ISWAN partners with OWWA on seafarers’ welfare at sea

ISWAN partners with OWWA on seafarers’ welfare at sea

ISWAN Executive Director Roger Harris and OWWA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to increase their cooperation and collaboration to ensure the welfare of Filipinos in international voyages.

The International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) has partnered with the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) on Monday (November 6,) to strengthen ISWAN’s assistance to distressed Filipino seafarers.

“We are formalizing the cooperation between OWWA and ISWAN. This is the first partnership agreement we had in the Philippines,” Harris said.

“The Philippines has the biggest number of seafarers in the world, and in terms of the number of seafarers’ cases, Filipinos have the largest. Last year we handled 1,000 welfare cases involving Filipino seafarers,” Harris added.

Cacdac said the partnership with ISWAN is a welcome development that will bring in more advantages for seafarers and their families.

“We now have an international partner, which is an organization based in London. The maritime industry is crucial to Europe and around the world. It is essentially an advantage for many of our seafarers and their families to have this partnership.  Hopefully, we will no longer have welfare cases but if and when we do, it’s a bigger advantage for us to facilitate the welfare service that we provide to seafarers,” Cacdac said.

He said the MOA is their first partnership with an international organization, specifically designed for seafarers.

“OWWA will coordinate with ISWAN about welfare cases. If a Filipino seafarer has issues in port state control, ISWAN can help us identify and recognize the problem. Roger (Harris) and his team know how to handle cases, so it’s a welcome development for us. This international partnership is one of the major steps we are taking, for better and stronger welfare services,” Cacdac said shortly after the MOA signing.

Cacdac vowed to coordinate with ISWAN on specific cases. He said they can give any form of information or services that seafarers’ need in welfare situations.

“We will have an effective coordination with ISWAN so that we can ensure that the families here and the seafarers in distress are properly serviced,” Cacdac added.

ISWAN, an international non -government organization based in United Kingdom (UK) handled 3,000 seafarer welfare cases worldwide. Out of the 3,000 cases, a third of which or about 1,000 cases involved Filipinos.

“We will be sharing information with OWWA, and we will follow up the case with them,” Harris said.

ISWAN helps seafarers who were experiencing problems such as repatriation, unpaid salaries or those who were abandoned by employers. ISWAN also assists the families of seafarers who died on -board.  They also give health information and trainings on-board.

Harris said there is a growing awareness on the importance of mental well -being of seafarers due to stresses of working at sea and being away from their families.

“We help them not just with their financial needs. We also give emotional support,” he said.

For labor issues, ISWAN works with the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and the embassies to resolve the issue.

“We guided seafarers in going to certain agencies where they can get help or information they need. We lead them to places where there are seafarer centers,” he said.

ISWAN increases its seafarer contacts through the internet, using Facebook, E-mail and live chats.

ISWAN funds

ISWAN is being funded by three main foundations; the ITF Seafarers’ Trust, TK Foundation and Seafarers UK.

ISWAN has $1.4 million in total funds. About one third of the fund is being used to run the Helplines.

Harris said around 10 percent of the total fund or about $70,000 to $100,000 is allocated to  Seafarer Emergency Fund (SEF). The emergency fund is used to assist seafarers who were abandoned by employers and to pay seafarers’ hospital bills.

ISWAN has 40-member organizations that promote the welfare of seafarers worldwide.

OWWA service

OWWA has activated its welfare assistance program for seafarers. OWWA provides death and disability assistance for seafarers. They also help seafarers and their families who are victims of calamities.

They also promote protection of seafarers against bullying onboard.

“The Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) serves as our standard of welfare protection and safe -working conditions for seafarers. Things like mental health, well -being and anti-bullying, are all in MLC. We’re lucky to have the MLC regime that forms the basis of welfare protection and effective partnership,” Cacdac said.

The amendments to MLC protects seafarers against shipboard harassment and bullying.

OWWA’s welfare fund now stood at P4.6 billion.

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