Iswan, Worldwide

The International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) assists seafarers and their families and campaigns for greater rights for maritime workers.

Seafarers, who are responsible for transporting 85 percent of the world's goods, are often overlooked. With the fast turnaround of ships in ports, being on board for months at a time, reduced crew numbers and increased workloads, the lives of seafarers are often tough. Seafarers face long periods away from their family and friends with limited or no communication for weeks on end. Welfare facilities and services both onboard and ashore can be a lifeline for seafarers.

ISWAN offers a comprehensive support to help them cope with their long periods away from home and manage critical situations at sea. Among the most important initiatives offered by the organisation, there is a 24 hour/365 days multilingual helpline called SeafarerHelp to assist seafarers in any moment. The organisation also develops several tools and resources to promote the mental wellbeing of seafarers when they are at sea.

Moreover, ISWAN actively campaigns against non-registered crewing agencies that act illegally to recruit seafarers and works to promote equal employment opportunities for women in the maritime sector.

Thanks to its dedicated Relief Funds, ISWAN responds to crises and traumatic events faced by seafarers including maritime disasters, deaths at sea, accidents, piracy and armed robbery.

The Trafigura Foundation also supports ISWAN Regional Programme that provides humanitarian help to seafarers and their families in three specific regions: South East Asia, South Asia and Nigeria.

Read the stories of ISWAN’s beneficiaries

One recipient of ISWAN’s support in 2019 was Mr Singh, an Indian seafarer who suffered a heart attack while crewing a ship off the coast of Singapore. While his company paid for his initial repatriation and hospital expenses, medical complications resulted in him being unable to return to work for an extended period. As his family’s sole breadwinner and faced with escalating medical bills, the father of two, now unable to pay for his children’s school fees, became increasingly desperate. Happily, an application to ISWAN resulted in him being offered a Seafarers Emergency Fund (SEF) grant for medical, school and sustenance costs.

In a letter to ISWAN, following his ordeal, Mr Singh wrote: “I shall forever be indebted to you for the support you have shown in the times when it was greatly needed.”

Another sailor, Mr Ramanan, was stranded at sea for three months when his vessel was detained by Indonesian maritime authorities. During this period, he learned that his father had died. Unable to leave the ship to attend the funeral, Mr Ramanan was also concerned about his wife who was due to give birth. However, thanks to assistance from ISWAN, she received emotional and antenatal support, while Mr Ramanan’s release from the boat was secured.

© Zay Yar Lin

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Key Figures


seafarers’ cases handled by Indian regional office in 2019


seafarers’ cases handled by Philippines regional office in 2019

593 seafarers’ cases handled by Indian regional office in 2019
272 seafarers’ cases handled by Philippines regional office in 2019