The establishment of the International Seafarers Welfare and Assistance Network on April 1st, 2013, heralds a new era in the provision and promotion of welfare services to merchant seafarers.
The International Seafarers Welfare and Assistance Network, to be more commonly known by its acronym ISWAN, is the response of international bodies and partners of ICMA to the changing environment of seafarers welfare. The advent of the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 later this year, the recent unprecedented pan-industry partnership set up to address piracy (MPHRP), a series of strategic reviews among key players in the welfare sector, including ICMA, The TK Foundation and the ITF Seafarers Trust, ICSW and ISAN, have all contributed to set the scene for more effective and contemporary vehicles for welfare provision to seafarers.
The International Christian Maritime Association made significant contributions to the establishment of ISWAN. The Mission to Seafarers’ Reverend Canon Ken Peters was part of the International Committee for Seafarers’ Welfare (ICSW) review. The review workgroup recommended to the Presidium that an amalgamation of ICSW and the International Seafarers Assistance Network would be beneficial. ICMA’s general secretary, Reverend Hennie la Grange, presided as ICSW’s chair over the final year of the merger process, and now assumes the position of first chair of ISWAN.
While the operations of both parent organisations, ICSW and ISAN, are seamlessly incorporated into ISWAN, the welfare sector will see significant changes. ISWAN will inherit the valued membership structure of its predecessor, ICSW. The alliance of faith-based and secular welfare providers, of labour movements and shipping companies, of kindred societies, governments and ports will be better served by a Board of maritime industry- and seafarers welfare specialists. The Board will be accountable to the members. It will seek to collaborate with and advise stakeholders on best practice. ISWAN will initiate and support joint projects that would benefit seafarers based on sound research conclusions and stakehholder participation. The crucial benefit of closer ties with SeafarerHelp, the 24-hour global and multi-lingual helpline for seafarers, is ISWAN’s enhanced understanding of the problems besetting seafarers, and improved access for seafarers to ISWAN’s membership network for referrals.
The merger comes into its own as a leaner and more efficient instrument for service delivery at a time when seafarers are particularly at risk and resources for welfare stretched.
Already, ISWAN has been able to attract new members among shipping companies, provides a new home for the Seafarers Emergency Fund and offers dedicated front desking for welfare providers like AoS Great Britain, the ITF and Nautilus.
The new organisation, as were both ICSW and ISAN, is registered as a charity in the United Kingdom. It has the full support of both the ITF Seafarers Trust and The TK Foundation.
The International Christian Maritime Association values the achievements of both the International Committee for Seafarers’ Welfare and the International Seafarers Assistance Network. Thinking back, we gratefully commend those opportunities for partnership that improved the lives of seafarers. ICMA welcomes ISWAN. We look forward to cementing our relations with all the members of ISWAN and will continue to collaborate with people who have the interests of seafarers, fishers and their families at heart. We pray that ISWAN would live up to expectations and the improvements to seafarers’ lives would be tangible.