Knowing the special psychosocial demands in seafaring the International Labour Organization (ILO) has been concerned with seafarers’ welfare since several years. First, in 1936 the ILO Recommendation concerning the Promotion of Seamen’s Welfare in Ports (No. 48) was adopted dealing with the provision of recreational and sporting facilities in ports. The subsequent ILO Recommendation Seafarers’ Welfare at Sea and in Ports (No. 138) adopted in 1970 was much wider in scope and included provisions to organize and fund welfare services, recreation facilities as well as cultural and educational activities. These two recommendations, although not legally binding on member states, had already succeeded in gaining broad acceptance and highlighted the importance of seafarer’s welfare.

In 1987 the ILO adopted two further instruments of Seafarers’ Welfare, notably Convention No. 163 and Recommendation No. 173. To implement these ILO instruments of Seafarers’ Welfare an International Committee on Seafarers’ Welfare (ICSW) was launched as an international umbrella organization. The ICSW includes worldwide several welfare organizations for seafarers and is special concerned with the seafarers’ quality of life - their relationships to family, to shipmates and the community.

With particular reference to countries with a lack of welfare facilities ICSW intends to identify the need for facilities and services such as clubs, advisory centers, welfare officers, sport facilities, entertainment and cultural provisions for seafarers irrespective of their nationality, race, colors, creed or gender. On the basis of identified need the ICSW advises provisions for the best use of available resources concerning welfare (e.g. port welfare services). Seafarers with particular problems of a medical, industrial, social or domestic nature often seek help from a local port welfare service. This can maintain contacts with all local, regional and international organizations which might be able to assist in such circumstances. The ILO Recommendation No. 173 encompasses e.g. needed information for seamen visiting foreign ports about available welfare services, medical facilities and any particular hazards or diseases to which they may be exposed in their next destination. According to this recommendation practical assistance should be available for seafarers awaiting repatriation. Also it is recommended that seafarers should be enabled to transfer their wages to their families through regular allotments or by periodic payment.

Related to health issues for seafarers ICSW started a campaign called Seafarer’s Health Information Program (SHIP). This three-year campaign (from 2004 to 2007) focuses on the lifestyle of seafarers’ by taking into account the specific living conditions on board. SHIP is an instrument for health promotion in the workplace. It encourages seafarers to take responsibility for their health within their living and working environment.

Further, ICSW deals with the shipboard feature of seafarer’s isolation from medical care, both in emergency situations and for primary healthcare (see chapter ?). The ship, where seafarers not only work but spend all their time during a voyage, is seen as the best place for health intervention.

On behalf of ICSW members additionally activities for seafarer’s welfare have been implemented, notably International Sport for Seafarers (ISS), Training the welfare workers to enhance ship visiting and recreation & Fitness at sea or seafarers’ welfare portal.

Currently, a number of countries with high standards of services and facilities for seafarers’ welfare already complies almost all the requirements of Convention No. 163 but have not signed the Convention. On the other hand there are also some countries with a high proportion of seafarers in the word fleet which do not have suitable welfare organization for seafarers so that they cannot ratify the Convention.

According to the Maritime Labour Convention (2006) appropriate seafarers’ recreational facilities, amenities and services as adapted to meet the special needs of seafarers shall be provided on board. Each member which has ratified this convention shall provide and maintain decent accommodations (adequate size, comfort, properly furnished and equipped) and recreational facilities for seafarers. Notably, consideration should be given to including at no cost to seafarer, where practicable, a smoking room, television viewing, showing of films, a library containing vocational and other books (the stock of which should be adequate for the duration of the voyage and changed at reasonable intervals), sports equipment including exercise equipment, reasonable access to ship-to-shore telephone communications, and email and Internet facilities.