SAFETY4SEA: Your organization has been shortlisted for the 2018 SAFETY4SEA Awards in the ‘Initiative’ category alongside a number of other distinguished nominees. What is the background and the key drivers behind this nomination/shortlisting?


Sophia Bullard: The UK P&I Club is committed to safety. With a full-time, worldwide loss prevention team who provide Members with proactive and inclusive loss prevention support. The UK P&I Club has operated a Crew Health/PEME Programme for 22 years to enhance the health and, therefore, safety of crew working onboard ship. The Club was the first P&I Club to set up such a medical programme and we are flattered to note a number of other clubs have since followed this initiative in creating their own crew health programmes.


S4S: How has your initiative influenced the industry’s landscape? What are the key areas of attention?


S.B.: The well-being of crew has always been a priority for the UK P&I Club.  The Crew Health Programme was introduced in 1996 to detect physical conditions or illnesses in order to reduce the number of crew being ill whilst onboard.  Mental health is as important as physical health and sometimes mental health conditions can manifest in physical symptoms or illnesses.  As we know from our case studies, in worst case scenarios poor mental health can even result in the death of crew members.


In June 2017, the UK P&I Club Crew Health team, in conjunction with an industry publication, also held a “Crew Welfare Roundtable” discussion in London.  The discussion was primarily focussed on mental health and included delegates from many industry experts including Nautilus International, SIRC, Apostleship of the Seas and the UK Chamber of Shipping. After the Roundtable discussion, the UK Chamber of Shipping contacted us for analysis and comment which they used to produce a bulletin on seafarer mental health.  In response to growing interest on the topic, the UK Chamber of Shipping, Nautilus International and the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) jointly agreed new guidelines that will aid shipping companies in drawing up policies on mental wellbeing.


Ongoing and additional initiatives from the UK P&I Club include amalgamation with seafarer charities, training and psychological partners within the wider realms of seafarer wellbeing. The Club also produces regular crew health advice pieces on tackling mental health conditions, identifying the signs and understanding the triggers relevant to poor mental health.


The UK P&I Club Crew Health Programme has put together information and easy-reference guides to mental health. These are in the form of posters and booklets which include a short self-help checklist available to all Members, ship owners and operators, as well as circulated through a network of approved clinics.


The UK P&I Club Crew Health Programme has also sponsored the Emotional Wellness module of the Sailors’ Society Wellness at Sea programme for the last three years. This important training programme is a unique and valuable addition to the training of crew worldwide. Wellness at Sea is a coaching programme aimed at improving seafarers onboard wellbeing and seeks to combat issues by addressing ‘wellness’ as a holistic concept made up of five specific areas of wellbeing: social, emotional, physical, intellectual and spiritual. The Wellness at Sea programme is aimed at all crew.  The course is available at two levels: an Officer Programme and a Cadet Programme. The UK P&I Club Crew Health team promotes and actively encourages Members to consider the Wellness at Sea project for their crew.


S4S: Do you have any new projects in the pipeline and/or plans, related with your safety performance that you would like to share with the industry?


S.B.: Alongside the awareness campaigns, which focus on the triggers and symptoms of mental health, we must also acknowledge the role the crew themselves have in keeping fit. At the UK P&I Club, we are looking to partner with key organisations and companies which offer quality options for crew self care, whether this be education, nourishment, physical training, exercise or relaxation. We are sourcing partners in excellence which can provide ongoing solutions to maintain crew health and wellbeing not just onboard but during their time at home, ensuring a motivated crew who create a safe working environment remain in their work for the optimum time available.


S4S: If you could change one thing about the shipping industry, what would it be and why?


S.B.: Change is everywhere in the shipping industry.  We are on the verge of many advancements, such as autonomous ships and multiple projects providing the opportunity for the enhancement of technology onboard. This includes technology which can be used to monitor, analyse and assess a number of technical functions and maintenance programmes.  Whilst all these are projects are of utmost importance, we would actually like to go back to a time where the focus was on the human factor in shipping.


S4S: What is your key message for enhancing safety culture ashore and onboard?


S.B.: At the UK P&I Club Crew Health Programme, we believe the best investment shipowners can make for onboard safety is an investment in the education, training and support of their crew.  A happy, healthy, stimulated and valued crew create a safe working environment onboard.



You may cast your vote for UK P&I Club’s Crew Health/ PEME programme at 2018 SAFETY4SEA Awards dedicated webpage till 7th of September 2018!

About Sophia Bullard, Crew Health Programme Director

Sophia joined Thomas Miller in 1992 and from 1994 worked as a claims handler dealing mainly with French and Spanish members. In 2004 Sophia became the Crew Health Programme Director. As part of her work in the Crew Health Programme, Sophia has undertaken a large number of clinic audits, implemented the standard medical form and clinic guidelines. She has also led the scheme through the largest period of growth and development with a doubling of approved clinic facilities and a four fold member increase. Sophia is a Director of Thomas Miller & Co. Ltd.


The views presented hereabove are only those of the author and not necessarily those of  SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion  purposes only.