MNWB updates parliamentarians on seafarers’ welfare

The MNWB updated members on seafarers’ welfare during the All-Party Parliamentary Party Group (APPG) for Maritime and Ports last night (May 20).

The dedicated session on welfare ‘From Ukraine to the pandemic, how has the maritime sector coped with recent crises?’ was led by MNWB, the umbrella charity for the UK Merchant Navy and fishing fleets which represents 45 constituent member organisations.

Addressing a packed committee room in the Palace of Westminster was MNWB CEO Stuart Rivers, former seafarer Captain Louise Sara and Head of Global Crewing at DFDS Gemma Griffin MBE, all of whom shared their experiences of battling through a number of crises in recent years.

The group, which was chaired by Lord Mountevans, provides a forum for the exchange of views between parliamentarians and leading figures in the shipping, ports and maritime business industries. And this session was dedicated to seafarers’ welfare.

Mr Rivers outlined the charity’s vision, its response to the crises and the 2024 priorities for welfare provision:

  • The importance of MNWB’s role as the National Seafarers’ Welfare Board in delivering practical support to seafarers through its Port Welfare Committees, grants and specialist support services
  • Working collaboratively with frontline maritime welfare charities to deliver 13,500 SIM cards for Ukrainian seafarers following the invasion by Russia
  • Formed a crisis working group during the pandemic which gave those maritime charities working on the frontline with seafarers the chance to raise issues such as access to vaccinations with the government
  • Ensuring training funds and support was available to seafarers affected by the mass sacking at P&O Ferries
  • The total cost of UK Port Welfare Provision including support services costs is nearly £5million per year

He said: “The APPG provides a great platform to raise awareness and the importance of seafarers’ welfare to those who can really make a difference.

“Like many other sectors, the past four years have hit seafarers hard for a number of reasons and the recovery is still in process – which is why it was vital to discuss this at the forum.

“There is still so much to learn from the recent crises so that we can be prepared for the uncertainties of the future.”

Captain Sara, who is also a MNWB trustee, gave an emotive account  of the challenges she encountered  during the pandemic and the issues that seafarers faced during that time while onboard and ashore. She also highlighted the importance of the welfare work that UK maritime charities do to support our UK and international seafarers.

Mrs Griffin, who works for DFDS, a Danish shipping company that operates passenger and freight services across northern Europe, spoke of mental health and job security problems affecting crew.

She highlighted DFDS’ crew centric strategy which is encouraging employers to take up a suite of support including a seafarer support hub, seafarer connectivity, mental health first responders and a stable workforce.