Upcoming seminar on seafarers’ welfare!
"Working in partnership, seeking practical solutions"

Helsinki, Friday 23 Nov 2018

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It was a full house at the first ‘Maritime Silk Road Ports & Seafarers Seminar’ held in Shanghai on 7th July. Organised by the ISWAN International Port Welfare Partnership (IPWP) programme, the event was attended by over 100 representatives from the Shanghai regional maritime sector. Frank and open discussions were held on better ways to support and manage port welfare in order to improve seafarers access to shore based welfare facilities and enhance their quality of life. The event theme was ‘Create a better world for seafarers” and it opened with speakers from Chinese maritime senior management, the Deputy British Consul and members of the maritime welfare sector who joined together in a symbolic ‘hand shaking ceremony’.

‘The resounding success of the conference is the result of an excellent collaborative, partnership effort, which bodes extremely well for future relations’ stated Peter Tomlin, IPWP Global Programme Director. He added ‘Without regional support from across the the Chinese maritime community, the assistance of Ben Zhang and his team (MFEC, Shanghai), Prof. Minghua and Capt Pengfei (China Centre Maritime, Southampton Solent University), this inaugural event would not have been possible.'

Roger Harris, ISWAN Executive Director, took the opportunity to inform delegates about the important work of his organisation, in particular ‘SeafarerHelp’ its free global seafarers welfare helpline, and Peter Tomlin briefed everyone on the IPWP programme. He underlined topical seafarers’ welfare issues and highlighted the invaluable work of the voluntary organisations and maritime funders who provide and support seafarers’ welfare, which Chinese seafarers benefit from when visiting other ports around the world.

The IPWP programme team also addressed audiences at the first Shanghai Seafarers Forum (800 local delegates) on 9th July and the 3rd Annual International Maritime Silk Road Ports Forum' (460 delegates) held in Ningbo on 12th July.

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ISWAN asked to hear from women seafarers about their experiences. Female seafarers make up 2% of seafarers worldwide, and sometimes have the challenging task of dealing with gender stereotypes as well as the demanding life on board . We asked via Facebook and Twitter for stories, and Panagiota kindly agreed to tell us hers. If you want to be featured, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We'd love to hear experiences from seafarers everywhere.

I am Panagiota. I come from Greece,especially Peloponisos from a small village nearby the sea. From my early age I decided to follow the sea. Today, I am a 3rd officer from Merchant Marine Academy. I would like to tell you my story.

I am at sea 10 years now. I first started in ro/ro & cruise ships as a sales assistant. Then I joined merchant marine academy and the journey begins. Now ,after tankers,bulk carriers,and container vesels I may say this.."This job is only for those they love it ,despites the sex type. The job is not so easy but not so difficult as it is said. I have travelled around the world, I visited so many places, I now have friends from around the world. My heart pains when I leave my family but also I am happy when I see the sunset around the world.
I love what I do. I encourage younger people to continue even the situations sometimes coming rough.
Besides, if you dont leave the port you never see how is outside...

"Από τότε που κουράστηκα να ψάχνω,
έμαθα να βρίσκω. Κι από τότε που ο άνεμος μου εναντιώθηκε, έμαθα να
σαλπάρω με όλους τους ανέμους..."


"Since I was tired of looking, I learned to find. And since the wind opposed me, I learned to sail with the winds"

Fr. Nietzche

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ISWAN asked to hear from women seafarers about their experiences. Female seafarers make up 2% of seafarers worldwide, and sometimes have the challenging task of dealing with gender stereotypes as well as the demanding life on board . We asked via Facebook and Twitter for stories, and Katerina kindly agreed to tell us hers. If you want to be featured, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We'd love to hear experiences from seafarers everywhere.


I come from Greece and particularly from Kos beautiful island, located in the southeastern Aegean. I am studying at Merchant Marine Academy and working as an Apprentice Officer in one of the largest shipping groups in the Mediterranean, the Attica group. I work on ships in the last two years. So far I have received full support during my training trips from the all the bridge teams that I have worked by far.

Nevertheless a difficulty faced by the majority of women working on ships is sexist attitudes by some colleagues as well as the fact that they consider women unreliable and not able to complete the work assigned to them. To all women who work on ships , I would say to continue their efforts, close their ears to the malicious comments and continue the good work to prove to everyone how much deserve their position.

Otherwise,I believe that women can be work at ships as a man can. The work is not man or woman but love. If you love your job, you 'll be succesful.


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Watch the new 'Lifeline' video from ISWAN. The video made by Maritime Films UK, showcases the varied work and projects of ISWAN. Short interviews are held with ISWAN staff as they explain the operation of SeafarerHelp, the 24 hour helpline, the work on supporting seafarers affected by piracy, and the projects dealing with the health and wellbeing of seafarers.

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The boards of the International Seafarers Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) and the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme (MPHRP) are pleased to announce the moving of the activities of the MPHRP into ISWAN. A transfer agreement was signed by both parties on 3 August 2015. ISWAN will now be responsible for all the activities of the highly respected MPHRP. The move to ISWAN will enable the programme to develop under the auspices of a well-established international seafarers' welfare organisation that is registered as a charity.

The programme will continue to support the seafarers and their families who are affected by piracy. While piracy attacks off the coast of Somalia have significantly decreased, attacks are on the increase in South East Asia and continuing in the Gulf of Guinea. The MPHRP programme will concentrate on these areas while still supporting seafarers who were held for years in Somalia. The programme will seek to develop constructive and positive relationships with existing and new industry partners.

ISWAN has already appointed a new programme manager, Mr Tom Holmer, to lead the MPHRP in this new phase of its development. The programme in South Asia will continue while an immediate priority will be to secure funding to continue the programme in South East Asia and Eastern Europe.

Peter Hinchliffe, speaking on behalf of the MPHRP Board said "The MPHRP Board decided some time ago that the best way to provide the very best long term stability for the support of seafarers and their families caught up in the appalling acts of piracy in the Indian Ocean and in Somalia was to find a permanent home under the umbrella of an existing and highly respected seafarers' charity. Attacks on merchant ships and seafarers are still happening and we must ensure that the MPHRP is there to support seafarers if they are attacked and to prepare them for passages through high risk areas."

Jon Whitlow, Secretary of the Seafarers Section of the International Transport Workers Federation said "We are pleased that the programme can now continue as part of ISWAN. The ITF will play its role, with other industry partners, to ensure that piracy, with its devastating effect upon seafarers and their families, is not forgotten about."

Per Gullestrup, Chairman of ISWAN and former Managing Partner of Clipper whose ship CEC Future, and its crew, was hijacked off Somalia and held for 71 days said "I am delighted that the programme is coming into ISWAN. MPHRP has done outstanding work in the past and I believe ISWAN is the right organisation to take the programme forward. We look forward to working with current and new partners on developing MPHRP."

Other key industry partners involved in the MPHRP, such as the International Chamber of Shipping and the International Maritime Bureau, fully support the move of the programme into ISWAN.

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The ITF Seafarers' Trust - which often pays for vehicles for seafarers' welfare bodies and missions - has announced it will be surveying their uses and effectiveness so as to use its grants as effectively as possible. The Trust will be partnering in the programme with the International Christian Maritime Association (ICMA) and the North American Maritime Ministry Association (NAMMA).

One of the Seafarers' Trust's main areas of funding is that of providing seafarers' centres/ships visitors with the means of transporting themselves and seafarers to and from ships by granting service providers funds to purchase appropriate vehicles. The Trust has provided over GPB 2.5 Million for this purpose over the last 34 years.

In order to make grant giving in this area more fair and equitable to the service providers, the Seafarers' Trust announces that it will partner with ICMA and NAMMA for a short program of data-gathering on current usage and needs of vehicles in ports around the world. ICMA and NAMMA are both international associations that represent the great majority of seafarers' centres around the world.

The data to be collected focuses on the number of seafarers served, the current state of vehicles being used for seafarer welfare purposes, the distance from ship to services, the mileage per year. Once the information is collected, the organisations that the Seafarers' Trust determines are likely to get a vehicle grant will be contacted and invited to apply for a vehicle grant.

Neither ICMA nor NAMMA will be involved in the granting decisions, only in gathering data and sharing information about the program.

Kimberly Karlshoej, the Head of the Seafarers' Trust, stated, "We continue to believe that providing seafarers with transport is a high priority for seafarers' welfare, and we want to be proactive in finding where our grants will have the greatest impact. ICMA and NAMMA are well placed to help gather data from all seafarer welfare providers, even those that are not members, we are delighted to partner with both organisations on this project.

The Rev. Richard Kilgour, General Secretary of ICMA, noted the same, "The long-standing and strong relationship between the ITF Seafarers' Trust and ICMA members is a great asset. ICMA supports the gathering information in this way for planning years ahead to target funds fairly and equitably to best effect for vital van replacement. That ICMA has been asked to help with data gathering is another example of how we are partners in this work."

Dr. Jason Zuidema, Executive Director of NAMMA, called attention to this project's importance: "Those seeking excellence in seafarers' welfare know that partnerships are important. Collaborating on this project is not just practical, but it again celebrates the beautiful connection that members in local ports have with the Seafarers' Trust."

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SeafarerHelp is the free 24 hour multi-lingual helpline for seafarers run by the International Seafarers' Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN).

It has been another another busy year for the helpline with a 53% increase in the number of calls to SeafarerHelp and a 19% increase in the number of seafarers assisted. In 2014 the SeafarerHelp team dealt with 1,920 new cases and helped over 7,710 seafarers. Since 2011 there has been a dramatic growth in the number of calls coming into SeafarerHelp and the number of seafarers assisted – there has been nearly a 270% increase in the number of calls and over a 250% increase in the number of seafarers helped.

The most common problems seafarers faced were upaid wages, problems with repatriation, contractual problems, sub-standard conditions on board and health issues. There were a lot calls requesting information and seeking employment.
Most of the contacts that SeafarerHelp receives are referred on to specialist organisations for direct assistance. These include the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) and welfare organisations such as Mission to Seafarers, Apostleship of The Sea, and the Sailors Society. Other agencies who assisted included national embassies, harbour authorities, and medical service providers.

Roger Harris, Executive Director of ISWAN said "The SeafarerHelp team worked hard in 2014, working every hour of the day and night and every day of the year assisting seafarers. We wish to thank our funders and other supporters for enabling us to provide this vital lifeline for seafarers all over the world."

Seafarers greatly value the service. One said "...your service is excellent ...my problem is solved". Another said "it was nice knowing that you were here for us when we needed help". In a follow up survey 83% of respondents felt that the SeafarerHelp service was either excellent or good and 89% said that they would recommend using it to other seafarers.

If you would like to support SeafarerHelp or need any further information then contact roger.harris[at]iswan.org.ukThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">

The SeafarerHelp website is at www.seafarerhelp.org

The Annual Review can be downloaded from the bottom of this page.

Seafarers can contact SeafarerHelp 24 hours, 365 days per year, in the following ways:

Telephone: 00 800 20 7323 2737 (Toll free)
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
SMS:+44 (0) 7624 818 405
Live chat: www.seafarerhelp.org
Facebook : www.facebook.com/seafarerhelp

Can you donate today to support SeafarerHelp? Thank you.

Make a donation using Virgin Money Giving


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ICMA logo blue                 IMHA logo           ISWAN Logo CMYK NoStrap InBox

Three leading international seafarers' welfare organisations, the International Christian Maritime Association (ICMA), the International Maritime Health Association (IMHA), and the International Seafarers' Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN), are today calling on EU governments to recognise the key role of seafarers in the rescue of migrants at sea. They have sent a letter to all heads of governments urgently requesting that more resources are mobilised for search and rescue in the Mediterranean.

In the last seventeen months over 5,000 migrants have died attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea. Fortunately, merchant seafarers are responsible for saving tens of thousands of more lives. In 2014 seafarers aboard 800 merchant ships rescued 40,000 migrants. Their role in the large scale rescue of migrants should be recognised and commended.

However, EU governments are still relying on the kindness of seafarers and the legal obligations upon them to cope with a human tragedy of an unprecedented scale instead of committing sufficient resources to save migrants' lives. Merchant ships and crews are not equipped or trained to deal with large scale rescues.

Seafarers are often risking their own safety and security in these large scale rescues. They are also facing situations such as recovering bodies and dealing with sick or injured men, women, and children that may have an effect on them for which they may need counselling or other forms of support. Seafarers are no substitute for professionally trained search and rescue personnel and they must not be used by EU governments as an expedient way of ignoring a difficult problem on the doorstep of Europe.

The three organisations have called for the EU governments to take urgent action to commit more resources to saving lives in the Mediterranean and not to place merchant seafarers in an unenviable situation.

The letter can be downladed from below.

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Crewtoo, the leading social media platform for seafarers, has launched the Crewtoo Seafarers Happiness Index to monitor important benchmarks of seafarer satisfaction on a regular basis. The inaugural report shows a seafarer satisfaction level of 6.42 on a scale of 1 to 10 about key issues including general happiness, contact with family, shore leave, wage levels, food, fitness and health, training, interaction onboard, workload, and access to welfare facilities. Data for the first report is based on surveys conducted in the first three months of 2015. Subsequent reports will be published approximately every three months based on surveys conducted on an ongoing basis. Crewtoo, founded in 2011, is part of KVH Media Group and KVH Industries, Inc., (Nasdaq: KVHI).

"It is all well and good to talk about seafarers and the realities of life at sea, but until now there has been very little confirmation as to how seafarers actually feel about their jobs", says Anneley Pickles, head of Crewtoo business development. "For us, it comes down to one fundamental issue: Are seafarers happy? We felt it vital to develop a means of measuring and reporting this issue, which led to the creation of the Crewtoo Seafarers Happiness Index".

The issues that concerned seafarers the most, as detailed in the first report, included the need for onboard Internet access, the risk of stress and fatigue from increasing workloads, and the lack of shore leave. For example, seafarers mentioned that Internet access onboard "makes life at sea easier" and a number of respondents expressed the concern that "if connectivity does not become common on vessels, the industry might be unable to attract any new seafarers in the future".

Crewtoo WC Comp image 150dpiCrewtoo began surveying its approximately 110,000 members in January, asking them to rate their satisfaction about life at sea using a scale of 1-10 with a score of 10 being the happiest, and 1 being the unhappiest. The Crewtoo Seafarers Happiness Index data includes responses from globally based crews, and answers were received from across all ranks and nationalities including seafarers from the Philippines, U.K., Poland, Croatia, Germany, U.S., Canada, India, and Turkey, as well as a number of African nations. The age of survey respondents ranged from 16 to the late 60s. Masters made up the largest proportion of responses by rank; some 11% of respondents stated that they were currently serving in the role of captain. The majority of responses were from seafarers working on bulk carriers and container vessels.

The Crewtoo Seafarers Happiness Index is designed to be part of an ongoing campaign to raise awareness about crews' opinions and to assist with the continual improvement of conditions onboard to retain and recruit seafarers. Quantifying and qualifying how happy people are with the various elements of their working life at sea helps to build a picture of the industry and of the successes, but also the issues and problems to be addressed.

"Satisfied, well fed, fit, and engaged seafarers are vital to the present and future of the industry", says Ms. Pickles. "Happy people stick around, happy people work well, they embrace challenges, they look to excel and share with others. In short, happiness matters and it needs to be measured, assessed, and understood. The lessons then need to be applied to ensure that we are looking after seafarers properly and responding to their wants and needs".

For a copy of the Crewtoo Seafarers Happiness Index report, please visit here.

Crewtoo are the media sponsor of the International Seafarers' Welfare Awards

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A survey released by the ITF (International Transport Workers' Federation) highlights the need for continuing work on HIV/AIDS and wellbeing among seafarers.

Available here the report A broader vision of seafarer wellbeing: survey of ITF maritime affiliates on HIV/AIDS, health and wellbeing questioned 34 trade unions and 608 seafarers.

The results may be surprising. Despite all the work that has gone into education about HIV/AIDS, many myths about its transmission remain – including in one labour supplying country where only 17 percent of respondents believed condoms are effective in preventing it, and 46 percent believe it can be spread in food and drink. Other major findings came in response to the questions about general wellbeing, with many of those quizzed reporting worries about weight, depression and alcohol use. On average half of them were worried about their weight, while almost 60 percent experience back/joint pain at work. In one labour supplying country 75 percent know workmates who are depressed.

The new report follows similar ITF surveys in the civil aviation and ports sectors, but for the first time includes questions on general health and wellbeing, so as to achieve a holistic overview of seafarers needs and concerns, and in order to 'normalise' HIV/AIDS as something within the broader health context, rather than a cause of stigma and fear.

ITF maritime coordinator Jacqueline Smith explained: "We believe this is the most exhaustive current investigation into this subject, and we offer its findings to everyone concerned with the welfare of seafarers.

"We carried out this research to identify the needs and concerns of seafarers, and to show us how we can best address them within the ITF's longstanding and pioneering HIV/AIDS programme. The results speak for themselves, and we will – with the agreement of the ITF seafarers' section, which sponsored this survey – plan a comprehensive programme of action accordingly."

For more about the ITF's HIV/AIDS work please see here.

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