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Imagine you are a seafarer who has been injured and left in hospital while your ship has sailed

Imagine you are a seafarer who has received bad news while at sea

Imagine you are a mother of seafarer who has been lost at sea

Who do you turn to?

ISWAN's SeafarerHelp is there for seafarers and their families 24 hours a day, 365 day per year. Our dedicated staff will be working over Christmas and New Year in case a seafarer calls with a problem or if they simply want to speak to someone in their own language. We refer cases to the most appropriate organisation, if possible, in the port where the seafarer is visiting or about to visit.

This year we have seen an increase of nearly 50% in the number of seafarers that contact us.

Although we receive funds from generous grant giving organisations, we still need to raise more money to keep our SeafarerHelp service running 24 hours every day of the year.

Can you give a donation of £15 or US$15 or more today? Better still, can you donate £5 or US$5 per month? We can accept donations by credit or paypal in different currencies. Simply click on the following link.

Make a donation using Virgin Money Giving

We are there for seafarers. Will you be there for us?

Have a Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year.

Thank you.

Published in Latest News

In response to the continuing crisis in the Mediterranean, necessitating commercial ships to rescue tens of thousands of migrants and refugees during 2014, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), and ISWAN member, has published new Guidance on Large Scale Rescue Operations at Sea, which can be downloaded free of charge via the ICS website.

ICS Secretary General, Peter Hinchliffe explained: "The shipping industry fully accepts its humanitarian obligation to assist anyone at sea whose vessel is in distress. But the scale of the crisis involving thousands of people attempting to get to Europe in craft that are neither fit for purpose nor seaworthy has raised real concerns about the safety and health of ships' crews that may be involved in rescuing as many as 200 people at a time."

The challenges involved in rescuing large numbers of people and then accommodating them on board ship prior to disembarkation are enormous compared to conventional rescue operations. The ICS Guidelines are therefore intended to help shipping companies prepare for this eventuality, whilst taking full of account of the safety and security of the ship should such large scale rescues be necessary. ICS says that experience has shown that advance preparations, and the development of effective procedures supported by regular drills, will prepare Masters and their crews to manage large scale rescue operations safely and successfully.

The issues covered by the ICS Guidelines include the provision of additional Personal Protective Equipment for ship's crew and the safe management and accommodation of large numbers of people on board with an emphasis on sanitation, hygiene and ship security. The Guidelines also refer to the need for companies to take full account of crew welfare in the aftermath of a large scale rescue. The ICS Guidelines also contain useful references to relevant advice produced by the World Health Organization and the International Maritime Organization.

ICS also emphasises that Masters should not be expected to become involved in decisions about the legal status of the people they have rescued or whether they intend to apply for asylum.

"Notwithstanding the shipping industry's legal and humanitarian obligations to rescue people in distress at sea, it remains incumbent on the governments to find a solution to the current crisis which is placing a very difficult burden on ships' crews and the companies that have a duty of care for them." said Mr Hinchliffe, who will be participating at a high-level meeting on the migrants at sea crisis being hosted by the UNHCR in Geneva, in which the IMO Secretary-General will also be taking part.


Published in Latest News

International Maritime Bureau statistics indicate that maritime crime off the coast of West Africa is trending toward an escalation in violence. These statistics show that the number of casualties (wounded and killed) in the first 9 months of 2014 is significantly higher than the total number for all of 2013. A recent Oceans Beyond Piracy study found that in 2013 over 1,200 seafarers faced criminals who succeeded in boarding vessels in West Africa and nearly 300 of these seafarers were held hostage.

It is against these worrying factors that Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP) and the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) held a panel discussion on the effects of West African piracy and maritime crime on seafarers in London on 23 September. The panel discussed the complex models of West African piracy and the ways in which flag States, seafarer Nations and advocacy groups are addressing the problem. Panelists included Admiral Sir James Burnell-Nugent of OBP, Mr. Pottengal Mukundan of the IMB, Mr. Douglas Stevenson of Seamen's Church lnstitute, Mr. Peter Swift of Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Program and Mr. Tim Hart of Control Risks.

The panel emphasized the importance of consistent reporting of crimes in understanding the degree to which ,seafarers off the coast of West Africa undergo violence or distress, as the IMB estimates that nearly two-thirds of such attacks go unreported.

"Piracy and armed robbery at sea in the Gulf of Guinea is not a new issue, but an increase in the operational range of pirate groups means a greater number of seafarers are facing an increased risk" says Tim Hart.

Unlike off the coast of Somalia, where pirates have been discouraged by navies and private security companies, West African pirates are undeterred by regional navies and more willing to engage with security personnel. Due to the complex models of maritime crime off West Africa, seafarer welfare is often of little concern to the attackers. Furthermore, trends indicate a worrying increase in kidnap-for-ransom cases.

"A common misperception is that piracy and other violent crimes at sea represent victimless crime. In reality, however, many seafarers suffer from physical or psychological abuse, and the impact on them can be severe and long-lasting as well as on their families," says Peter Swift.

In order to better understand the impact of the violence, major flag States, including Liberia, the Marshall Islands, St. Kitts and Panama have agreed to provide detailed, but anonymous, information to be compiled by the IMB.

This is consistent with the information provided by these same flag States in the Declaration Condemning Violence Against Seafarers related to acts of Somali piracy. Additionally, this effort will now be supported by the major seafaring nations, whose seafarers are disproportionately affected.

"We commend and thank these States for taking action to improve the safety of seafarers and see this as a first step towards mobilizing a more effective response to these crimes and hope that others will join them in the near future," says Admiral Sir James Burnell-Nugent.

According to Pottengal Mukundan, Director of the IMB, "The information provided for crimes off Somalia helped to give us a more complete picture of the maritime crime problem and has assisted companies and states to identify policies that best support seafarers. We expect this will be the case with West Africa as well."

The significant increase of lethal violence and kidnapping off the West African coast underscores the importance of seafarer advocacy groups, including the Seamen's Church Institute and Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme, which are constantly identifying the most effective ways to deliver the assistance that they, provide to the victims of these crimes. "We must step in to protect the seas' most valuable resource: the human beings who live and work on ships," says Douglas Stevenson of SCI.

Seafarers concerned by piracy can contact SeafarerHelp, the free 24 hour helpline run by ISWAN.

Published in Latest News

Seafarer centres around the world provide vital services for seafarers day in and day out. Here is just one example of the way a Mission to Seafarers centre in Australia helped a seafarer who suffered a life changing accident.

In July 2014 AB Mahesh Kumar lost his lower leg in a mooring accident in Port Hedland, Australia. Swift help came from paramedics and Mahesh was air lifted by a helicopter to the South Hedland hospital. In response to this terrible accident the Port Hedland Mission to Seafarers Chaplain, Garry South, attended the vessel within 3 hours of the event. Garry's exemplary help given to the ship's crew and master was very much appreciated. Garry's full attention was focused on Mahesh who was suffering severe post event depression that caused concern for his well-being. Garry carried out his duties by serving both Mahesh and the crew as he moved between hospital and ship.

After the ship had sailed Garry continued to visit Mahesh daily until he was repatriated some 10 days later. During this time Port Hedland MTS Senior Chaplain Alan Mower responded to the event and initiated a support fund for Mahesh via Facebook. The centre became aware of the significant ground swell of public awareness that Facebook generated as well as local port user and union responses. As a result, an amazing AUD$43,000 (US$38,000) was raised in just one month. This was an incredible amount coming from a small port community of some 15 to 20 thousand people.

On the 15 September both Chaplains Alan & Garry travelled to India to present the proceeds to Mahesh and his wife Sruthy. An event was held in the conference room of the Royal Bombay Seaman's Club and supported by the Honorary Secetary manager Capt Nairn Hiranandani and Assistant Manager Benjamin Rayappa. The event was attended by several clergy from the Bishops office & Cathedral, local union representatives, officials from the manning company Anglo Eastern Ship Management Capt Deepak Correa ( General Manager Bulk Pool) and Naresh Jagtiani ( Deputy GM Fleet HR). Several other Seaman's club officials and representatives from the local press also attended. Mahesh, wife Sruthy, brother Rajesh, and his Mother & Father were there to receive the funds. Approximately 20-30 in all attended the small ceremony.

Despite the significant amount raised by the fund, Mahesh will also receive a greater amount in compensation for the loss of limb. This will enable him and his wife to set up a small business that will secure the future of the family.

This is an example of how welfare workers and chaplains around the world go out of their way and beyond the call of duty to serve seafarers who need their help.

Published in Latest News
Published in Latest News

Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP), a project of One Earth Future Foundation, has launched the fourth installment of its annual reports detailing the economic and human costs of African maritime piracy. The study titled"The State of Maritime Piracy 2013" examines the costs incurred as a result of piracy occurring off the coast of Somalia, as well as in the Gulf of Guinea.

The study finds that attacks by Somali pirates are increasingly rare, and that, at between $3 billion to 3.2 billion, the overall economic costs of Somali piracy are down almost 50 percent from 2012. However, at least 50 hostages remain in captivity, held on average for nearly three years under deplorable conditions.

Regarding Africa's West Coast, this report is the first comprehensive attempt by any organization to quantify the total economic cost of maritime piracy in that region. Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea remained a significant danger in 2013, says the report, with levels perpetuated by a lack of open reporting and a lack of coordinated effort among stakeholders.

"The efforts of the international community and the shipping industry have considerably reduced the threat of Somali piracy," says Jens Madsen, one of the report's authors. "But we have yet to achieve the goal of 'Zero/Zero' – zero vessels captured and zero hostages held," he adds. The study finds that while the combined economic costs of suppressing Somali piracy are markedly down, there has only been a slight increase in the investment in long-term solutions ashore. Research also shows that the shipping industry increasingly relies on individualized risk mitigation, observed in the decreased use of some of the more expensive anti-piracy measures such as increased speed and re-routing. Shippers are also turning to smaller and less expensive teams of armed guards as the perceived risk of piracy is declining.

While attacks by Somali pirates have declined sharply, with no large vessels taken in 2013, there are still, however, at least 50 hostages in captivity, who have been held on average for nearly three years under deplorable conditions. At the same time, regional and local seafarers and fishermen in the region remain at high risk as pirates continue to target locally operated vessels to facilitate larger attacks.

Turning to maritime piracy off Africa's west coast, the study finds that a critical lack of reporting on both the piracy and maritime crime here makes analysis difficult. "Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea is fundamentally different to that taking place in the Indian Ocean," says Mr. Madsen. "We observe not only a high degree of violence in the attacks in this region, but also the lack of a mutually trusted reporting architecture and the constantly evolving tactics of West African piracy makes it extremely difficult to isolate it from other elements of organized maritime crime."

The report notes it is generally agreed the solution to piracy ultimately lies in building up capacity onshore, but it stresses that relatively little investment has been made towards sustainable solutions. "While I am encouraged that more money is being spent on longer-term solutions ashore, these still only represent the equivalent of 1½ percent of the total annual cost of the piracy," says Marcel Arsenault, Chairman of One Earth Future Foundation. "Until we have more economic opportunity and better governance ashore, we risk piracy returning to previous levels as soon as the navies and guards have gone home."

The report also notes, that while pirate attacks off Somalia have decreased, 54 seafarers are still being held by Somali pirates, some for over 3 years.

The full report can be downloaded from here

Published in Latest News

Roger Harris, Executive Director of ISWAN, talks about the challenges facing seafarers and seafarers' welfare


Published in Latest News

This article first appeared on the ILO website and we reproduce it here with kind permission of the ILO.

The international maritime community has adopted measures to protect abandoned seafarers, and to provide financial security for compensation in cases of death and long-term disability.

More than 300 representatives of seafarers, shipowners and governments, meeting at the International Labour Organization (ILO) 7 to 11 April 2014, have taken concrete steps to protect abandoned seafarers and provide financial security for compensation in cases of death and long-term disability due to occupational injury or hazard. The new measures are also aimed at improving the world's shipping industry.

"The adoption of the Maritime Labour Convention in 2006 was an historical milestone that heralded a new era in the maritime sector," said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder. "This latest step, building on international tripartite cooperation, is a very significant and inspiring example for other economic sectors."

"When they come into force, these measures will ensure the welfare of the world's seafarers and their families if the seafarers are abandoned, or if death or long-term disability occurs as the result of occupational injury, illness or hazard," he said. "These steps will certainly help improve working and living conditions for seafarers, doing what is right for the women and men in this sector who play a central role in keeping the real economy going with some 90 per cent of world trade carried on ships.."

The measures come in the form of amendments to the ILO's Maritime Labour Convention, 2006, which were adopted without opposition. They will now be sent to the ILO's International Labour Conference in May for approval.

The amendments were developed over nearly a decade by a Joint Working Group established by the ILO and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in 1998 and will strengthen the 2006 Convention. They establish mandatory requirements that shipowners have financial security to cover abandonment, as well as death or long-term disability of seafarers due to occupational injury and hazard.

"These legal standards will provide relief and peace of mind to abandoned seafarers and their families wherever they may be," said Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, Director of the ILO Labour Standards Department. "In addition, by adopting these amendments to the Convention, shipowners and governments are also strengthening its provisions aimed at ensuring a level-playing field for quality shipping around the world."

Under the new provisions, ships will be required to carry certificates or other documents to establish that financial security exists to protect seafarers working on board. Failure to provide this protection may mean that a ship can be detained in a port.

The ILO Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 came into force on 20 August 2013. To date, 57 ILO Member States representing more than 80 per cent of the world's global shipping tonnage have ratified the Convention. As of March 2014, the ILO's Abandonment of Seafarers Database listed 159 abandoned merchant ships, some dating back to 2006 and still unresolved.

"The new measures will guarantee that seafarers are not abandoned, alone and legally adrift for months on end, without pay, adequate food and water and away from home," Ms. Doumbia-Henry said. "They also clearly make flag states responsible for ensuring that adequate financial security exists to cover the cost of abandonment, and claims for death and long-term disability due to occupational injury and hazards."

Published in Latest News

seafarer 1Seafarers live tough and dangerous lives. They are away from their families for long periods and often do not get ashore for months. Many are from the developing world with their extended families dependent on them for paying for education and health care.

The International Seafarers' Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) works to promote the welfare of seafarers worldwide. We advocate on behalf of seafarers for better welfare services and facilities in ports and onboard ships as well as providing direct services for seafarers.

We run a helpline for seafarers called SeafarerHelp. SeafarerHelp is a lifeline for seafarers who are in distress and need assistance. It is a vital link for people who are isolated and facing difficult circumstances. It is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Last year we assisted over 9700 seafarers and their families. For further information on SeafarerHelp see here.

ISWAN runs other projects that help seafarers. We provide important health information to seafarers on topics such as HIV prevention, healthy living, hygiene in the galley, and malaria. We run other projects to promote the welfare of seafarers worldwide.

ISWAN relies on charitable grants and donations for our work with seafarers and we need your help.

Can you donate today to help the lives of seafarers and their families? Thank you.

Make a donation using Virgin Money Giving


Published in About ISWAN

isf-logowithshadowThe International Chamber of Shipping (ICS)/International Shipping Shipping Federation (ISF), a member of ISWAN, has launched a new web-based information resource to assist shipping companies to implement the International Labour Organization (ILO) Maritime Labour Convention (MLC).

The ILO MLC entered into force worldwide in August although, in practice for many ships, full certification including the preparation of Documents of Maritime Labour Compliance on board individual vessels is not required until August next year. ICS, operating as the International Shipping Federation (ISF), negotiated the text of the MLC on behalf of maritime employers, with unions and governments, when the Convention was adopted in 2006.

Natalie Shaw, Director of Employment Affairs, said: "This new ICS resource should help to answer many of the questions that employers still have with respect to MLC implementation and will hopefully serve as a kind of 'one stop shop', in combination with guidance we have already produced and that of individual flag states."

The new web resource contains responses to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), the differing ratification status of flag states, various guidance materials that have been produced by the ILO, as well as the existing free guidance on Port State Control which ICS published free of charge this summer. It also includes very recent material such as draft ILO guidance for the training of ship's cooks which was only developed last month.

The new web area also provides information about the comprehensive ISF Guidelines on the Application of the ILO MLC, which were published last year, and the widely used ISF Watchkeeper software for maintaining individual seafarers' rest hours in accordance with MLC requirements.

Ms Shaw remarked: "Although the ILO work hour record requirements have been around for some time, the entry into force of the MLC means they should now begin to bite and ships will need to produce very detailed records if they wish to avoid falling foul of port state control."

The special area on the ICS website site can be found at:

and is readily accessible via the ICS homepage.

Published in Latest News
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