Seafarers, life on the front lines

More attention is being paid to well-being on board ships but over half of crews still cannot access email.

ACCORDING to the latest report from ISWAN (International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network), requests for help and support from sailors around the world increased sharply in the last year. ISWAN, which provides technical, medical and occupational assistance, has seen a sharp increase in support requests over the past six years, partly because of the burden that sailors must bear in a continuously evolving world.

SeafarerHelp is a free service for maritime workers, with centres where they can meet other people in the industry and can receive advice on legal and employment issues.

The ISWAN report notes that concerns about employment, health, and mental health are the most pressing issues for crews. In 2016, 11,228 sailors were involved in the SeafarerHelp programme, resulting in more than 3,073 new cases. The problems do not concern maritime workers in a particular geographical area, because the organisation has received contact from a total of 122 different countries, by 99 different nationalities. It is a wake-up call for shipping companies and shipowners. Compared to 2015, there has been a net 37% increase in new cases, with a 15% increase for workers assisted via Internet or telephone. The figures indicate various factors.

First of all, constant growth in ISWAN’s operational capacity, which is also reflected in the report itself, with social networks representing a major opportunity for growth. On the other hand, however, there is also a strong feeling of anxiety on the part of workers in the sector, who increasingly need external assistance with job searches, problems concerning pay, repatriation and contracts, but also with psychological problems.


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