Report: Closer Collaboration Needed on Seafarer Welfare

Report launch with Kitack Lim (IMO Secretary-General), Nusrat Ghani MP (UK Shipping Minister), Captain Esteban Pacha (AoS Vice Chair of Trustees) and Martin Foley (AoS National Director).
Report launch with Kitack Lim (IMO Secretary-General), Nusrat Ghani MP (UK Shipping Minister), Captain Esteban Pacha (AoS Vice Chair of Trustees) and Martin Foley (AoS National Director).

Published Jan 21, 2019 6:12 PM by The Maritime Executive

Stakeholders in the shipping industry need to work more closely with Stella Maris-Apostleship of the Sea to ensure seafarers get the right help when they need it the most, according to a report launched by the charity Life at Sea Report: Working together in times of crisis.

The report looks at how ship visiting and pastoral care for seafarers continue to remain vital. It illustrates cases of seafarer abandonment, non-payment of wages, stress and mental health problems, bullying and harassment, medical emergencies and refusal of shore leave.

“By working increasingly with partners in the industry, including ship managers, owners, P&I clubs and flag states, we believe we can serve seafarers better around the world,” Stella Maris-Apostleship of the Sea National Director Martin Foley said.

Foley said the report showed that having a friend in port is still vitally important for seafarers, even in our technological age. “Face-to-face contact is unique and irreplaceable, and Apostleship of the Sea’s commitment to routine visiting can help alleviate loneliness and mental health problems in seafarers. We are able to provide practical, emotional and pastoral care to seafarers when tragedy strikes, acting as a dependable, trusted friend in times of crisis,” he added.

The report cites a number of case studies including one on bullying:


There is little documentation about assault and bullying at sea – but we know it’s a reality for too many seafarers. Our independence, being neither employer, trade union, ship management or port state control, means our chaplains and ship visitors will often be the first people seafarers open up to about their problems.

Location: U.K. Date: March 2018

We were contacted via Facebook by the nephew of a seafarer, who believed his uncle was being bullied. Our chaplain, Bryony Watson, visited the ship as soon as it called at Immingham port. She met the seafarer who was “visibly scared,” saying he had been belittled, insulted and ostracized by the chief engineer.

The seafarer made a formal complaint, and we ensured Stella Maris/Apostleship of the Sea chaplains visited the ship at subsequent ports. Having a strong relationship with the ship manager and owner, we worked with them to support the crew. The chief engineer was later dismissed and the atmosphere on
board is much improved.


Piracy support is another example cited in the report:

Piracy is a terrifying experience for seafarers – and it’s on the increase. The number of seafarers taken hostage rose by 62 percent between 2017 and 2018, and a total of 107 incidents were reported in the first half of 2018. Piracy, and the threat of piracy, can have a lasting effect on seafarers’ well-being and mental health. Swift intervention is essential to minimize the impact of a pirate attack, so seafarers can return to work with confidence.

In the first six months of 2018:
• 23 attempted piracy attacks
• 11 vessels were fired at
• four vessels hijacked
• three crews and their families supported by Stella Maris/Apostleship of the Sea worldwide

Location: Nigeria, Ghana and the Philippines Date: Feb-April 2018

Following a pirate attack on a cargo vessel in the Gulf of Guinea, the P&I club contacted our London office to request help for the crew. Our chaplain went to meet the ship as it took refuge in Ghana, and brought two volunteers, both nurses specializing in mental health trauma. The crew were looked after by the local agents of the P&I club and Stella Maris/Apostleship of the Sea volunteers before being flown home to the Philippines.

Through coordination in London, the crew were met in Manila by representatives of the ship management company and a member of our team. The seafarers had a two-day de-brief in a local hotel before going home to spend time with their families. They were also referred to local chaplains for additional support, if needed. The seafarers told our chaplain they felt valued and cared for by their shipping company. All of them were back at sea with the same company within three months.

Global Reach

Stella Maris-Apostleship of the Sea’s 227 port chaplains cover 334 ports in 59 countries and visit 70,000 ships a year. Around the world, Stella Maris-Apostleship of the Sea receives an average of two requests for help every week, half of which come from industry partners, including shipowners and managers and P&I clubs.

The report is available here.