In an exclusive interview to SAFETY4SEA, Mrs Karin Orsel, who is the new Chair of the International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) from January 2023, reveals her plans to raise ISWAN’s profile to improve living and working conditions for seafarers and their families, highlighting the power of collaboration.
‘’In challenging times we can find strength in each other’’, Mrs Orsel concludes while she acknowledges that there are several factors not enshrined in MLC and are vital for a happy crew onboard.
SAFETY4SEA: What are your top priorities in the agenda taking the helm as Chair of international maritime charity ISWAN?
Karin Orsel (KO): As a provider of invaluable welfare services and support for seafarers and their families, it is crucial for ISWAN to be financially and operationally sustainable. I will work with ISWAN’s board of trustees and staff to reduce the organisation’s reliance on grant funding – something which is more than achievable with the growth of ISWAN’s commissioned services such as its Maritime Mental Health Awareness Training and bespoke helplines for clients. I will also work to help ISWAN achieve its other three-year organisational goals, including developing new initiatives informed by ISWAN’s data and current trends and issues in the industry, and raising ISWAN’s profile as a catalyst for delivering change to improve the lives of seafarers and their families.
S4S: What are the main challenges you are facing in your new role?
KO: Creating awareness of the existence of ISWAN and all the important work ISWAN is doing for seafarers and their families. During the pandemic more and more industry partners stood up and realised we need to step up and make sure that we take good care of our crew.
S4S: How does a happy crew onboard look like? What are the top 5 factors that define crew happiness?
KO: You cannot have a happy crew without the foundations of a safe workplace, decent working and living conditions, sufficient rest hours and other welfare provisions which are set out in the MLC 2006. However, there are other factors not enshrined in law which affect seafarers’ mental health and therefore a crew’s happiness levels.
With this in mind, I think the key characteristics of a happy crew would be:
- Cohesive – a strong, connected team with members who support and look out for each other
- High level of job satisfaction – a sense of achievement / appreciation
- Resilience – able to cope with the stresses and challenges of the job
- Well supported – by both strong onboard leadership and management ashore
- Motivated – a sense of purpose
S4S: What are currently the hurdles for enhanced crew welfare onboard and what needs to change to enhance working and living conditions onboard?
KO: The ‘excuse’ used often is a lack of space or time, while the outcome of our Social Interaction Matters (SIM) Project clearly gives guidance on how to improve the crew welfare by being creative and giving the crew on board the resources.
S4S: What would it take for the maritime industry to achieve diversity, equality, and inclusion? What role does management play in this shift?
KO: We need to look inward to identify and challenge our own unconscious biases, and in turn, those ingrained in our company policies and processes. Management needs to demonstrate strong leadership in this by making a clear commitment to making our industry a fairer and more inclusive place and setting an example for everyone else to follow. Efforts must be transparent and management must be held accountable for achieving clearly defined equity, equality, diversity and inclusion (EEDI) goals within their company.
S4S: Do you have any projects/ plans that you would like to share with industry stakeholders?
KO: ISWAN will be making some exciting developments in 2023. Live trials will be held on board active vessels to put into action the guidance and recommendations published last June as part of ISWAN’s Social Interaction Matters (SIM) Project and evaluate their effectiveness. One of ISWAN’s assets is the data and insights it gathers through its helpline services for seafarers and their families, and the organisation will be finding new ways to share these insights for the benefit of the industry. ISWAN will also be expanding its network with a drive to recruit new members and by forging new partnerships with other organisations working for the welfare of seafarers.
S4S: What is your key message to industry stakeholders and people onboard to foster resilience in these challenging times?
KO: We can achieve more if we work together. This is true for companies and organisations, who can share knowledge and best practice and strengthen each other’s efforts, and for seafarers themselves, who can look out for others who might be struggling and find support in those around them. We are all part of this industry and we all want the same thing – for it to thrive – so in challenging times we can find strength in each other.
The views presented hereabove are only those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion purposes discussion purposes only.
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