Poorly secured ladder sent by seafarer to CHIRP. Credit: CHIRP
The International Seafarers' Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) and the Confidential Hazardous Incident Reporting Programme (CHIRP Maritime) have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that will help seafarers with limited English skills report unsafe practices at sea.
The two charitable organisations entered the agreement to “proactively refer cases to each other” with the shared aim of improving seafarer safety at sea.
ISWAN regularly gets contacted by seafarers via its 24-hour helpline about unsafe working practices and personal welfare concerns, while CHIRP operates an independent, confidential reporting system for safety incidents for the shipping industry.
However, Roy Barker, head of operations at ISWAN, told Safety at Sea that for some seafarers a language barrier prevents individuals from using the CHIRP online report from, which is in English and is often not their first language. “The ISWAN SeafarerHelp team is multilingual and will assist seafarers to fill out the initial report form for CHIRP,” explained Barker. ISWAN will also provide translation services to CHIRP a part of the MOU.
Barker told Safety at Sea that, as part of the MOU, when it receives calls about unsafe practices from seafarers, “many of whom can be unaware, unable or unwilling to reports such issues”, its team will inform them about what CHIRP is and how it works “to improve safety for all” and refer them to the organisation if they want.
CHIRP’s confidential reporting programme protects the identity of seafarers reporting concerns over unsafe practices and can be done via an online encrypted form as well as by email or post. The information provided is made available, with the approval of the seafarer, and in what CHIRP calls a “disidentified” form to those who might be able to take some action and solve the problem. Important information gained through reports, after being ‘disidentified’, is also made as widely available as possible, with the aim of improving safety standards across the entire industry.
Similarly, CHIRP is sometimes informed about poor working conditions on board, wages not being paid, personal problems, and other issues that are outside CHIRP's remit but fall within ISWAN’s. Barker said, “With the seafarer’s consent, CHIRP will refer these cases to the SeafarerHelp team.” They will then be able to contact the seafarer to offer assistance with personal and employment problems, as well as emotional support and counselling if necessary.
Captain John Rose, director of CHIRP Maritime, said, “We are very pleased with this MOU because it brings together two organisations whose sole interests are to improve the lives of seafarers all around the world. Working in partnership with like-minded organisations is a great pleasure and together we can achieve more for the benefit of seafarers than we can on our own.”