The shipping industry is doing much progress in terms of its efforts toward people’s well-being, but more needs to be done to ensure a more holistic approach to the wellness of people onboard and onshore, a new poll by SAFETY4SEA showed.
he complexity of crew changes that left thousands of seafarers stranded onboard beyond their contract limits, combined with general anxiety resulting from growing global geopolitical tensions and insecurity, has put crew mental health at the forefront of industry discussions in the last couple of years.
Of course, even before the pandemic, the high workload of seafaring and the nature of the job that keeps crews away from their loved ones for extended periods had already put mental health under the shipping microscope.
With these in mind, SAFETY4EA announced the launch of the SEAFiT Crew Survey, a new initiative as part of the running SEAFiT program, which aims to identify well-being trends for both onshore and onboard shipping personnel and to provide feedback to all industry stakeholders in a bid to raise awareness over wellbeing. The survey is scheduled to run within Q1 & Q2 of 2023 and is expected to include aspects of physical, mental, and social well-being.
SEAFiT Poll: “Are you satisfied with the industry’s efforts towards well-being?”
More specifically, a recent SEAFiT poll that run for 2 months, asked people from across shipping to answer if they are satisfied with the maritime industry’s efforts toward people’s well-being. Over one-third of the responses (36%) indicated that the industry has failed to address well-being, while almost half (41.6%) indicated a level of satisfaction but noted that more needs to be done.
Participate in the new SEAFiT poll here
Mental health onboard: Where we stand
An ISWAN annual review on crew welfare for the period 1st April 2021 – 31st March 2022 showed an 81% increase in the total number of calls and messages from crew members and their families asking for support from its international helpline, compared to the same pre-covid period (2019-2020).
However, the latest Seafarers Happiness Index for Q3 2022 by The Mission to Seafarers indicated that seafarer happiness levels reached 7.3/10, up from 7.21 in the previous quarter, which follows a sustained increase in seafarer satisfaction, after a record low of 5.85 recorded in Q1 of this year. The results of the survey showed seafarers are much happier with their access to shore leave and more certain about crew changes, two important factors for seafarers’ wellness.
The importance of mental health for shipping is reflected in a recent initiative by a network of psychological practitioners that has come together to form the Maritime Mental Health Professionals Community of Practice (MMHPCoP). The MMHPCoP seeks to promote the use of evidence-based practice for mental health, adapted to the unique challenges of the maritime industry.
Other recent initiatives include ISWAN’s Social Interaction Matters (SIM) Project, which completed its trials of social interaction initiatives onboard merchant vessels in 2021 and has already provided respective guidance to shipping organizations with respect to health management. The organization also launched the ISWAN for Seafarers app in June 2021 in partnership with The Shipowners’ Club.
Mental health onboard: Key areas of focus
1. Connectivity: Internet onboard is always a key area of focus in the mental health debate for shipping, as it is really important for crews to maintain contact with their loved ones and the world, but it may be limiting their interaction and bonding with their mates onboard. “Our respondents also made it clear that connectivity assists rather than impedes social cohesion on board, as seafarers are happier if they are able to contact loved ones,” The Mission to Seafarers explained in its latest Seafarers Happiness Index release.
2. Shore leave: One of the biggest negative effects of COVID-19 on crew members was the restriction to leave the ship. While there are still some restrictions in place in certain regions, the impact of COVID-19 on seafarers is now largely waning. This means crews are now able to make more use of welfare centers and visit key facilities, provisions and entertainment when ashore.
3. Social interactions: Mental health is vastly interrelated with how people feel in their working environment. This is even more impactful when the working environment is the ship, where people will stay also after finishing their shifts. Building good relationships onboard is fundamental for the seafarer to feel part of a team, thus insulating and protecting them from some of the less positive aspects of seagoing. ISWAN research also proved that social interaction promotes mental and physical health and provides an essential outlet for seafarers from their work onboard.