The 2nd SAFETY4SEA Manila Forum took place on Tuesday 24th of October 2023 at the Luzon Ballroom of Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila, Philippines, focusing on the various needs of seafarers and strategies to improve their working and living conditions. As Philippines is a prominent seafaring nation, the event took place right at the heart of this profession.
he event was organized by SAFETY4SEA having SQE MARINE as lead sponsor. More sponsors of the event included the following organizations: Arcadia Shipmanagement Co. LTD, Blue Planet Shipping Ltd (BPS), Capital-Executive Ship Management Corp., Capital Gas Ship Management Corp., Capital Shipmanagement, Columbia Shipmanagement, Dorian LPG, Eastern Mediterranean Maritime Limited (EASTMED), EURONAV, Green-Jakobsen A/S, I.M.A. Assessment & Training Center Inc., Inmarsat, Latsco Marine Management Inc., Magsaysay Maritime Corporation, INTERNATIONAL REGISTRIES INC., NAVTOR, Norwegian Training Center (NTC), OneLearn Global, RightShip, RISK4SEA, SEAFiT, V. Group.
Supporters of the event included: Filippino Accociation for Mariner’s Employment (FAME), Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA), Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology, Philippine Association of Extension Program Implementers, Inc. (PAEPI), The Nautical Institute, International Windship Association (IWSA) and Maritime Academy of Asia and the Pacific
Main issues discussed
- Safety protocols and measures to prevent accidents and injuries onboard
- Best practices and initiatives that aim to improve seafarers’ health and safety
- The importance of preventive healthcare for seafarers
- How soft skills contribute to safer and more efficient maritime operations
- Strategies for ensuring that seafarers are equipped with the digital skills needed
- Emerging trends in seafarer training for smooth green transition
- Crew Alarming Trends: Crew Abandonment, Bullying & Harassment, Suicides onboard, etc.
- The significance of mental health for seafarers
- Focus on wellness-focused training and awareness programs for seafarers
- Enhancing Resilience at Sea
- Focus on the importance of self-care and well-being practices for seafarers
- How younger seafarers are adapting to and embracing emerging technologies on modern vessels
- Making the industry attractive, promoting opportunities for maritime careers, training, and mentorship
Opening the event, Apo Belokas, Managing Editor, SAFETY4SEA, welcomed the delegates and speakers and thanked all sponsors and supporters of the event. He also provided findings from the most recent SEAFiT survey, the results of which the panelists and attendees enthusiastically embraced. This survey included the participation of 1.6 thousand ships and 19 thousand seafarers. According to Apo Belokas, the survey findings revealed a notable neglect of physical well-being in comparison to other dimensions. Furthermore, the need for seafarers to have access to reliable internet of superior quality in order to maintain connections and interact with their loved ones on land has been expressed by an astonishing 91% of those surveyed. Additionally, the survey highlighted some significant concerns that the sector has not prioritised in terms of seafarer welfare, including pay and communication with the shore.
The following experts gave presentations on specific items as follows:
Engr. Ramon C. Hernandez, Director of Shipyards Regulation Service (SRS)/ Maritime Safety Service (MSS)- MARITIME INDUSTRY AUTHORITY (MARINA), focused on the importance of building an environment for seafarers that prioritizes their welfare and safety and fosters opportunities for them to develop their skills. Creating such an environment is not only crucial for the well-being of seafarers, but also essential for the overall efficiency and success of the maritime industry. By ensuring that seafarers are provided with proper training, support, and fair working conditions, the maritime industry can attract and retain highly skilled professionals.
Vadm. Eduardo Ma R. Santos, President, Maritime Academy of Asia and the Pacific (MAAP), focused his presentation on SafetySea, GreenSea, SmartSea, CareerSea, RiskSea, and WelfareSea, the six interconnected pillars that shape the present and future of the maritime sector in the Philippines. According to the presentation, by prioritising these pillars, the industry can foster a safe, sustainable, and prosperous maritime sector that contributes to national and global development, environmental preservation, and the well-being of maritime professionals.
Dr. Angelica Baylon, MAAP ERO Director and PAEPI Global Chair Emeritus, explained that the Philippines is a key player in the maritime industry, known for its skilled seafarers and reputation. However, the country faces challenges such as maintaining its maritime education and training institutions at the forefront of industry developments. To address these, the top priority should be to enhance curriculum and training programmes, integrate emerging technologies, and foster partnerships with industry stakeholders. Additionally, the welfare of seafarers must be prioritised, and the regulatory framework must be strengthened to comply with international standards.
Session #1 Navigating health challenges at sea: Safeguarding seafarers’ well-being
Arnold B. Javier, President, Magsaysay Maritime Corporation, explained that, as seafarers are crucial to the maritime industry and global economy, the various mental, physical, and social challenges they are faced with while onboard should be mitigated. One way to achieve this is through collaborations among organisations, NGOs, governments, and the private sector. These collaborations can focus on improving the working conditions and welfare of seafarers, such as ensuring fair wages, adequate healthcare, and access to training and recreational opportunities. Additionally, they can also address issues related to mental health due to the social isolation that seafarers often face during long periods at sea.
Atty. Iris Baguilat, President, Döhle Seafront Crewing (Manila), Inc., highlighted that crew welfare should be treated as a key priority in the industry’s agenda. Focusing on mitigating the various challenges that the crew is faced with, the industry can develop a work force that is satisfied and ready to complete tasks without distractions due to psychological strains. Furthermore, building such a workforce is important not only for ensuring a just transition towards net zero, but also for attracting future talent.
Capt. Yu Yamada, Assistant Director – Account Management, Rightship, highlighted the importance of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues for the maritime industry and the need for proper implementation of safety measures, sustainability initiatives, and social responsibility practices. In that regard, the RightShip Platform offers a safety score system for vessels, along with vetting and inspection services with the aim to achieve “zero harm” and ensure the safe return of crew members to their homes.
Capt. Akshat Arora, Senior Risk Assessor, Thomas Miller P&I Ltd, highlighted the challenges faced by seafarers. As Capt. Akshat Arora explained, the past few years have been extremely challenging for seafarers. Factors such as prolonged periods away from home, increased workloads, geopolitical tensions, and the uncertainties brought about by the pandemic have an adverse impact on their mental well-being. Furthermore, Captain Arora shared insights on the initiatives where the UK Club has invested to address the social, emotional, physical, intellectual, and spiritual wellbeing of the crew.
Session #2: Seafarers in today’s maritime world: Nurturing vital soft skills and training
Capt. Sundeep Sequeira, Sales Director, OneLearn Global, pointed out that developing soft skills onboard can contribute to mitigating various communication and safety challenges that the crew is faced with. Soft skills can also contribute to more effective and understanding leadership and foster an environment onboard where the crew feels accepted and part of a team. Moreover, developing strong soft skills can help crew members effectively handle stressful situations and conflicts, promoting a harmonious and efficient working environment onboard.
Danna Raphaella Ocado, Information Systems Manager, I.M.A. ASSESSMENT AND TRAINING CENTER, INC, explained that human performance is subject to several influencing variables, with some elements carrying more significance than others. According to Danna Raphaella Ocado, the enhancement of human and safety performance necessitates a concentrated effort on team performance, which is fortified by the cultivation of psychological safety among individuals. In addition, the presentation emphasized the need to conduct ongoing performance evaluations, as well as the correlation between task reflectivity and social reflectivity.
Donnie Bagang, Managing Director, GREEN MARINE ENGINEERING Pte. Ltd, emphasized the need of training in order to provide marine personnel with the necessary knowledge and abilities to embrace cleaner technology and sustainable practices. Donnie Bagang further elaborated on the advantages of sustainable training, including improved environmental stewardship, financial savings, and a competitive advantage within the dynamic shipping industry. In addition, the presentation included an analysis of the obstacles encountered and the corresponding remedies, emphasized the need of working together, and underscored the value of making decisions based on facts.
Leo M. Bolivar, Country Manager, International Registries (Far East), gave a presentation focusing on the significance of soft skills, including effective communication, collaborative cooperation, and proficient problem-solving. The development of these abilities is of utmost importance for the achievement of success in maritime operations and the maintenance of safety on board a vessel, given the potential for rapid escalation of crises in a high-stakes setting. Soft skills such as organisational skills, time management, interpersonal communication, and emotional intelligence may be readily transferred from vessel to vessel and to second-life opportunities or careers.
Allan Raymund Olano, General Manager · Green Jakobsen Philippines, Inc., explained that human performance is influenced by many factors, but some are more important than others. Seen in a safety and beyond-compliance perspective, Green-Jakobsen can document what factors positively influence performance. Developing human and safety performance requires a focus on team performance, which is strengthened when people experience psychological safety. Furthermore, the most important human performance influencing factors were presented, as well as the importance of making performance reviews on a continuous basis, and the relation between task reflectivity and social reflectivity.
Session #3 Seafarers’ health: Key priorities for a proactive approach
Chris Hall, Managing Director- Hong Kong, The American Club, explained that obtaining sufficient sleep is crucial for sustaining alertness, cognitive abilities, and general welfare. Ultimately, this practice contributes to improved performance and safety while on board. As a result, it is essential to create an atmosphere that is favourable to sleep. Furthermore, it is crucial to foster a cultural environment that places a high value on sleep awareness and offers comprehensive education about the need for enough sleep.
Dr. Christian Angelo P. Lubaton, Medical Director for Holistic Care, Nordic Medical Clinic, presented a study by Nordic Medical Clinic between 2018 and 2022, with a participation of 11,831. Results revealed a significant proportion of seafarers having higher risk classifications. It also showed that higher risk classes take a longer time to be fit to work. Furthermore, older seafarers, males, married individuals, and higher-ranking positions having a higher proportion of risk class C. Moreover, the implementation of specific health promotion and preventive strategies are needed to address health risks.
Session #4 The younger generation in the spotlight
In this panel, ocean going seafarers examined the merits and drawbacks associated with choosing a career at sea. They delved into the exhilarating and demanding aspects encountered while on board, as well as the well-being of individuals at sea, communication with those on land, and obstacles to social interaction while on board. In addition, the speakers provided career advice and elucidated the many aspects that make the marine sector an enticing professional domain for the younger generation.
A happy crew provides a welcoming, safe, inclusive and positive environment onboard and SAFETY4SEA would like to thank the following seafarers who participated in the panel and shared their messages across the industry: Yrhen Bernard Sabanal Balinis, Licensed merchant marine officer, IMO Goodwill Maritime Ambassador ; Capt. Michael Caranguian, PD Fleet (Döhle Seafront) ; Christian Erik Garin, 2nd Officer, Arcadia Shipmanagement Co Ltd.; Joan Gift Mandafe, Chief Officer, Zeaborn Ship Management (Cyprus) Limited ; Richard Rey Permundo, 2nd Engineer, Wah Kwong Ship Management; Capt. Cyril Pineda, Hartmann Crew Philippines, and; Capt. Joel Tronco, Dorian LPG.
Session #5: Anchoring resilience: Strategies for adapting to change
Jose Albar Kato, Vice President for Internal Affairs, FAME, agreed that the maritime industry needs to adjust to the evolving technology and environmental conditions and develop strategies that facilitate the crew’s adaptation to these transformations. For example, the implementation of training programs and provision of resources for crew members may facilitate the acquisition of new skills and knowledge, so empowering them will effectively traverse the dynamic nature of the sector.
Dr. Michael U. Jimenez, NTC Psychologist/Subject Matter Expert, Norwegian Training Centre-Manilla, highlighted that the prioritization of resilience is of utmost importance in the face of stresses associated with the maritime environment, including factors such as ship conditions, crew dynamics, issues relating to home life, and general well-being. Dr. Michael U. Jimenez also presented Grotberg’s conceptual framework, which consists of three key components: personal talents (referred to as “I AM”), external and industry-provided resources (referred to as “I HAVE”), and self-efficacy (referred to as “I CAN”). According to the presentation, tailored resilience-building programmes, designed to address these three elements, enable individuals to thrive in the face of stress, therefore directing the industry towards mitigating the risk of depression and anxiety.
Dr. Roxanne Garcia, Lead Physician, VIKAND, pointed out that crew health includes more than just the absence of disease. It is a holistic goal that requires active self-care for the body, mind, and spirit. There are numerous aspects to wellbeing, and treating them all at once may help enhance seafarer health. Dr. Roxanne Garcia also expressed the idea that resilience is one key component. One of the cornerstones to developing resilience, experience, and long-term wellbeing is learning to deal with adversity. As a result, true wellness for seafarers means preventing crises by addressing chronic diseases proactively.
Karen Gail Ibanez, Psychologist, Mental Health Support Solutions Philippines, explained that resilience is the ability to bounce back and recover from significant stressors experienced in life. This is a skill that must be developed in a profession that is prone to substantial stresses such as natural catastrophes, accidents, and extended periods of homesickness. Helping individuals in the sector increase their resilience will be a huge step forward, allowing them to meet future challenges with stronger and healthier adaptive abilities. Furthermore, investing in soft skills, one of which is psychological resilience, would allow seafarers to better use their technical talents.
Marville Espago, Regional Manager, Philippines, International Seafarers’ Welfare & Assistance Network (ISWAN), underlined that the COVID-19 epidemic highlighted seafarers as key workers, and that talks on welfare measures, such as mental health, have also surfaced. Despite several attempts, ISWAN’s helpline data revealed significant increases in mental health difficulties in the aftermath of worldwide events. In fact, ISWAN helpline statistics from Q2 2023 indicated a 37% rise in mental health-related calls. Another cause of dispute is the recent drop in the Seafarers Happiness Index score from the Mission to Seafarers. Mental health, like physical health, is a shifting continuum impacted by both internal and external variables. Finally, Marville Espago emphasized that the industry should recognize that lack of mental health support a persistent problem that requires attention and assistance.