During a discussion on the first day of the 2023 Crew Welfare Week, panelists focused on the challenges related to seafarers’ welfare and wellbeing and highlighted that ship managers and operators need to keep promoting efforts targeting both the physical and the mental health of crew onboard.
eginning the conversation, the panel moderator Joanna Koukouli, Managing director, the American Club, welcomed ship managers, Capt. Faouzi Fradi, director Crewing and Training of Columbia Shipmanagement, Capt. Shashank Jahagirdar, Managing Director of Synergy-Nordic Shipmanagement, Sunil Kapoor, Director of GML ship management, Matthew Los, CEO of Blue Planet Shipping Ltd. and Praveen Shukla, Crew Director, Wallen Group who agreed that wellness factors are important determinants of safety behaviour and safety performance.
However, the Covid-19 pandemic created unprecedented circumstances and challenges for ship owners and managers because of quarantine measures, travel restrictions and border closures and seafarers being prevented from traveling to and from vessels. Nonetheless, crew welfare has been at the forefront of challenges faced by the shipping industry before covid-19 struck only to aggravate the problems. Unfortunately, lingering effects contributing to the phenomenon commonly referred to as crew crisis.
Firstly, the panelists were called to describe the key challenges of crew welfare and the possible alarming trends during the past years with respect to work and life onboard.
Covid-19 was a very stressful time for all the seafarers and we ser initiatives like seafarers are key workers. The very positive change of mindset within the maritime industry where people start to look more positively at seafarers’ welfare and well-being than ever before.
…explained Capt. Faouzi Fradi, Columbia Shipmanagement.
Life onboard became challenging as there were not allowed to go ashore and they were confined onboard their ships for a long period. However, there have been many positive developments arising in crew welfare due to the pandemic. For example, it was highlighted how vital connectivity is onboard and how important is for seafarers’ families and seafarers themselves to feel safe and secure. In this context, shipping companies play a key role to provide with initiatives and tools to support seafarers and their families. Above all, the most important positive development out of the pandemic was the actual recognition of the importance of crew welfare within the industry.
Companies who were not thinking about welfare and wellbeing of seafarers, they have now started looking into more seriously. We have positive aspects as slowly the technology is improving.
…said Capt. Shashank Jahagirdar, Synergy Nordic Shipmanagement.
Safety always comes first and to run ships with new and modern technologies, we have to equip our seafarers and especially future seafarers with the knowledge and the skills to perform and run the ships safely.
..Faouzi Fradi said.
Moreover, Matthew Los added that technology will help the shipping industry in many ways. “Energy transition, digitalization, decarbonization, the crew of the people who are going to be running the ships, so the training and education of these people is paramount technology will help us both being able to do a substantial amount of training remotely. But also, being able to provide life support on board.”
Overall, training and a holistic support of seafarers can ensure that technology and rapid changes won’t outsmart shipping.
Cooperation is key, and this is the reason we have many events so that all the industry people and partners have the chance to meet. There are so many committees in the industry where we all meet, debate, and discuss.
..Faouzi Fradi said. However, to be put into practice, collaboration must be followed by concrete takeaways.
In addition, crew crisis and crew shortage are terms widely used in recent years and they are particularly troubling. “Crew shortage impacts the industry. What we should do is to blame ourselves that we have not really forecasted where we could add few more training institutes from a sourcing area which is very common.”, mentioned Capt. Shashank Jahagirdar.
There is a growing importance of the leaders to come forward and reach the gap and try to bring people together. However, there is a continued need for shipping companies, governments, regulators, unions to work together and to develop the training programs.
..added Mr. Praveen Shukla.
Concluding the discussion, experts were asked to provide their key message about crew welfare to move forward. In that regard, Capt. Shashank highlighted the importance of training and learning new things to keep up with the technological advancements.
“Remember that learning is an ongoing process so we should never think that we know everything. We should continue learning, ships are developing to be open-minded to think that our wellbeing and our welfare is also a process which has to develop over time. The technology will never stop, so if today your internet world is not fast enough, tomorrow there will be a solution where we have a better internet.”, he noticed
Also, Sunil Kapoor, mentioned that working on a ship is not for the faint hearted, but ‘’for the brave ones with iron stomach and for adventure’’. ’’It offers a lucrative and rewarding career in the long run. It is a clean and respectable profession that has the power to positively transform the lives around people.”, he stressed.
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