During the 2023 Crew Welfare Week, Mr. Ronald Spithout, Managing Director, OneHealth by VIKAND, challenged the industry to rethink its human wellness strategy and consider a Crew Asset Management approach.
hrough proactive care supported by modern technology, ship owners and operators can help optimize vessel operations and improve seafarer wellbeing with regular “preventive maintenance,” just as they would with any valuable onboard asset.
A “Crew Asset Management” approach seeks to improve life for seafarers via technical and scientific innovations, while at the same time improving the sustainability of the industry.
Take the ship’s engine, for example. After it is built, tested and installed, we fuel it up and put it into service. Now, imagine we do no preventive or ongoing maintenance, and instead just run it until it breaks down and we have to call the engineer. No operator is going to treat an engine like that. It is too important and too costly.
Now, take a relatively minor asset like the onboard coffee machine. The crew can’t start their day without fresh coffee, so they treat it like a critical asset. They change the filters and keep it clean and do everything possible to ensure it never breaks down.
If you ask people in the industry what is our most important asset, then they will almost all say “people”. However, maritime operators at times treat crew members like a neglected engine, running them carelessly to the point of breakdown.
After seafarers receive pre-employment medical examinations (PEMEs), they start working onboard. Like an engine without maintenance, they eventually break down, get hurt or get sick, so we call the doctor or divert the ship and get them to a hospital.
Statistics regarding the most important assets in shipping
- More than 10,000 seafarers (0.52% of the industry) lose their jobs each year when PEMEs detect chronic diseases, such as hypertension or diabetes.
- 20% of all ships are making at least one medical diversion each year. It may not sound like a lot, but those costs can add up across a large fleet.
- Approximately 25% of maritime P&I claims are medical – 50% of those are caused by injury, 50% are caused by illness.
A ballpark calculation
For a ship manager or P&I Club, the financial impact of these crew health events must be calculated. The details may be completely different for every company, but we can make some basic assumptions to reveal their estimated costs.
Two types of costs – direct and indirect
|Direct costs||Indirect costs|
|Direct costs are covered by P&I Clubs and are directly associated with medical care, hospital stays, transportation of the person who’s ill and more. Not all of that is reimbursed, because with every claim there is a deductible.|
If you look at annual reports, deductibles have grown steadily over the years. On average, the deductible is now $10,000 per case, which means that a fleet of 100 vessels could face $250,000 in deductibles.
|The average medical deviation or diversion costs about a $180,000, of which 30% is indirect in nature.|
These associated costs can include a slowdown in production, unforeseen port fees if you deviate from your route, replacing lost labour, overtime pay for remaining crew and more.
None of these indirect costs are reimbursable.
These indirect costs can quickly add up to millions of dollars a year in lost revenue. That is the steep cost of being reactive to crew health rather than taking a proactive Crew Asset Management approach.
Furthermore, replacing those 10,000 seafarers who lost their job because of diabetes or hypertension can cost operators up to $40,000 per person.
We are currently facing a projected shortage of around 90,000 trained officers by 2026, as chronic diseases that primarily affect people over 45 force our most experienced crew members out of the industry. By comparison, 20% of CEOs on land have hypertension. Those people don’t lose their jobs; they manage their condition and remain perfectly capable of continuing to work, safely.
Can we break out of this situation?
Thanks to advancing technology, we now have pretty good data transfer capacities worldwide that allow us to manage much of life and business through the internet. We all have a powerful computer processor in our pockets that can run advanced applications, and we even have wearables that can monitor our blood pressure, heart rate and other health data.
Medical science is advancing as well. Diseases that used to be extremely severe can now be managed so people can continue living their lives. We also now know much more about how food, sleep, light, air, and exercise impact our mental and physical health, and we all can access the power of the internet from just about anywhere.
Taken together, the maritime industry has many tools at its disposal to transform the lives of seafarers. Through technology, innovation and proactive investment, we can improve living and working conditions at sea, reduce illness and injury, and make seafaring jobs more sustainable and attractive for future generations.
Above article is based on a transcript from Mr. Ronald Spithout’s presentation during the 2023 Crew Welfare Week.
View his presentation below:
The views presented are only those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion purposes only.