ISWAN and ATPI Partner to Improve Seafarer Welfare: Part 1
As the backbone of global trade, shipping companies play a critical role in the world economy.
However, the seafarers who crew these vessels often work in challenging conditions, far away from their families and loved ones for extended periods of time. While some shipping companies have their own in-house programs to support their seafarers' wellbeing, there are times when they need additional support.
That's where the International Seafarers' Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) comes in. ISWAN is dedicated to improving the wellbeing of seafarers worldwide, and through their programs and services, they are there to support shipping companies and their seafarers when needed.
As a company that understands the unique challenges that seafarers face, we are thrilled to collaborate with ISWAN on various initiatives that aim to address these issues and promote seafarer welfare. Our partnership with ISWAN is a testament to our shared commitment to making a difference in the lives of seafarers worldwide. We are excited about the opportunities this partnership presents, and we look forward to working together to achieve our shared goals.
In this 3-part mini-series, we sat down with Alan Croft, Business Development Manager at ISWAN, to discuss the partnership between ISWAN and ATPI and what this means for seafarers.
1. Can you tell us more about the work that ISWAN does and the impact it has on seafarers worldwide?
We are an international maritime charity which works to improve the lives of seafarers and their families with services, resources, strategies, and advocacy. We operate SeafarerHelp, the number one free, confidential, 24/7/365, multilingual helpline providing help and support to seafarers and their families around the world. For yacht crew, we operate the free, 24-hour helpline Yacht Crew Help. We have staff working in India and the Philippines to provide humanitarian support in these regions, and we administer several relief funds to provide financial support to seafarers and their families in crisis or with urgent needs. Seafarers can also access free health resources on our website and the ISWAN for Seafarers app.
In 2022, we assisted over 13,600 seafarers and their families of more than 80 different nationalities around the world and administered over US $336,000 via the relief funds we manage to those experiencing hardship.
2. How did the partnership between ISWAN and ATPI come about, and what are the main goals of this collaboration?
I met Fran Blackburn, Director of Client Partnerships at ATPI, while attending MMIA 2022. As a former port agent, I recognised the value of ATPI’s efficient and adaptable services in meeting the ever-changing demands of the maritime industry, making crew changes possible during tight windows of opportunity so seafarers can get back home to their loved ones.
Throughout our conversation our mutual passion for seafarer welfare became apparent, and so it only felt right to combine our efforts to grow awareness of ISWAN’s services for seafarers, with a focus on getting our information directly into the hands of those in need, and providing them with useful information before, during and after their voyage. In addition, we are also exploring the ways in which we can collaboratively keep seafarers informed on how best to travel safely.
3. In your opinion, what are the main challenges that seafarers face today, and how is ISWAN working to address these issues?
Isolation and a lack of social interaction are significant challenges for seafarers, leading to a range of physical, psychological, and emotional issues including depression, anxiety, stress, and fatigue. Seafarers may experience feelings of loneliness, homesickness, and disconnection from their families and communities while on board, which can further exacerbate their mental health problems. Our Social Interaction Matters (SIM) Project, due to enter its next phase in the coming months, aims to help companies improve seafarers’ social interaction on board, and to positively impact the wellbeing of their crew through using programmes with proven success.
The war in Ukraine and ongoing COVID-19 issues are having wide-ranging effects on seafarers. Heightened security risks and disruptions to shipping routes have impacted the safety and wellbeing of seafarers, and the conflict in Ukraine alongside the pandemic has made crew changes more challenging, with many seafarers experiencing extended periods at sea due to travel restrictions and quarantine requirements. This has led to increased fatigue, stress, and mental health issues among crew.
In March 2022, on behalf of the Seafarers International Relief Fund (SIRF), we launched the Ukraine Crisis Support Fund to provide urgent financial assistance to seafarers and their families affected by the crisis. We worked closely with ITF affiliate union the Marine Transport Workers’ Trade Union of Ukraine (MTWTU) and a Stella Maris Chaplain in Ukraine to reach those in greatest need. Through this fund, we administered a total of US$285,500 in grants to around 570 seafarers and their families affected by the Ukraine crisis.
Our helplines have been available 24/7 throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and Ukraine crisis to provide support to seafarers and their families.
Photographer: Ryan Paez