Emergency fund covers seafarer’s medical costs and school fees during lockdown

July 29, 2020
Hands 3

When a seafarer or their family are involved in a sudden and unforeseen situation, they may require financial support. In cases where no other help is available, the Seafarers Emergency Fund (SEF) can provide immediate, essential aid. Bilal* had not worked at sea for over a year due to a medical condition and was unable to pay his children’s pending school fees, so he contacted SeafarerHelp for financial assistance.

Bilal had been at home in Pakistan for the last 14 months with a severe skin disease and had used all his savings for treatment and medical tests. His condition was cured but the doctor advised him to continue taking medicine for the next six months so that it would not recur. Bilal could not afford to pay for the continuing treatment, and the school fees for his three children were due at the beginning of the following month.

Needing money, Bilal had travelled to Karachi to look for a job but was now stuck there due to the COVID-19 lockdown in the city. He sent a WhatsApp message to SeafarerHelp to ask for assistance. He mentioned that he was a piracy survivor – he had been held captive with the rest of the crew on board their vessel for almost three years between 2012 and 2015. ISWAN’s Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme (MPHRP) had been involved with this case at the time, supporting the seafarers and their families during the period of captivity and after the crew’s release.

The case was referred to ISWAN’s regional team in India, who applied for a Seafarers Emergency Fund grant on Bilal’s behalf and approached a local union representative in Karachi who could transfer the funds to the seafarer. The application was approved and Bilal received a grant to pay for his treatment, his children’s school fees and the living expenses he had incurred while in lockdown in Karachi.

Bilal thanked ISWAN from bottom of his heart for the timely support he received.

For more information about the Seafarers Emergency Fund and how to apply, please click here. A welfare organisation or trade union must apply on the seafarer/seafarers’ family’s behalf. The Fund is jointly provided by The TK Foundation, the ITF Seafarers’ Trust and Seafarers UK, and is administered by ISWAN.

If you are a seafarer and need help in a crisis, you can contact our free, confidential, 24-hour helpline, SeafarerHelp, for guidance and support. All contact details can be found at

*This seafarer’s name has been changed to protect their privacy.

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