2020: Stories from the pandemic

December 18, 2020
Stranded seafarers in Manila provided with transport through the coordination of AMOSUP and ISWAN Philippines

Over the course of this extraordinary year, the strength and resilience of seafarers has shone through. However, whether stuck on board for months due to the crew change crisis or stranded ashore unable to return home or find work, hundreds of thousands of seafarers have found themselves in desperate need of help.

Charities and welfare organisations have worked day and night to assist as many seafarers and their families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic as possible. These are the words and stories of some of those we have supported.

Families like Radzkeir’s received financial support through the ISWAN Hardship Fund

We received an overwhelming number of applications to the ISWAN Hardship Fund from seafarers in the Philippines who were struggling due to the impact of the pandemic.

Launched earlier this year and funded by ShipMoney through its programme ShipMoney Cares, the ISWAN Hardship Fund provides one-time financial grants of up to US$500 to Filipino seafarers and their families with a financial need.

More than 330 seafarers and their families received financial support through the fund this year, including Radzkeir:

Radzkeir and his family

'It is with heartfelt that I express my utmost gratitude to ISWAN in these pressing times. The five-hundred-dollar grant I received from ISWAN Hardship Fund had helped us make it through these quarantine days when many economic activities were placed on halt. We managed to gather the food supplies we needed as well as the formula milk and other needs of my seven-month-old son. The cash assistance was very timely as we were almost out of savings when it arrived. A blessing as many would agree to say. ISWAN responded when we needed help the most and I and my family are grateful.'

Radzkeir, Filipino seafarer

Seafarers like Gokul were repatriated on specially arranged flights

Gokul boarded a special Air India flight with his family after being stranded in the UK due to the pandemic. Our ISWAN India team has worked with numerous Indian missions in different countries, government authorities and shipping companies to help seafarers stranded abroad return home.

Gokul sent a thank you message to ISWAN's Director of Regions Chirag Bahri from the airport:

Seafarers stranded in Manila during lockdown received food supplies

The seafarers pictured below were among almost 2,000 seafarers stranded in dormitories and boarding houses around Manila who were provided with food supplies purchased using a grant from the Seafarers Emergency Fund in April and May this year. We worked with the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to coordinate support for these seafarers, and the supplies were delivered in person by a team including ISWAN's Regional Director in the Philippines and South East Asia, Jun Pablo.

'Thank you OWWA and ISWAN for your food pack assistance that you extend to us. Because of that, we survived lockdown.'

Filipino seafarer in Manila
ISWAN Philippines' Jun Pablo (right) with seafarers stranded in Manila

Seafarers like Saurabh received financial support while stranded during lockdown in India

While waiting to sign on to a ship, Saurabh found himself stranded in Mumbai with two other seafarers when the country went into lockdown. The three seafarers were living together in rented accommodation, and when they had exhausted their savings and were struggling to cover the costs of lodging, they contacted ISWAN for urgent assistance. Our team in India secured a grant from the Seafarers Emergency Fund and provided the seafarers with the financial support they needed to pay for their lodging and food.

Seven Sri Lankan seafarers were supported until they were repatriated from Nigeria

The High Commission of Sri Lanka in Nigeria contacted the National Seafarers Welfare Board (NSWB) at the beginning of the year to request assistance for seven Sri Lankan seafarers. Their vessel had been arrested by the Nigerian Navy for carrying petroleum products without proper documentation.

ISWAN's Social Worker Afusat Eke worked with the NSWB, Apostleship of the Sea, The Mission to Seafarers in Nigeria and ISWAN's team in India to support the seafarers while they awaited their release and repatriation. Despite the challenges of COVID-19 restrictions during the pandemic, Afusat visited the seafarers on board their vessel and later when they had been moved to a prison in Lagos to provide emotional support during this incredibly stressful time. Afusat followed up on their case throughout with the relevant agencies, and provided the seafarers with food, toiletries and other supplies when they needed them.

When the seafarers were finally released from prison in August, Afusat kept in touch with them regarding arrangements until the Nigerian airspace was open and they were able to fly home.

Four of the Sri Lankan seafarers with ISWAN's Afusat Eke (3rd right) and Apapa Port Welfare Committee Chairman Aina Akinbola (3rd left)

Thank you to everyone who made this possible

We would like to thank all the organisations and individuals who have worked with us over the past year to support seafarers and their families around the world throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, including:

  • Our funders: the ITF Seafarers’ Trust and Seafarers UK, The TK Foundation and Trafigura Foundation
  • ShipMoney, The TK Foundation and Teekay Shipping (ISWAN Hardship Fund)
  • Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of Shipping, Government of India
  • Foreign embassies, including the High Commission of India, UK and the High Commission of India, Colombo
  • Shri Deepak Shetty, Former Director General of Shipping & Secretary, Government of India and ISWAN Trustee
  • Mansukh Mandaviya, Union Minister of State for Ports, Shipping and Waterways
  • Air India
  • Indian missions in the UK, UAE, US, Iran, Panama, Cuba, Haiti, Guyana, South Korea, Malaysia, Egypt, Belgium, The Netherlands, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, China, Vietnam, Nigeria, Jamaica and Thailand
  • Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs and its missions in US and Russia
  • Philippines Department of Health
  • Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) in the Philippines
  • Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA)
  • Associated Marine Officers' and Seamen's Union of the Philippines (AMOSUP)
  • The Mission to Seafarers in the Philippines
  • Apostleship of the Sea Manila
  • Mr. Bien Galapon & Mr. Mike Esplago, who helped to deliver food supplies to seafarers stranded in Manila
  • National Seafarers Welfare Board, Nigeria
  • Nigerian Administration Safety and Management Agency (NIMASA)
  • Women's' International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA)
  • Orion Marine & Good Works Marine Service, who have always assisted us with easy access on board their vessels in Nigeria
  • The Mission to Seafarers, the Apostleship of the Sea and the Sri Lankan Embassy in Nigeria
  • Port Welfare Committees in Nigeria, including Harcourt, Apapa, Tincan Island and Onne ports

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