Supporting Seafarers’ Welfare in Ports Worldwide

PORT VISITOR is a platform providing intelligence about ports, welfare provision and ship movements that enables multiple stakeholders to be better informed about the needs of seafarers. Its primary beneficiary group is seafarers, but welfare providers, unions, shipping companies, port owners/operators and governments are also potential stakeholders.

It is the only data resource providing combined information to multiple stakeholders about the availability, range and quality of welfare services in the world’s 5000 major sea ports and has the potential to change the way that seafarers access support and how welfare is provision is prioritised.

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The global coronavirus pandemic has impacted normal life to such an extent that the current environment is unrecognisable and is particularly challenging for seafarers. Crisis is fast approaching as crew changes continue to fraught with difficulties due to the apparent challenges of repatriation. Welfare providers can only offer limited support from the gangway due to social distancing restrictions and seafarers have limited access to support services in port.

It is estimated that, at the peak, up to 300,000 seafarers were unable to travel home, even though their contracts had ended. Many more seafarers were stranded at home and unable to join ships so that they can earn money to support their families.

Despite efforts by the International Maritime Organisation, international bodies, such as the ITF and ICS, ship owners and managers to establish international protocols for crew changes, the pandemic continues hamper the movement of keyworkers and have a profound impact on the wellbeing of crew.

The IPWP has brought about cultural change and a collaborative process across the sector to support and help improve access to seafarer’s welfare facilities in many ports across the world. It has succeeded in establishing new welfare boards or Port Welfare Committees (PWCs), in ports like Durban and Richards Bay, South Africa and, following the setting up PWCs in Gladstone and Brisbane, has triggered replication of the model in ports across Australia. The programme continues to receive requests for help to form welfare boards at local, regional and national level. Most importantly, PWCs have continued to meet throughout the Covid19 pandemic. It is therefore important that serious consideration be given to continue the IPWP programme in order that welfare boards be established in more countries to improve seafarers’ welfare in ports, in accordance with MLC,2006 4.4.

At this time, access to relevant and up to date information is vital when seafarers are in port. Knowing what services are available, whether they can connect to Wi-Fi, and whether there are restrictions on movement within a port can make a difference. Through the IPWP programme, Port Visitor has the ability to make the latest port information available.

Introduction to Port Visitor

The Port Visitor platform brings the sector together to encourage the establishment of welfare boards, also known as ‘Port Welfare Committees,’ to improve seafarers’ welfare in ports, in accordance with ILO MLC 2006. Port Visitor enables port communities to review welfare services and allows seafarers to provide feedback directly to welfare providers and port owners and authorities through local welfare boards.