ISWAN celebrates five years of working for seafarers’ welfare

April 13, 2018
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April 13, 2018

This month, the International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) celebrates five years of supporting seafarers and promoting their welfare worldwide.

On 1 April 2013, the International Committee on Seafarers' Welfare (ICSW) and the International Seafarers' Assistance Network (ISAN) formally merged to form ISWAN. Five years later, ISWAN marked the anniversary with a celebratory drinks reception in London. ISWAN members, supporters and friends from across the maritime industry gathered at the White Chapel Building in London on Wednesday evening to mark five years of the organisation’s dedicated work for seafarers’ welfare (the photos can be viewed here). The venue was kindly provided by the Shipowners’ Club.

Speaking at the reception, ISWAN’s Chairman Per Gullestrup (pictured above proposing a toast) said: ‘It’s hard to believe that it’s already five years since ISWAN came into existence. We look back at those five years and a lot has happened since then.’ Here are some of the organisation’s highlights…

SeafarerHelp square white

Over 44,000 seafarers assisted by SeafarerHelp

ISWAN’s free, 24/7, multilingual helpline is the first port of call for seafarers and their families anywhere in the world needing help, support or guidance. Since ISWAN’s launch in April 2013, SeafarerHelp has assisted a total of 44,290 seafarers, dealing with concerns such as family issues, contractual difficulties, repatriation, personal problems and health issues. The SeafarerHelp team now deals with more cases in-house as a result of extensive training to expand their emotional support and counselling skills. ISWAN still works in partnership with a wide range of organisations who are often involved in helping with SeafarerHelp cases.

Keen to make it as easy as possible for seafarers and their families around the world to get in touch with SeafarerHelp, ISWAN has widened the range of contact methods on offer over the past five years. The newest platforms to be introduced are WhatsApp and Viber.

Safety at Sea Awards SeafarerHelp team

Helpline wins award and gains accreditation in 2017

The SeafarerHelp team gained recognition for their hard work and dedication when they were named Shoreside Team of the Year at the 2017 Safety at Sea Awards (pictured).

In the same year, the helpline was accredited with the nationally recognised Helplines Standard by Helplines Partnership. SeafarerHelp was the first helpline operating on a global basis to achieve this accreditation.

Over $400,000 awarded to seafarers via Seafarers Emergency Fund

The fund has provided seafarers and their families directly involved in unforeseen crises with a total of $416,442.95 of immediate, essential aid since April 2013.

…including $131,000 raised for Filipino seafarers affected by Typhoon Haiyan

Funds from ISWAN’s 2013 appeal were distributed to seafarers’ centres all over the world to provide free calls and WiFi to Filipino seafarers needing to contact their families and loved ones back home. The money raised was also used to assist in rebuilding homes and develop a children’s resource centre in the Philippines.

International Seafarers Welfare Awards 2015

Five years of events around the world to promote seafarers’ welfare

ISWAN has so far honoured the companies, organisations and individuals offering exceptional welfare services and facilities to seafarers at three international awards events. The 2018 International Seafarers’ Welfare Awards will take place at the International Labour Organization in Switzerland later this month.

2,500 seafarers and their families joined ISWAN to celebrate the Day of the Seafarer in Manila on 25 June 2016. ISWAN has also held seminars on topics around seafarers’ welfare every year since 2013 with delegates from across the maritime industry.

Naham 3 hostages and plane in Somalia edited
A dedicated programme to support those affected by piracy

ISWAN expanded its support of piracy survivors and their families with the inclusion of the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme (MPHRP) into the organisation in 2015. ISWAN updated the Good Practice Guide for Shipping Companies and Manning Agents the same year to provide recommendations for the support of seafarers and their families before, during and after piracy incidents.

ISWAN and MPHRP supported the families of the crew of Naham 3 (pictured after their release), who were held captive by pirates for four and a half years and finally released in October 2016. ISWAN provided financial support to the families, and upon the crew’s release, it provided the seafarers with medical and psychological support as well as funds to assist them in the aftermath of their ordeal.

Information materials for seafarers produced and distributed worldwide

Since 2013, ISWAN’s Seafarers’ Health Information Programme (SHIP) has continued to produce health guides and posters along with a multilingual medical assessment booklet and distributed them to shipping companies, ports and seafarers’ centres worldwide. ISWAN’s latest materials, a series of Good Mental Health Guides available in both digital and hard copies, have so far been accessed online a total of more than 7,000 times.

In 2014, ISWAN produced and distributed 60,000 updated Seafarer Centre Directory booklets around the world and maintains an online version on the SeafarerHelp website. The data from this feeds into the ITF Seafarers’ Trust’s Shore Leave app. Since the launch of the new SeafarerHelp website in November 2016, the directory homepage has been visited over 13,000 times.

Port welfare committees set up worldwide and vital research published

ISWAN’s International Port Welfare Partnership (IPWP) Programme was launched in 2017 following a highly successful pilot project, which established seafarers’ welfare boards in ports across four continents.

Over the past five years, ISWAN has also conducted research into port levies and the health and wellbeing of women working at sea, as well as social isolation and the effects of digital technology on seafarers’ mental wellbeing.

Over 370,000 followers of SeafarerHelp on Facebook

ISWAN also shares information, news on seafarers’ welfare and photos on its website, which is in the process of being revamped, along with other digital platforms including the main ISWAN Facebook page (over 13,000 followers), Twitter (followers now exceed 3,000), LinkedIn and Instagram.

Roger Harris, ISWAN’s Executive Director, said: ‘ISWAN has come a long way in the last five years and we are proud of our achievements. We have a committed staff team dedicated to improving the wellbeing of seafarers worldwide. We are looking forward to the challenges of the next five years as there is still a lot more to do to develop welfare services and facilities for seafarers and their families around the world.’

ISWAN would like to sincerely thank its members – including the International Transport Workers’ Federation, the International Chamber of Shipping and the International Christian Maritime Association – and its funders – the ITF Seafarers’ Trust, the TK Foundation, Seafarers UK, the Trafigura Foundation and Trinity House – who make ISWAN’s work possible through invaluable support, funding and ongoing partnership working.

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We are grateful to our main funders for their continued support: