organizations seafarers can contact for help

13 Important Organizations Seafarers Can Contact For Help: A Global Guide

The merchant navy is a profession that does not require permanent legal counsel for the benefit of its personnel. And, as the title implies, the people in question here are those who work onboard, as opposed to the office. The professional environment for seafarers onboard is purely work-oriented, with little to no opportunities to create problems that may need legal action.

However, like with any workplace, there are instances when a problem occurs that cannot be resolved with the courtesy of an apology. In these cases, a seafarer has no choice but to resort to full-fledged authorities committed to resolving issues relevant to life in the Merchant Navy.

Such disagreements may emerge when the seafarer is dissatisfied with his or her compensation, onboard facilities, repatriation, or other issues. So, where does a sailor go for help when he or she is in need? Which organizations are willing to provide a helpful hand to a seafarer? Continue reading to find out the 13 organizations that seafarers can contact when they need any kind of help.

13 organizations seafarers can contact for help

  1. International Labor Organization
  2. International Seafarers Welfare And Assistance Network (ISWAN)
  3. ITF – International Transport Workers’ Federation
  4. The Seaman’s Church Institute (SCI)
  5. Apostleship of The Sea (AoS)
  6. Sailors society
  7. Maritime Piracy – Humanitarian Response Programme
  8. Sailors Helpline
  9. International Christian Maritime Association (ICMA)
  10. New England Seafarers Mission (NESM) 
  11. Seafarer Support
  12. Centers For Seafarers
  13. Seafarers UK

Let’s have a brief look at each of the above organizations.

1. International Labor Organization

The International Labor Organization (ILO) is an agency in the United Nations whose responsibility is to protect social and economic justice by setting international labor standards. It deals with international labor standards and other labor-related issues across the world. 

The ILO’s standards are broadly designed to provide globally accessible, productive, and sustainable employment in conditions of freedom, fairness, security, and dignity. The ILO has been pivotal in the formation of the conventions such as the Maritime Labor Convention (MLC, 2006), Recruitment and Placement of Seafarers Convention (1996), Repatriation of Seafarers Convention (1987), Seafarers’ Identity Document Convention (2003), and many more.

Visit ILO’s website and learn more about them here.

2. International Seafarers Welfare And Assistance Network (ISWAN)

ISWAN (International Seafarers Welfare and Assistance Network) works to support the welfare of seafarers all over the world. It is an international NGO and UK registered charity that aims to assists seafarers and their families. 

Among the direct welfare services they give to seafarers are their free, 24-hour, multilingual helplines, SeafarerHelp and Yacht Crew Help. Others include the assistance funds for stranded sailors and their families, as well as a variety of health information services.

They collaborate with businesses, unions, governments, welfare organizations, and ports to implement the 2006 ILO Maritime Labor Convention. We help people that set up and operate welfare facilities and services in ports and aboard ships.

Visit ISWAN’s website and learn more about them here.

3. International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF)

ITF works to ensure safe vessels and decent working conditions for seafarers. Their aim is to raise standards, protect the vulnerable and eradicate exploitation. They inspect ships, create agreements on working conditions with international agencies and help seafarers in need of assistance.

The International Transport Workers Federation seeks to better the lives of transport workers across the world by fostering and organizing international solidarity within its network of affiliates. The ITF represents the interests of transport workers’ unions in bodies such as the International Labor Organization (ILO), the International Maritime Organization (IMO), and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

The organization also informs and advises unions on changes in the transportation industry in other countries or parts of the world, and organizes worldwide solidarity activities when member unions in one country disagree with employers or the government.

Visit ITF’s website and learn more about them here.

4. The Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI)

The Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI) of New York & New Jersey, which was formed in 1834 and is linked with the Episcopal Church, provides education, counseling services, and legal advocacy to seamen. SCI is the largest, most comprehensive mariners’ agency in North America.

The Seamen’s Church Institute is comprised of a talented cast of highly-trained chaplains; former towboat, blue water, and Coast Guard captains; transport drivers; educators; attorneys; finance, development, communications, and Human Resources professionals; and others, who give their heart and soul to supporting seafarers and mariners both far and near.

SCI fosters safety, dignity, and improved working and living conditions for the men and women who serve in the maritime profession through its Center for Maritime Education, Center for Mariner Advocacy, Port Newark International Seafarers’ Center, and Ministry on the River.

Visit SCI’s website and learn more about them here.

5. Apostleship of The Sea (AoS)

The Apostleship of the Sea is an agency of the Catholic Church. Founded in Glasgow, Scotland in the early 20th century, it provides pastoral care to seafarers through chaplaincies in ports in all continents of the world.

All seafarers, regardless of origin, religion, or race, can get practical and pastoral care from AoS. The Apostleship of the Sea in the United Kingdom is part of an international network known as Stella Maris, which operates at more than 311 ports staffed by 216 port chaplains in more than 30 countries across the world.

Visit AoS’s website and learn more about them here.

6. Sailors society

The Sailor’s Society provides grants and support to families in need and runs projects in seafaring communities around the world. They provide healthcare for retired seafarers in India and operate a primary school in Myanmar.

In the Philippines, home to nearly one-third of the world’s seafarers, they have built schools, run ferry and library boats for school children, and deliver family resiliency workshops. 

Every year, their chaplains and volunteers assist hundreds of thousands of seafarers. They lend a hand of friendship, hospitality, and spiritual support to everyone they encounter, as well as practical assistance such as phone cards to communicate with loved ones back home, the most recent newspapers in several languages, and Wi-Fi hotspot access.

Visit Sailors Society’s website and learn more about them here.

7. Maritime Piracy – Humanitarian Response Programme

Given the multiple concerns about piracy, a cross-industry coalition of ship owners, unions, managers, manning agents, insurers, and welfare groups (maritime, labor, religion, or secular) has formed the Maritime Piracy: a Humanitarian Response Programme (MPHRP).

This program’s aims cover the three stages of “pre-, during, and post-incident,” with the goal of establishing a model of aiding seafarers and their families with the humanitarian elements of a traumatic incident caused by piracy, armed robbery, or being held hostage. 

The services of the Programme are provided to the industry as an integral part of shipping companies and manning agencies’ Emergency Response Procedures, in collaboration with partners involved in seafarers’ welfare, company representatives, and other entities as necessary.

Visit MPHRP’s website and learn more about them here.

8. Sailors Helpline

Sailors Helpline (Regd), founded in 2002 and situated in the port city of Chennai, India, provides emergency social assistance to the Indian maritime community. It is a non-profit and non-governmental organization. 

The Helpline’s continued work is made possible by a devoted corps of volunteers comprised of lawyers, active seafarers’ welfare workers, and port chaplains who are committed to supporting seafarers and fishermen. The Helpline provides free and confidential information and referrals for Seafarers.

Their strong affiliation with numerous seafarers, both nationally and globally, enables them to help seafarers in times of crisis. In India, the Seafarers Helpline was the first NGO to strive for the improvement of the families of missing seafarers and accident victims.

Visit Sailors Helpline’s website and learn more about them here.

9. International Christian Maritime Association (ICMA)

The International Christian Maritime Association (ICMA) is a non-profit Christian organization that works for the well-being of seafarers all over the world. Member organizations represent various Christian churches and communities.

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICMA) defines seafarers as those who work in commercial shipping, fishing, or on passenger ships. ICMA presently represents over 400 seafarers’ centers and 900 chaplains and ship visitors in roughly 125 countries through its members.

The goals of ICMA are to promote the spiritual, social, and material well-being of all seafarers, as well as to reduce need, suffering, and misery among them. ICMA’s aim is to promote unity, peace, and tolerance in a fragmented and divided society.

Visit ICMA’s website and learn more about them here.

10. New England Seafarers Mission (NESM)

New England Sailors Mission is a local church outreach program that helps overseas seafarers in the marine business community. NESM began in the 1880s with the arrival of the Swedish Covenant Church during the great Scandinavian immigration to the US.

Their mission is to convey the calming presence of God onboard the ships they visit, as well as to provide spiritual and practical support when possible. Their ordained chaplains and trained lay ship visitors serve as advocates, companions, supporters, and prayer activists. 

During our busy cruise ship ministry, they are helped by compassionate volunteers who give their time and energy to provide an oasis of aid and a house of prayer for crew members.

Visit NESM’s website and learn more about them here.

11. Seafarer Support

This Organization serves the serving and retired seafarers of the Royal Marines, Royal Navy, Merchant Navy, and fishermen residing in the UK. Their services range from advice and financial help to career development. 

They also provide services to Non-UK seafarers through Merchant Navy Welfare Board (MNWB). It encourages and fosters collaboration among organizations that offer welfare services to merchant seafarers, fishermen, and their dependents as the umbrella charity for the UK Merchant Navy and fishing fleets.

Visit Seafarer Support’s website and learn more about them here.

12. Centers For Seafarers

Centers for Seafarers is a not-for-profit charity company, originally a partnership of the three international Christian Mission Societies, The Apostleship of the Sea, The Sailors Society, and The Mission to Seafarers. They together work to provide welfare, comfort, and shelter for seafarers visiting UK ports.

13. Seafarers UK

Seafarers UK is an organization that offers support to seafarers in the UK and their families in need. However, they also provide a part of their funds for international seafarers. In 2020, 78% of their grants were awarded to support seafarers in the UK while 22% supported international work.

They work on their own or make donations to other welfare organizations that cater to the needs of sailors. Seafarers UK is also constantly involved in fundraising and advocacy to increase industry awareness.

Visit Seafarers UK website and learn more about them here.

To sum up,

Seafarers are often tough individuals who keep their difficulties to their own heads and hearts. Working in a job that requires extensive commitment includes considerable pressure and, at times, underlying frustration. It must be understood that it is completely normal to step forward and ask for help. As a seafarer. If you need any kind of assistance, go ahead and contact any of the above organizations right away.

If you know of any other organization, let us know in the comments below and we’ll add it to the list.