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Launch of new seafarers' centre, Southampton

13 October 2017

International maritime charity Sailors’ Society opened the doors to its new Southampton Seafarers’ Centre on Friday 13 October. The centre gives seafarers docking in the city’s port, which handles around 14 million tonnes of cargo annually, the opportunity to access support services and free Wi-Fi. The Mayor of Southampton, Councillor Les Harris, officially opened the centre. With Sailors’ Society’s head office in Woolston, its CEO Stuart Rivers said, "Seafarers can be at sea for months with limited or no connectivity, which can lead to isolation and loneliness. The new centre gives them the chance to unwind and get in touch with loved ones." 

Members of the SWiC team at the Southampton Seafarers' Centre launch

Last year, a seafarers’ centre at Queen’s Terrace in Southampton closed after 132 years in the city due to lack of use. Sailors’ Society has taken account of the changing habits of seafarers arriving in the city and put the new centre in a busy, central location.

Three members from the China Centre (Maritime): Captain Pengfei Zhang, Professor Shenhua Yang and Professor Minghua Zhao, attended the launch ceremony. The new Seafarers' Centre will support the China Centre (Maritime)’s research on seafarers. The China Centre (Maritime) has expressed an interest in supporting the Seafarers' Centre’s work as volunteers, in particular when the Chinese language and cultural assistance is needed.

Ship visits

July - September 2017

The SWiC Project has received strong support from shipping companies that pay genuine attention to seafarers' welfare and wellbeing. China Shipping International, for example, very kindly offered for the team to conduct interviews and to carry out a questionnaire survey with their Chinese and Ukrainian crew, when their ships call at Southampton Port.

The SWiC team on a ship's gangway

So far, the project team have paid four visits to three large 14,000 TEU container vessels that called at Southampton Port between July and September. Seafarers of both nationalities shared their experiences of the problems and challenges faced when they take shore leave at some world ports. They also shared the positive experiences and best practices they have enjoyed at "some other ports" in world regions.

Interviewing a seafarer for the project

These visits generated rich information and insights from seafarers' perspectives on conditions of welfare support in Chinese and other ports. The team would like to thank the company and all the crew on the three ships for their great help. Particular thanks goes to the Captains who kindly accepted the interviews, the first mates who arranged the survey, and the chefs who prepared delicious food for the SWiC team when on board.

Events in Shanghai on seafarers' welfare

7-9 July 2017

The research team visited the Ports of Shanghai for fieldwork between 6 and 15 July 2017. Shanghai is the largest city in China and one of the largest global shipping, financial and commercial centres in the world. It is home to a large number of shipping companies, manning agencies, and training institutions. On 7 July, the China Centre (Maritime), together with International Seafarers Welfare and Network (ISWAN) and International Port Welfare Partnership (IPWP) programme, supported by Maritime Finance Excellence Centre (MFEC), organised a research seminar in the morning and a conference in the afternoon. 

Seafarers' welfare workshop, Shanghai

7 July 2017

A select group of 20 people attended the Seafarers' Welfare Workshop in Shanghai. The participants were drawn from a wide range of sectors in the maritime industry in Shanghai. These included shipping companies, crewing agencies, and maritime law firms, many with experience of employment at sea in ocean shipping.

Seafarers' welfare workshop, Shanghai, July 2017

Captain Pengfei Zhang was instrumental in organising this workshop, which was chaired by Professor Minghua Zhao who leads the SWiC Project. Roger Harris, ISWAN, and Peter Tomplin, MNWB, gave a briefing on their organisations respectively and shared their global experiences in assisting seafarers in their welfare and wellbeing, regardless of rank, nationality, religion and gender.

The participants expressed a great interest in the topic and shared their experiences and views on the existing conditions and challenges in welfare facilities and services for seafarers in Chinese ports. The workshop was effective in both data collection for the SWiC project and in enhancing awareness of the importance of seafarers and their needs for welfare support when their ships carry international trade to Chinese ports.

Maritime Silk Road: Ports and Seafarers Conference, Shanghai

7 July 2017

It was a full house at the first Maritime Silk Road Ports and Seafarers Conference held in Shanghai. The conference was organised by the ISWAN International Port Welfare Partnership (IPWP) programme with the instrumental assistance of the SWiC team. The event attracted 100 representatives from the Shanghai regional maritime sector and inspired frank and open discussions on ways to better support and manage port welfare to improve seafarers' access to shore-based welfare facilities and enhance their quality of life. The event theme was ‘Create a better world for seafarers'. It opened with speakers from Chinese maritime senior management, the Deputy British Consul, and members of the maritime welfare sector who joined together in a symbolic hand shaking ceremony.

Attending the Seafarers' Welfare seminar in Shanghai

"The resounding success of the conference is the result of an excellent collaborative partnership effort, which bodes extremely well for future relations," said Peter Tomlin, IPWP Global Programme Director. He added, "Without regional support from across the Chinese maritime community, the assistance of Ben Zhang and his team (MFEC, Shanghai), Professor Minghua and Captain Pengfei (China Centre (Maritime)), this inaugural event would not have been possible."

Roger Harris, ISWAN Executive Director, took the opportunity to inform delegates about the important work of his organisation, in particular ‘SeafarerHelp’, its free global seafarers' welfare helpline. Peter also briefed everyone on the IPWP programme. He underlined topical seafarers’ welfare issues and highlighted the invaluable work of the voluntary organisations and maritime funders who provide and support seafarers’ welfare, from which Chinese seafarers benefit when visiting other ports around the world.

Professor Minghua Zhao chaired one of the two sessions at the conference. She highlighted the significance of the inauguration of the working group for ports and seafarers as a result of this event. She pointed out, "China has had an excellent tradition and reputation in welcoming and accommodating world seafarers when their ships were calling at the country’s ports. In the 1950s, China witnessed the building up of the International Seafarers Clubs (ISC) along its main coastal cities, such as Guangzhou, Shanghai, Qingdao and Dalian. These clubs bloomed for nearly three decades, but since then have been facing serious challenges as a result of the global restructuring of the maritime industry, as well as the marketization of China’s economy in the last 30-40 years." She hoped, "The success of this seminar will lead to a rejuvenation of China’s ISCs, hence benefitting the 1.4 million seafarers, many of whom carry international trade to and from the Chinese ports.’

Note: the above was a adapted report carried by ISWAN, Seminar and Workshop in Shanghai on Seafarers' Welfare.

Shipping management conference, Shanghai

9 July 2017

The SWiC team were invited to attend the International Conference on Ship Management 2017 in Shanghai. The conference was organised by Shanghai Marine Technology Association and attracted around 1,000 attendees. Professor Minghua Zhao chaired the session on what the industry should do to retain high level shipping talents. She was joined by seven maritime professionals for the panel discussion, including: Roger Harris, Director of International Seafarers Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN), Peter Tomlin, CEO of the Merchant Navy Welfare Board (MNWB), Pengfei Zhang from Southampton Solent University, Captain Ye from CMA Shanghai, Captain Lu from OOCL and Captain Xiao from ZhongChuan Ship Management Co.  

Pengfei Zhang speaking at the Shipping Management Conference, Shanghai

Issues on how seafarers should be treated, including how they should be supported when taking shore leave, were extensively discussed. Captain Zhang made a speech using his experience in seafaring and shipping on ‘how to develop yourself into a talent’ in the maritime industry. His speech received warm applauds from the delegates.

The SWiC team would like to thank the individuals and institutions who participated in the research and contributed their valuable time in helping us gain some important knowledge and insight into this field. Our study on seafarers' welfare issues would not have been possible without the help and support of these individuals and institutions.

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