Seafarers’ Trust Helps Establish Port Welfare Committees in West Africa
Welfare boards, known locally as Port Welfare Committees (PWCs), help form maritime communities that coordinate, review and support improvements to the provision of shore based welfare facilities and services for seafarers. In considering requests for grant assistance from the Trust, consultation with PWCs plays a key part in the process of determining the merits of any application.
Funded by the Seafarers’ Trust, the International Port Welfare Partnership (IPWP), an ISWAN pilot project, aims to encourage and support the establishment of Welfare Boards worldwide. With seafarers’ welfare and wellbeing assuming greater importance, Welfare Boards encourage the maritime community to work in partnership with one another to ensure that seafarers’ welfare in ports is properly supported. The value of Welfare Boards as effective welfare forums has long been acknowledged by the international maritime community, including the International Labour Organisation. Access to shore-based welfare facilities is now recognised by the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC, 2006) as a key component in securing seafarers’ rights and freedoms.
Administered by the Merchant Navy Welfare Board, the International Port Welfare Partnership (IPWP) pilot project aims to establish welfare boards, in accordance with MLC, 2006, at national, regional and local port level. The Partnership acts not only as a facilitator and forum for the provision of seafarers’ shore based welfare, but also as a catalyst for the creation of a network of committees that are capable of bringing stakeholders together to support welfare providers and review and improve port services.
Prior to the visit to West Africa, the Partnership helped set up welfare boards in Australia (Gladstone & Brisbane), Antigua & Barbuda (St Johns), Republic of Korea (Busan), Canada (Ontario Region), Spain (Barcelona) and conducted a welfare review of seafarers’ welfare in Mauritius (Port Louis). These PWCs now make a valuable contribution to seafarers’ welfare from the Pacific to the Caribbean.
The Seafarers’ Trust short tour of the West Africa Sub Region took the opportunity to visit the Seafarers Centre in the Port of Lome, Togo.
Following a trip to West Africa in January 2016 by Kimberly Karlshoej of the Seafarers’ Trust and Peter Tomlin MBE of the Merchant Navy Welfare Board, two new Port Welfare Committees were successfully established in Ghana and Benin. The establishment of the PWCs in Tema (Ghana) and Cotonou (Benin) marks a significant moment in the development of welfare facilities for seafarers operating out of the regions’ expanding ports.
At the inaugural PWC meeting of the Tema PWC the Hon. Joyce Mogtari, Ghana Deputy Minister for Transport stated “The formation of this committee will enhance the provision of appropriate facilities and, of course, the services that are provided at ports and keep up with modern trends and best practices in seafarers’ welfare.”
Speaking at the re-opening ceremony of the Stella Maris Seafarers’ Centre in Cotonou, General Manager of the Port of Cotonou, Naomi Azria congratulated the port community and Apostleship of the Sea (AOS) for forming the new PWC and improving seafarers’ welfare. The centre was originally sponsored by the Trust and has now been refurbished, following military occupation, with local funds by Stella Maris. Opening the centre with the General Manager, Kimberly Karlshoej, Head of Trust also took the opportunity to congratulate AOS for their efforts with the centre and the formation of the committee. She added “National welfare boards and Port Welfare Committees encourage the maritime community to work in partnership with one another to ensure seafarers’ welfare in ports is properly supported.”
With new supply routes opened up, helping to connect landlocked countries in the region, major ports in the West Africa Sub Region are expected to experience a marked increase in port traffic in the years to come. In a region that experiences piracy, kidnapping and armed robbery the busy ports of Tema and Cotonou also offer safe anchorages that are used by thousands of ships in transit. The Partnerships success in the region not only demonstrates the significance local stakeholders place on PWCs, but also highlights the importance of the support and expertise that can be provided by outside organisations such as the Seafarers’ Trust, ISWAN and MNWB.