Beginning his speech, Dr. Henderson mentioned that shipping is vital for the world to function; from the food that we eat, to the goods that we use every day, and the energy that we need. Yet, shipping has one of the poorest safety records of any industry in the world. According to a UK study, the shipping industry has a safety performance 20 times worse than the average onshore worker and five times worse than the construction industry.

During the last ten years, an average of 113 ships around the world have been lost each year, with many thousands of people killed and seriously injured. In addition, research shows that almost 6% of deaths at sea, are attributed to suicide, and this increase is dramatically, in suspicious cases when seafarers going missing, taken into account. This is at least 6 times higher than the suicide rate of the UK population, he noted.

‘’Along with many of my fellow shipping leaders, I have the vision of a zero incident industry and we are making good progress. ‘’he commented adding that improving industry’s safety performance, is not just fundamental to its operations, but also that means ‘good business.’

‘’When we are mentally and physically healthier, we perform better and make fewer mistakes’’ he further noted, highlighting the importance of raising more awareness on Seafarers’ mental health and wellbeing. In this regard, he added, we need to urgently look behind statistics; it is true that human error is the cause of more than 75% of accidents in commercial shipping. Tiredness, inadequate procedure, and improper supervision can increase the risk of human mistakes, by up to 50%. However, we need to ask ourselves, ‘why do people do what they do’ and how can we positively influence them, he explained.

Citing a recent example from his organization, he explained that this is what they did in Shell. Namely, during the past year, they worked together with Shell shipping maritime team and Shell health crew to carry out an extensive research into the link between seafarer wellbeing and human error. They reviewed nearly 700 academic papers and more than 60 industry publications and conducted over 30 hours of interviews and analyzed 340 pages of feedback from industry experts.

Shell’s research demonstrated clear links between health-related aspects and adverse incidents at sea. The results showed five key areas of influence on wellbeing.

  1. Fatigue - This might be the result of different ship patterns, long hours or insufficient rest.
  2. Working environment onboard - the physical aspects, separation from home, healthy living
  3. The nature of the role the seafarer - The individual responsibility on workload. The personal fulfillment and job security. Job satisfaction, reward and recognition.
  4. The leadership onboard and ashore - Personal accountability for the wellbeing. Setting the right culture at home. Having the right skills to recognize issues and knowing how to act.
  5. The networks surrounding the individual - Family, friends, work colleagues on the ship, an effective communication as well as the cohesion and social interaction of the team.

As explained, with the above five strategic areas and the key contributing factors, they were able to start building a model and get a picture of how these areas may influence safety.

Continuing his speech, he then referred to Hilo which launched two years ago in an effort to provide a mathematical risk analysis model that uses near miss data to highlight the pattern of events that if unchecked could lead to major incidents.

In essence, HiLo highlights the risk of serious accidents before they happen. ‘’ We’re seeing some very impressive results from those companies using HiLo, reducing the risk of lifeboat accidents by 72% and the risk of engine room fires by 65%. ‘’, Dr. Henderson argued.

Dr. Henderson revealed that they are currently combining HiLo with Shell’s research on seafarers’ wellbeing to develop a first ever human error model.

‘’This new model will allow shipping companies to better understand the wellbeing of their crew and the ships and highlight the human errors that cause more than 75% of the accidents at sea. ‘’ he said, revealing also that Shell is developing eight worldwide training programs for seafarers, to be conducted onboard ships in an effort to address the  aforementioned key areas that influence mental wellbeing.

As he explained, these training programs are going to be made available to the entire industry based on Shell’s resilience program, which is currently used by 400 companies. Considering that the resilience program focuses on people, the aim is to help the crew to talk about themselves and talk to the people around; to have conversations and learn useful strategies from each other. Overall, the program helps people remain resilient under pressure and cope effectively with stressful situations, which is vital for crew members onboard.

‘’This is making life onboard safer. It is also good for business too, as there are fewer incidents and a more motivated crew who want to do a great job for the company. ‘’ Dr. Henderson commented.

Concluding his speech, he highlighted that in Shell, their vision is to cooperate towards a zero-incident industry.

We have a vision; A vision of a zero-incident industry, where everyone gets home safely to their families and children. We have the power to make the changes and understand ‘why do people do what they do.

he stated.