A lifeline for yacht crew – One year on

November 24, 2021
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Since Yacht Crew Help launched one year ago today, over 230 yacht crew around the world have found help and support through ISWAN’s free, confidential, 24-hour helpline service.

In its first year alone, Yacht Crew Help, which is run by the International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN), has received almost 500 calls and messages from yacht crew needing someone to talk to, help with a problem, or information and guidance. Amongst its most commonly reported issues were psychological health and wellbeing, contractual issues, unemployment struggles, and problems with bullying and harassment. Unsurprisingly, many of these issues were a direct result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

ISWAN’s Project Manager Georgia Allen said: ‘I am extremely proud of all that Yacht Crew Help has achieved in its first year. As the result of the research we conducted in 2018 in partnership with MHG Insurance, we identified a real need for a yacht crew-specific emotional support service that would reach those who needed it – and we have certainly delivered on this. Our helpline team have been exceptionally dedicated throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring that every single caller was met with empathy, warmth, and acceptance. We have received much appreciation from the industry, and I continue to be most grateful for the support of our very dedicated steering committee and key funders.’

Many crew members contact Yacht Crew Help in need of emotional support but one particularly pressing issue is sexual assault and harassment. The number of such cases reported to Yacht Crew Help is much higher than ISWAN’s longer-serving helpline SeafarerHelp, which receives the majority of its cases from seafarers in the merchant navy.

Although yacht crew can find security in joining a union such as Nautilus International or becoming a member of the Professional Yachting Association (PYA), ISWAN is calling for wider acknowledgement within the sector that sexual assault and harassment is a problem and for the stigma and fear around reporting incidents to be addressed. ISWAN believes industry-wide cultural change is needed and key members of the industry need to work together to affect this through education, raising of awareness, provision of appropriate support, and the promotion of zero-tolerance attitudes to abuse. ISWAN will be focusing on this priority issue, amongst the other key challenges that yacht crew face, over the coming months.

Ms. Allen added: ‘We do not anticipate any decline in need for the Yacht Crew Help service; in fact, with psychological health and wellbeing issues continuing to rise as a result of the shockwaves of the pandemic, and conversations about the importance of mental health awareness increasing in frequency, we foresee increasing demand. Sustainability of the service is therefore key, and as a not-for-profit organisation, we do rely on funding and donations to ensure the future of the helpline. This is where we ask those companies and individuals who appreciate what we are doing to please consider becoming Yacht Crew Help sponsors or to make a donation – no amount is too small and will help to ensure that yacht crew in need everywhere continue to be given the assistance they need.’

To mark Yacht Crew Help’s one-year anniversary, ISWAN is launching its ‘Be a link in the chain that saves a life’ campaign to encourage companies and individuals to do their bit to ensure that every yacht crew member has somewhere to turn to in their darkest moment. Donations can be made at ISWAN would like to give special thanks to those who have already pledged to support this campaign and all of Yacht Crew Help’s funders.

Yacht Crew Help is a multilingual service staffed by a trained team of helpline officers experienced in counselling skills, suicide risk assessment and providing emotional support. Yacht crew can find contact details as well as resources, guidance and useful links on the website, Crew can also download ISWAN’s new free app, ISWAN for Seafarers, for offline access to these resources and 24-hour access to the helpline via their mobile.

For more information about Yacht Crew Help and how to support the service, please contact Georgia Allen at

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