Support for seafarers’ family struggling with hospital bills

February 28, 2020
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ISWAN's Jun Pablo (right) with Ernesto and his son in hospital

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. Last year, ISWAN organised support for a seafarer who was struggling to pay the hospital bills after his son was involved in an accident.

Ernesto, an oiler from the Philippines, voluntarily signed off his ship when he was told that his son had been involved in a motorcycle accident. He returned home and immediately went to the hospital to visit his son, who was in coma. Ernesto’s son, also a seafarer, had just finished a two-year contract in the domestic shipping industry when he had his accident.

The family was unable to pay the hospital bills so Ernesto was forced to discharge his son and take him home where the family would have to care for him. His son was in a wheelchair and, although he was now awake, he could not move his body properly and could hear but not speak. Ernesto mortgaged the family’s house but was still unable to pay all of the hospital bills, and his wife had no other means to provide financial support. They also had to stop their other child studying due to their financial situation.

ISWAN’s Regional Director in the Philippines, Jun Pablo, met with the family and listened while they explained their situation. He provided psychosocial support and applied on the family’s behalf for a grant from the Seafarers Emergency Fund (SEF) to relieve some of the financial pressure.

The grant was approved and Ernesto was able to pay the balance of the hospital bill and the doctor’s fee, which relieved a great deal of his stress. Ernesto was amazed and thankful that the maritime industry could help his family in this way during this distressing time.

ISWAN's Jun Pablo paying the doctor's fee using the Seafarers Emergency Fund grant

The grant also paid for transport for Ernesto’s son from home to the hospital for a check-up and rehabilitation, and Jun used it to buy some powdered milk prescribed by the doctor since Ernesto’s son could not eat normal food. The family were incredibly grateful, and the hospital staff were impressed that this support was available for seafarers and their families.

Ernesto (right) with his wife and son and some supplies purchased using their Seafarers Emergency Fund grant

Ernesto later visited the ISWAN Philippines office in Manila to thank Jun personally for the support his family had received. His son still could not walk or speak properly, but there had been some progress as he was now able to say the words ‘papa’ and ‘mama’. He was no longer seeing a physical therapist but the family hoped that he would recover in time.

Ernesto with his family at home this year

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. Our Regional Programme is funded by the Trafigura Foundation.

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

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