Launch of emergency funding campaign for developing world seafarers

Today sees the launch of a charity crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for developing world seafarers and their families that have been severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

While much of the shipping industry take their responsibilities to their seafarers very seriously, there is still a real challenge facing many seafarers from the poorer regions of the world. Many are in lockdown with casual contracts and unable to work; others are facing difficulties due to lockdowns when they leave ships and are unable to return to their families with costs and little income coming in; and there are even some reports of seafarers being shunned on their return to their homes for fears of the virus. There is also the issue of their families not having income in order to get by and the situation is likely to get far worse before it gets better.

In a public statement last month, International Maritime Organization (IMO) secretary-general Kitack Lim stated: “We must remember the hundreds of thousands of seafarers on ships. They are, unwittingly, on the front line of this global calamity. Their professionalism ensures that the goods we all need are delivered – safely and with minimal impact on our precious environment. These are people, usually far from home and family. Their own health and welfare is as important as that of anyone else.”

This campaign is an opportunity for the general public that are depending on this vital industry to show their support for seafarers by helping to assist the most vulnerable and for those in shipping and logistics industries to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with those most severely affected by these current extraordinary circumstances. All funds raised will go to the International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN), a UK registered charity, and dispersed through their Seafarers Emergency Fund (SEF). Their membership includes seafarer associations throughout the developing world alongside shipping companies and shipping organisations.

“We warmly welcome this initiative as we are receiving more and more calls from seafarers to our helpline SeafarerHelp. Many are from Filipino and Indian seafarers whose lives are being adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. The funds raised will be used to assist seafarers and their families who are facing hardship because of the pandemic,” said Roger Harris, ISWAN’s executive director.

ISWAN will ringfence the donations from this campaign ensuring that 100% of all funds raised will be made available to developing world recipients and all administration costs will be covered by the charity. Their Seafarers Emergency Fund (SEF) is available to provide immediate, essential aid to seafarers and families of seafarers, who are directly involved in sudden or unforeseen crises to cover expenses such as psychological counselling, medical bills, repatriation and other unexpected costs.

For details on how to donate, click here.


Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. It’s a great initiative but would it be too controversial to suggest that the industry needs a ‘Maritime Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC)’ where in exceptional circumstances all aid and welfare agencies operate in a joint framework to ensure maximum coverage and maximum impact? I’m sure there are barriers but I believe each aid and welfare organisation has seafarers’ health at heart so perhaps a solution can be found?

    1. Brilliant idea as we did with Maritime Piracy but sadly at the end of the day it doesn’t work as too many ‘agendas’ and ‘flavours of the month’ You note in this appeal that we still allow people to use terms like ‘developing world’ in a derogatory way. Doesn’t matter where you are from this Virus has the same effect. Has any agency said how they will directly help seafarers in this situation without launching an appeal for funds at the same time?

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