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.
In October 2016, one such application was made by ISWAN on behalf of the families of eight seafarers who were tragically lost at sea when the tug on which they were working, the Rokku Maru, disappeared in a storm on a voyage from Korea to the Philippines. The Rokku Maru, under the Philippine flag, was last seen near Kagoshima, Japan on 24th January 2016 when the crew lost communication with MV Korphil. A search and rescue mission was conducted but was sadly unsuccessful.
Due to disputes over the legality of the seafarers’ employment, along with the fact that no bodies or wreckage have been found, the only financial support received by the bereaved families was a payment of US$400 each made by the company that managed the tug. The families had each lost their main breadwinner, and in one case both the father and a son were lost, so they found themselves in desperate need with little or no income.
ISWAN was able to administer grants totalling almost US$5,000 to six of the families. One family received a grant towards keeping the seafarer’s four daughters in education, and the family who lost two relatives were given financial assistance for rent owed, subsistence and medical bills for a son with severe psychiatric problems. The widow of another of the seafarers returned home from an unsuccessful trip to Manila pursuing her husband’s case only to find that the crops on her small holding had been destroyed in an El Niño event. She was surviving on the generosity of her neighbours, but thanks to the SEF she received a grant for food and basic necessities.
ISWAN's Jun Pablo remains in contact with the family as they are pursuing their claims through the Philippine government, in the hope that some compensation will be provided to ease the financial burden they face. The company employing them has not paid anything towards the needs of the families as the investigation into the loss of the vessel continues.
If you or a family member are a seafarer in distress or need help, visit www.seafarerhelp.org and we will do our best to help.
For more information about our work, visit www.seafarerswelfare.org.
For further details on the Seafarer Emergency Fund and how to apply, click here.