ITF Seafarers’ Trust Marks 30th Anniversary

 

May 2012

 

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The International Transport Workers’ Federation’s Seafarers’ Trust recently celebrated its 30th anniversary during a formal gathering in London. SIU Secretary-Treasurer David Heindel, chair of the trustees for the ITF Seafarers’ Trust, was a featured speaker at the March 22 event. Also addressing the audience were ITF President Paddy Crumlin, ITF General Secretary David Cockroft and Tom Holmer, the Trust’s administrative officer.

 

Established by the ITF’s Executive Board, the Trust is a charitable body “dedicated to the spiritual, moral and physical welfare of seafarers irrespective of nationality, race or creed.” It is funded by investment income from the parent organization, which itself is a federation of transportation-related unions from around the world. The ITF’s 690 affiliates (including the SIU) represent more than 4.5 million workers in 153 countries.

 

During the ceremony in London, Heindel said that in his 10 years of involvement with the Trust, he has been “amazed and proud to see the amount of work which we have managed to do to benefit seafarers. We have issued many grants worth millions of pounds. We view this as seafarers’ money, and as such, we believe the funds should be put to work to benefit the world’s seafarers.”

 

He recalled that in the 1980s and 1990s, most of the Trust’s expenditures were for new or renovated buildings that help provide mariners “a home away from home” in ports around world. Both during those decades and more recently, other monies were spent on things including vehicles that help mariners safely go ashore and equipment that helps them keep in touch with their families.

 

After describing some of the changes in shipboard life in the last 10 years as well as some of the most significant modern challenges, Heindel, who also serves the ITF in another capacity (as chair of the federation’s Seafarers’ Section) said that outreach to mariners “has had to become more mobile.” He also emphasized that the Trust’s work is meant to be compassionate, but not a form of pity.

 

“I am a seafarer as are a number of you here tonight,” Heindel said. “We know the life, and we know the advantages and the disadvantages of working at sea. One thing that all of us in the Trust understand is that seafarers are not helpless members of society who need charity in order to be able to function. As a trade unionist acting on behalf of seafarers, I know we are working with professionals, all of whom want to do better for themselves and their families. I believe it is up to us to make their lives a little easier and help them feel welcome when they come ashore.”

 

He then credited the cooperative work of ITF-affiliated unions, inspectors, shipowners and operators.

 

Individual efforts have made a difference, too, and Heindel said one of the unions that has been quite active in promoting mariner welfare – both through the ITF and on their own – is the Associated Marine Officers’ and Seamen’s Union of the Philippines (AMOSUP). He praised the groundbreaking work of AMOSUP’s late leader, Capt. Greg Oca, who “was considered a visionary – a man of action, known to both the maritime industry and labor sector, who had consistently championed the rights of seafarers and other workers alike through the continuing welfare programs that he has established. These include four modern hospitals, a shelter institution program, dormitory facilities, a commissary for Filipino seafarers, a modern training center, a licensure facility affiliated with the Professional Regulation Commission, a world-class maritime school and an institution for higher maritime studies, to name a few.”

 

In recognition of Capt. Oca’s work, the Trust then announced that a scholarship to the World Maritime University has been named in his honor.

 

Comprehensive information about the Trust is available online at www.seafarerstrust.org.

 

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