International Committee on Seafarers’ Welfare (ICSW)


ICSW is an international umbrella organization dedicated to the practical implementation of the ILO instruments on Seafarers Welfare Convention 163 and Recommendation 173.

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It is a voluntary organization established for the purpose of bringing together appropriate interests in the field of seafarers’ welfare and thus provides a forum for information exchange as well as for the coordination of projects on the care of seafarers.


One of the more important activities of ICSW, it the SHIP project – Seafarers’ Health Information Programme.[2] This programme has published and distributed a number of leaflets on different topics like Food Safety, Fit on Board, Safe Travel, Healthy Food, Malaria, Overweight, STI, HIV/Aids, Mental Care, Dental Care, Skin Care.

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Another project is the “International Sport for Seafarers (ISS)”. The objective is to create international understanding and co-operation between seafarers of all nations through peaceful competitions in health sport activities

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IMO Statistics show that 80% of accidents onboard cargo ships are related to the “Human Factor”, which is significantly affected by the fitness and health of seafarers as summarized in the slogan “A FIT SEAFERER = A SAFER SHIP”.


The Seven Seas League has series for Basketball, Footbal, Table Tennis and Volleyball. Tournaments are held in dedicated ports and results are listed on their website.


In this way the ISS contributes to physically and mentally fit seafarers, improve their health, and contributes to a safer ship.


International Maritime Health Association

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The International Maritime Health Association (IMHA) is the sole international association concerned exclusively with Maritime Health.

 It is not a UN agency, like IMO, ILO or WHO, but closely cooperating with them on the matters of maritime health. At the moment those relations are formalized with IMO where IMHA officially have Consultancy status. Official status with other UN agencies is expected to be formalised soon.

 IMHA is an association of professionals from a wide range of disciplines with the common commitment of improving the health of seafarers by developing better approaches to health protection, health promotion and health treatment.

IMHA members undertake research to investigate the importance of different risks and the effectiveness of the interventions used to prevent or treat seafarer health problems. Research results are used to improve maritime health practice.

IMHA was founded in Oslo in 1997, in connection with the 4th International Symposium on Maritime Health (ISMH4).

Although a small members association, IMHA has achieved a good relationship with WHO, ILO and IMO as the most important advisory body on maritime health issues. It has developed good relations to both International Transport Workers’ Federation, International Shipping Federation and many flag state administrations.


International Symposia on Maritime Health (ISMH)

Up to the 4th International Symposium on Maritime Health the ISMH was organized by national committees, and with cooperation between interested professional environments in different countries. From the 5th ISMH, these symposia have been organized in close collaboration with IMHA, although organization has been the responsibility of the host national who arrange the conference venue and programme. Bids are requested for the venues of future ISMHs via IMHA and a group comprising the IMHA Board and the presidents of past symposia make the decision.

These symposia have become an important meeting place for professionals within the field of maritime health, presenting research, participating in workshops, promoting development and cooperation for the whole world.

A list of the different ISMHs and their chairs is shown in Table 4.


IMHA Working concept

International cooperation is extremely important to IMHA. Being the sole international association concerned exclusively with Maritime Health, the organization is working closely with WHO, ILO, IMO and the national organizations and centres within maritime health.

IMHA has been working with IMO and ILO on new guidelines for conducting pre-sea and periodic medical examinations for seafarers for several years,These guidelines support parts of both the ILO Maritime Labour Convention 2007 and the revisions to the IMO STCW convention which come into operation in 2012. This issue is also of importance to WHO, as well as the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) and different national authorities. An IMHA work group was working on this for several years prior to the IMO and ILO decisions to revise the international guidelines. .

IMHA workgroups had produced some important documents on health issues used by the maritime industry: Guidance to the International Medical Guide for Ships 3rd edition: Interim advice regarding the best use of the medical chest for ocean-going merchant vessels without a doctor onboard and advice on influenza pandemic procedures on board: Influenza A (H1N1) Interim Advice for Maritime Industry.


IMHA also participated considerably in the production of the latest edition of International Medical Guide for Ships (IMGS), published by WHO in 2008.

A newsletter is published periodically from the IMHA office in Antwerp. From 2009, there has been close cooperation between three parties in the publishing of the scientific publication International Maritime Health, namely the owner, Interfaculty Institute of Maritime and Tropical Medicine (IIMTM), Gdynia, IMHA and the Norwegian Centre for Maritime Medicine (NCMM), Bergen.



The need for quality improvement and assurance within maritime medicine hase been addressed by IMHA. The organisation wanted to assist maritime physicians and clinics to improve the quality of the work they do, and wanted to of standards for different sectors of maritime medicine.

 The first standards to be developed was the standards for doctors and clinis doing medical examinations for medical certificates. In 2012 IMHA QUALITY was established as a separate organisation under UK Law. The organisation itself is a charitable company registered by the UK Charity commission, while most of the practical work will be executed by a subsidiary of this charity company.

IMHA plans to use possible surplus of the activities in development of other standards like standards for occupational health, for telemedicine, port health care and repatriation.

 See more about IMHA QUALITY at[5].



International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF)

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Another important stakeholder in maritime health, is the International Transport Worker’s Federation (ITF).

The abbreviation might be somewhat confusing, but has an obvious explanation, being the abbreviation of the German name of the organization: Die Internationale Transportarbeiter-Föderation (ITF).

Since 1896 ITF has been active representing the interests of seafarers worldwide.[6] Over 600.000 seafarers are members of ITF affiliated unions. ITF is working to improve conditions for seafarers of all nationalities, and to ensure adequate regulation of the shipping industry, to protect the interests and rights of the workers, regardless of their nationality or the ship’s flag.

One of the more important issues for ITF has been to oppose the system of Flags of Convenience (FOCs). ITF has been active in this arena for over 50 years.

The ITF Seafarers Section provides international coordination for, and support to, affiliated unions and individual seafarers through involvement with the ILO, IMO, OECD and other international agencies, assists seafarers and maintains a network of over 100 ITF inspectors around the world. ITF agreements for FOC Ships specify minimum conditions of employment for crews, including wages. ITF policy is formed through committees where affiliated unions are represented.

The ITF funds a separate charitable trust, the ITF Foundation. This supports work on welfare and health in order to improve the working lives of seafarers. The Trust has made significant grants to assist the work of the International Maritime Association and the publication of International Maritime Health. It also actively supports the International Committee on Seafarers Welfare and projects at a variety of centres.

International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and International Shipping Federation (ISF)


ICS is the international trade association for merchant ship operators, while ISF is the international employers' organisation for ship operators.

 The two organizations are so nearly related that they have a common internet site and a common newsletter, and it is appropriate to deal with them together


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International Chamber of Shipping (ICS)


The members of ICS are national shipowners’ associations, representing over half of the world’s merchant fleet.

A major focus of ICS activity is the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The organization is heavily involved in a wide variety of areas including any technical, legal and operational matters affecting merchant ships.

ICS represents the global interests of all the different trades in the industry: bulk carrier operators, tanker operators, passenger ship operators and container liner trades, including shipowners and third party ship managers.

It has consultative status with a number of intergovernmental bodies which have an impact on shipping, like IMO, the World Customs Organisation, the International Telecommunications Union, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and the World Meteorological Organization.

The organization is committed to the principle of maritime regulation being formulated at an international level. The objective of ICS is the maintenance of a sound, well-considered global regulatory environment in which well-run ships can operate safely and efficiently. 


International Shipping Federation (ISF)

ISF is the international employers' organisation dedicated to maritime manpower issues, providing advice and guidance to members either directly or via its extensive range of global contacts by representing them in all relevant fora where issues are regulated.

ISF Activities

The ISF works in close cooperation with other international organisations, such as the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and the International Maritime Employers' Committee (IMEC). While each organisation is quite independent, these links ensure an exchange of information and co-ordination to prevent overlap and duplication of effort.

Externally, ISF has consultative status with the International Labour Organization (ILO), where it co-ordinates the shipowner position at all maritime meetings, and with the International Maritime Organization (IMO). ISF reviews United States developments through links with a Washington office and attends, through ILO, meetings of the Paris Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control Committee, which develops policy on port state control inspections within the Paris MOU region.

ISF is also an active member of the International Committee on Seafarers' Welfare (ICSW) and regular contacts are maintained with representatives of maritime unions, including the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF).

The regulation of labour standards, and of medical or professional standards applying to seafarers, forms a key part of its work. Another important field of interest is to provide information or guidance on industry manpower developments in areas such as international wage rates, training developments or recruitment trends.


ISF Activity within Seafarer’s Health and Welfare

As previously specified in existing ILO instruments, the Maritime Labour Convention requires all ships to carry a medical chest and medical equipment, while the IMO  STCW Convention addresses the medical competences required for seafarers on board. The aim is to ensure that ship based emergency medical care is as similar as is feasible to that found ashore.

In 2007, ISF assisted in the final stages of drafting of the recently completed third edition of the International Medical Guide for Ships, a major task undertaken jointly by the World Health Organization, ILO, IMO, ITF, ISF and IMHA.

ISF continues to campaign for the ratification of the ILO Convention on Seafarers’ Identity Documents (ILO 185), which requires port states to facilitate provision of shore leave, vital to the welfare of seafarers who may have been engaged on long inter-continental voyages. In the face of modern concerns amongst governments about illegal immigration and security, it is recognised that port states, contrary to previously accepted principles, may sometimes require seafarers to obtain visas. However, it should be possible for such visas to be obtained on arrival. Particularly in tramp trades, it is simply not practical for seafarers to be expected to obtain visas in advance from overseas consulates.

ISF also plays an active part in the International Committee on Seafarers’ Welfare (ICSW) comprising government and voluntary seafarers’ welfare agencies.

Comité International Radio-Maritime (CIRM)

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CIRM was founded in Spain in 1928 by 8 companies engaged in the application of radio to the maritime service. It was re-constituted in Belgium in 1947 and subsequently moved to London.

To most workers within maritime medicine, however, the acronym CIRM stands for Centro Internazionale Radio Medico in Rome. This is a different organization, and must not be confused with the Comité International Radio-Maritime in London.

CIRM was accredited in 1949 as a non-governmental organization and given consultative status to the International Maritime organization (IMO). Today the organization has the status of being a Sector Member of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU-R and ITU-T), is a Liaison Member both of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and of the International Electrotechnical Comission (IEC), besides being an observer with all other relevant international and regional organisations dealing with maritime radio-communication.

The objectives are to promote the application of electronic technology to the safety of life and efficient conduct of vessels at sea; to foster relations between all organizations concerned with electronic aids to marine navigation, communications and information systems.

This makes the organization an important partner in the development of a moderen telemedical maritime assistance service (TMAS), as well as in moderen bridge design. The interplay between man and machine requires human physiology to be taken into account when developing and incorporating new technological devices on the bridge.


Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA)


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Composed of 25 of the major cruise lines serving North America, Cruise Lines International Association is the world’s largest cruise association, dedicated to the promotion and growth of the cruise industry. Although the organization operates pursuant to an agreement filed with the US Federal Maritime Commission, it serves as a non-governmental consultative organization to the International Maritime organization,

The organization was formed in 1975 and merged in 2006 with the International Council of Cruise Lines (ICCL) which was a sister organization, established in 1990, dedicated to participating in the regulatory and policy development process of the cruise industry.

CLIA exists to promote all measures that foster a safe, secure and healthy cruise ship environment, educate, train its travel agent members, and promote and explain the value, desirability and affordability of the cruise vacation experience.


Other international organizations that influence the shipping industry

There are several other organizations which are active on the international shipping arena,

and which might influence processes, regulations and standards of importance to ship safety

and seafarers’ health and welfare, without having explicitly mentioned health or medical

issues in their policy declarations. These will not be described or discussed in this textbook.

Some examples are International Organization of Dry Cargo Shipowners (Intercargo)[11], Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO)[12], the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners (Intertanko)[13] and others.