In an exclusive interview to SAFTY4SEA, Tim Hill, who took over as CEO of Stella Maris in June 2023, discusses the key elements that characterize crew happiness and points out that despite the many positive practices so far, some areas still need more attention and effort.
e outlines his action plan and top priorities in the agenda and calls all maritime stakeholders to prioritize crew welfare because of several worrying situations that have a negative impact on seafarers’ health and wellbeing. Among the various best practices, he highlights the necessity of having the following elements for life on board: ensuring that suitable work/rest hours are observed; providing regular medical exams for seafarers; and establishing a healthy routine and culture for onboard health and safety. Concluding, Tim Hill encourages all parties to continue collaborating with Stella Maris to better the lives of fishermen and seafarers.
SAFETY4SEA: What are the top priorities in your agenda taking the helm as CEO of the international maritime charity Stella Maris?
Tim Hill: My immediate goal is to talk and listen to as many people as possible within the charity, its beneficiaries and the wider maritime sector to better understand how Stella Maris supports the people it serves. I want to develop our existing strong links with other charities, industry, and national and international organisations, so that collectively we can address those issues relating to fair pay, equal opportunities, the provision of good working and living conditions, access to shore leave, and health and safety. Above all, our core business is ship visiting, providing pastoral, practical and spiritual support. So I want to ensure that Stella Maris continues to grow, so that we can extend our outreach to more seafarers, fishers and their families. As part of that growth, I want to ensure that our income is sustainable, our operations are as efficient as possible, and that our own people, including our many volunteers, feel valued, supported and rewarded.
S4S: What are the main challenges you are facing in your new role?
T.H.: As ever, it’s all about people and relationship building. I want to ensure that Stella Maris continues to work collaboratively and effectively with all stakeholders. Working in a spirit of mutual respect and understanding, my aim is to ensure that we remain a trusted and highly regarded partner. We should strive to be an organisation that is prepared to listen and change, but that also has the courage to flag up areas of concerns. Only then will we be able to help achieve our common goal of improving the lives of seafarers, fishers and their families.
S4S: How does a happy crew onboard look like? What are the top 5 factors that define crew happiness?
T.H.: I’m relatively new to this, but in all my discussions, I would judge the top 5 factors defining crew happiness as being: fair pay; good working and living conditions including health and safety; access to shore leave; contact with families and finally, access to face-to-face contact. Getting all these right is a tough ask. There are many examples of good practice, but in some areas, more work and effort is still required.
S4S: Are you satisfied with industry stakeholders’ response on the issue of crew welfare until today? Have you noticed any trends during the last years and a possible alarming trend to focus on?
T.H.: Talking to my colleagues, they tell me that they have seen great improvements in the welfare support provided to seafarers and fishers over the years. However, there is still a minority of stakeholders who have not yet fully embraced change. I fully understand the economic challenges facing the industry, but there is a collective and moral responsibility to improve the lives and conditions of our seafarers. And if I were to highlight some areas of concern, they would be: the increase in abandonment of crews worldwide; the use of transit visas (with lower protections of labour rights) for foreign fishers in the UK; the reduction in access to shore leave which continues to have a detrimental effect on the health and wellbeing of seafarers and finally, the reduction in face to face contact which we believe remains the best way to support seafarers and help identify issues of concern.
S4S: If you could change one thing across the industry from your perspective, what this would be and why?
T.H.: This is a really tricky question because you’re asking me to prioritise those issues which I have previously mentioned, all of which are equally important in their own right. But if I wanted to change one thing within the industry, then that would be to ask employers to put the welfare of their seafarers at the top of their agenda. In doing that and resolving the many issues that we and others raise, only then will we see positive change for the good of seafarers.
S4S: Which best practices would you recommend from your perspective to ensure good working and living conditions onboard?
T.H.: The list of best practices is endless, but if I was to single out 3 practices from my own Army experience which I’m sure relate to onboard conditions, then they would be ensuring proper work/rest hours are adhered to; the provision of regular medical checks for seafarers and finally, embedding a good regime and culture for onboard health and safety.
S4S: What would it take for the maritime industry to achieve diversity, equality, and inclusion? What role does management play in this shift?
T.H.: By its nature, shipping is an international industry that benefits from people of all backgrounds and talents. Stella Maris is always supportive of initiatives and programmes from international bodies such as the IMO, and other agencies and companies to ensure that the maritime industry is truly inclusive. Recent projects to highlight the role of women in maritime and to ensure the increased support for the welfare needs of women seafarers is a step in the right direction, but as ever, more needs to be done.
S4S: Do you have any projects/ plans that you would like to share with industry stakeholders?
T.H.: Our aim is to continue growing our presence both in the UK and internationally and one of our strengths lies in our vast network of port chaplains and ship visitors in 353 ports in 57 countries. One of our plans is to roll out our reporting database which is used to flag-up crew welfare concerns to more countries in our network, so that Stella Maris can continue to enhance its support to seafarers.
S4S: What is your key message to industry stakeholders and people onboard to foster their resilience?
T.H.: My key message to industry stakeholders is that we have a fantastic relationship, of which we at Stella Maris are very proud. Let us all continue to work together to improve the lives of seafarers and fishers, and the families that they leave behind. Stella Maris is here to work alongside industry stakeholders to help achieve this. This may sometimes necessitate difficult conversations, but we know that we can do this successfully through the mutual trust we have built between us over the years.
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.