay Magazine, Natalie Shaw of ICS, Andrew Wright of Mission to Seafarers, Kuba Syzmanski of Intermanager and Phil Parry of Spinnaker International.

Designed to bring together maritime leaders, the Business Breakfast will show how the IPWP programme, a joint initiative managed by the Merchant Navy Welfare Board (MNWB) on behalf of ISWAN, is driven by the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC 2006, Regulation 4.4). The MLC 2006 advocates the establishment of seafarers’ welfare boards to co-ordinate and improve 'access to shore-based welfare services', for the benefit of the seafarers’ workforce, worldwide. The MNWB has successfully operated welfare boards, also known as Port Welfare Committees (PWCs), for nearly 70 years and is keen to partner ISWAN to share best practice with the rest of the maritime sector.

ISWAN Executive Director, Roger Harris, said: 'Despite increased public awareness that the shipping industry is vital to our daily lives and trade around the world, there’s still little understanding about the challenges facing seafarers. Life at sea has always been hard but never more so than today. Separated from family and friends with ever smaller crews and shorter turnarounds, seafarers can often face isolation and loneliness, depression, harassment and bullying whilst at sea.'

Peter Tomlin, Chief Executive of the Merchant Navy Welfare Board (MNWB) and IPWP Programme Director, agreed saying: 'That’s why welfare facilities and services in port are so important for seafarers, providing a “home from home” where they can rest, recuperate and contact family and friends in a safe, welcoming environment.'

He added: 'We recognise the tremendous efforts made by the numerous organisations, particularly in the voluntary sector, that support seafarers’ welfare in ports. We hope the truly collaborative and supportive nature of our partnership programme will enable the maritime community to work even closer together to improve welfare conditions for seafarers across the globe.’

Funded by the ITF Seafarers’ Trust, TK Foundation, Seafarers’ UK and MNWB, the programme boasts an Executive Committee made up of ship owners, Unions, Port Authorities/Owners, Government, Maritime Funders and Voluntary Organisation representatives, all of whom are keen to promote better seafarers’ welfare in ports under MLC, 2006. It is therefore fitting that the IPWP launch is held in the presence of maritime decision makers and key stakeholders during LISW17.

PLEASE NOTE THE LAUNCH IS BY INVITATION ONLY. Contact the IPWP for further information.

SeafarerHelp is a free, confidential, multilingual helpline for seafarers and their families, available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Seafarers concerned about health issues and how these affect their work can speak confidentially to a member of the SeafarerHelp team who will help in any way they can.

In July 2016, SeafarerHelp was contacted by a Filipino seafarer who had injured his arm while working on board. The seafarer had visited the local hospital where the doctor took an X-ray of his arm and confirmed there was no fracture, so the seafarer was sent back on board and advised to do light work. However, the persistent pain in his arm was disturbing him and he could not sleep. He requested permission from his captain to visit the doctor again, but was refused time off for the next couple of days.

With the seafarer’s permission, the SeafarerHelp team referred his case to the ITF Head Office. The seafarer was hoping that someone could visit him, so the team also contacted the local seafarer centre to request that someone got in touch with him to offer support.

When the seafarer finally did get to visit the doctor again, after 4 hours of tests he was informed that he was unfit for work and needed to be repatriated for further thorough examination and medication. The doctor informed him that if medical attention had been sought earlier, the chances of damage to his arm would have been minimised or prevented.

The SeafarerHelp team contacted Apostleship of the Sea, whose Chaplain assistant helped to arrange the seafarer’s flight ticket back home and accommodation for him in the meantime. While the seafarer was waiting to be repatriated, he was given only part of the wages owed to him and was told by the captain that the remaining amount would be paid when he arrived home in the Philippines. It was only when the seafarer threatened not to disembark from the ship that the captain finally paid him what he was owed.

On a separate note, the seafarer reported to SeafarerHelp that safety procedures were not followed properly on board the ship, so the SeafarerHelp team provided him with the link to report his accident to the Confidential Hazardous Incident Reporting Programme (CHIRP).

Back home in Manila, the seafarer visited the local hospital and the doctors confirmed that there was no serious damage to his arm; however, he would have to undergo therapy and further medication as part of the treatment. The seafarer wrote back to SeafarerHelp to thank the team for their efforts and support: ‘Thank you so much for everything you rendered…So pleased and thankful for all your assistance.’

If you are concerned about a health issue and need someone to talk to, all our contact details can be found at

By Ekaterina Ustinovskaya

SeafarerHelp team members regularly visit ships in different UK ports as a part of their job and training. Meeting seafarers face-to-face and talking to them directly is a very special opportunity for us as they normally contact SeafarerHelp by e-mail, live chat, Facebook, WhatsApp, telephone, SMS text or Skype.

Here is the story of one of our recent port visits. SeafarerHelp helpline workers Karin (Spanish and Italian speaker) and Ekaterina (Russian speaker) visited three ro-ro ferries in one day at Southampton port.

It is early morning and Peter Morgan, Apostleship of the Sea chaplain, picks us up at Southampton Central station. He is ready to drive us to the port, explaining that early morning is the busiest time of day in the port and it is the best time to catch more ships. We are very interested; we know what to expect, but at the same time, we don’t know whom we are going to meet and what we are going to see. Peter checks a marine traffic website to see what ships are expected in the port today, time of arrival, the duration of stay, etc. Southampton is one of the busiest and largest ro-ro ports in the UK.

On the first ship, we pass the security and squeeze into a small lift, which takes us into the recreation area. The atmosphere here is rather quiet and relaxing. One seafarer is wandering around in comfortable clothes; he is off duty. He is stopping to look at souvenirs at the mobile gift shop. There is a choice of sweatshirts, keyrings and T-shirts, all with symbols of Great Britain. We notice two messmen taking big sacks of rubbish downstairs. They come back after five minutes and have a quick chat and a photo with us before we leave to go to the next ship.

On the next ship, we meet ten of the crew, different ranks from kitchen assistant to chief engineer, all gathered at the mess room table. It looks like we arrived at the right time; the seafarers are having a break and seem to be happy to see us. They enjoy the company of each other and are making jokes and laughing. As we chat to the crew we are not surprised to find that they are all from the Philippines. We explain to them what we do at SeafarerHelp, that we work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and that we are there to try to help them with any problem that they might have.

Off to the last ship of the day. And it is a ro-ro ferry again! We are a bit early. We have to wait until the ship is safely moored.

The operation is over in minutes and we walk up the gangway where we get our visitors’ passes. Stevedores come on the ship and quickly leave, driving brand new cars and vans off to the parking area.

In the lounge we are greeted by kitchen staff. They are getting ready for their shore leave. They want to see the city and do a bit of shopping. Peter offers to give them a lift to the city centre later. We again explain to the seafarers what we do at SeafarerHelp and that visiting ships like we are today is part of our training.

We feel lucky to meet the captain himself. He is from Bulgaria and happy to have a brief chat; amongst other things he tells us that the ‘Sea is a dangerous environment. Being a seafarer is a very tough job. We miss our beds when we are away from home!’ We understand and explain that is why SeafarerHelp exists to support seafarers by trying to resolve any problems they may have as well as helping with emotional issues.

It has been good to meet the seafarers and to talk to them face-to-face. We know that a seafarer’s job is not an easy one and that it is far from the romantic image that many people may have. We understand that being away from home for long periods, quick turnarounds in port and the consequent lack of shore leave, family issues and employment contract problems can all put seafarers under pressure and that is why SeafarerHelp exists to help and support them.

We would like to say a special thank you to Peter Morgan, Apostleship of the Sea chaplain, for taking us around the port and for his assistance during the day.

There is so much talk today about unmanned and autonomous ships, but they are still a long way off. However, for now and the foreseeable future seafarers are still going to be necessary for safe shipping. While there are different challenges for the future of seafaring, there are issues today which need addressing. One of the most pressing is how to make sure enough is being done to provide for existing seafarers when they manage to get ashore.

Understanding what seafarers need and want when they are on shore leave is one of the major challenges facing charities and welfare organisations today. Answers are needed, and the subject is set to be debated at a major international seminar.

For seafarers, it remains vital they can gain some respite from the challenges of life at sea. With issues such as fatigue, and concerns over mental and physical health, it seems that access to time ashore, rest, relaxation and recuperation are vital for today’s seafarers.

However, the face of shore welfare is changing, and the industry is asking tough questions about what can and should be provided, how it should be funded and of what modern seafarers actually want and need.

Having often been at sea for long periods of time, access to welfare services are vitally important for crews, and there are constant demands for services such as free WiFi and transport.

With so many challenges to face, and with seafarers at the forefront, what will the future of shore leave look like? Will there be unmanned centres, and are these the answer? What about access to healthcare, emotional support and will criminalisation of seafarers continue to impact welfare?

These key issues and many more will be discussed at the International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network's (ISWAN) latest seminar on ports and seafarer welfare. The day-long event, held at the Thon Hotel in Central Rotterdam on Wednesday 29th November 2017 is open to organisations and individuals concerned with providing seafarers with the highest standard of port-based services and facilities.

Roger Harris, Executive Director of ISWAN says, 'The event will explore some of the common challenges seafarers face in port and will look at effective strategies to overcome them. The event aims to highlight best practice from ports, shipping companies, and welfare workers, and to emphasise the importance of cooperation in protecting the welfare of seafarers in port. We are proud to have gathered so many key experts together, and hope the event provides much needed stimulus for debate and solutions.'

In line with ISWAN’s International Port Welfare Partnership Programme (IPWP), the seminar will also consider Port Welfare Committees, and discuss challenges to funding the future of seafarers’ welfare.

Presentations and speakers will include:

MLC 4 Years On: Developments in Seafarers' Access to Shore Based Services

  • Alternatives to Seafarer Centres – Kimberly Karlshoej, Consultant to the ITF Seafarers' Trust
  • Funding the Future of Seafarer Centres: Case Studies from North America – Jason Zuidema, Executive Director, NAMMA
  • Financial Support for Seafarers – Stuart Ostrow, President, Ship Money
  • Port Levies: A Case Study from the Port of Bremerhaven – Dr. Iven Kraemer, Head of Department for Port Economy and Shipping, Ministry for Economy, Labour and Ports of Bremen, and Werner Gerke, Port Chaplain of Deutsche Seemannsmission Bremerhaven
  • Engaging All Partners: International Port Welfare Partnership Project – Sharon Coveney, Deputy Director, MNWB

Protecting the Wellbeing of Seafarers in Port

  • Seafarers' Access to Healthcare in Ports – Jan Oltmanns, Director, International Seamen's Club DUCKDALBEN
  • Challenges to Seafarers' Welfare in Cruise Ship Ports – Lena Dyring, Asst. Director, Cruise Operations, Norwegian Seafarers' Union
  • Access to Communication in Port – Caitlin Vaughan, Project Manager, ISWAN
  • A Case Study: The Port of Rotterdam – Ingrid Romers, Senior Advisor, Harbour Master Division

Supporting Seafarers in Port

  • The Impact of Migrant Rescue Missions – Fr Bruno Ciceri, Chairman, ICMA
  • Illegal Cargo and the Criminalisation of Seafarers – Deirdre Fitzpatrick, Executive Director, Seafarers' Rights International
  • Bullying and Harassment – Toon van de Sande, Director, Spiritension

To register for this year’s Seminar, please click here.

The attendance fee will be £50 for members and £65 for non-members. For more information, please contact ISWAN’s Executive Director, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

ISWAN is an international charity dedicated to the relief of need, hardship or distress amongst seafarers of all nationalities, races, colour and creeds irrespective of gender.

Kimberly Karlshoej, head of the ITF’s (International Transport Workers’ Federation) charity arm, the ITF Seafarers Trust, is to step down from her post and take on a consultancy role there.

ITF general secretary Steve Cotton commented: 'Kimberly came to the Trust at the end of 2014, after having worked for a number of years as director and programme officer of the TK Foundation and as a consultant to maritime charities.

'During her time as head of the Trust, she has modernised and revitalised it. Her knowledge of, and passion for the maritime industry and seafarers in particular, has made the Trust more proactive in its grant-making by supporting projects that benefit maritime workers, their families and maritime communities in general. Her presentations have challenged and inspired many industry players to work towards improving the lives of seafarers wherever they are in the world.'

He continued: 'The Trust is extremely grateful for the work and effort she has dedicated to the organisation and, although it is sad that she has chosen to resign, the Trust is very pleased that she has agreed to be a consultant for it and continue the good work of the Trust along with the new acting head, Tomas Abrahamsson.

He concluded: 'Tomas was an elected officer of the Swedish union SEKO for many years and has also been a board member of the Swedish non-profit organisation ‘Union to Union’, which cooperates and supports trade union organisation globally in promoting decent work, democracy, fair distribution of resources and sustainable development.'

For more about the work of the ITF Seafarers’ Trust see, and follow it on Facebook at and on Twitter at