As part of ISWAN’s Social Interaction Matters (SIM) Project, the following article looks at how the demographics of a crew can affect engagement with social activities on board. Crew differences such as nationality, gender, and age can affect the success of social activities on board. Therefore, understanding the impacts of demographics can help in the design of inclusive, engaging activities for the whole crew to enjoy, ISWAN highlights.
ultinational crews are now the norm within the global fleet and are broadly seen as an asset – the diversity and creativity they bring offers the opportunity to build stronger teams. However, it is important to be aware of different cultural preferences when bringing crew together socially to ensure that recreational activities suit the majority and maximise engagement.
More than a third of respondents in ISWAN’s Phase One survey of seafarers and other maritime stakeholders identified culture or language as a key barrier to social interaction on board. Namely, one seafarer interviewed after the survey told to the following:
If you’re not able to speak your native language it creates a difficulty to communicate more freely … when I’m alone on board I find myself more confined to my cabin because I already speak English or another language in working hours and then after work, I just withdraw myself a little bit
If a seafarer is the only one of their nationality on board, there is a chance they may be marginalised. This can also apply to other minority groups on board such as women, ethnic minorities and those from the LGBTQ+ community. If there is no cohesion between different groups on board, cliques can form and minorities can be isolated.
I was the only female [on board], so I felt segregated. I was also a cadet, so my opinion really didn’t make it that far. In my off time I spent most times in my cabin watching movies or on deck looking at the ocean
…another seafarer respondent said.
In that respect, ISWAN noted the following:
- Good communication is crucial in combatting isolation on board.
- The hierarchical nature of the Merchant Navy means that the onboard culture is strongly influenced by the behaviour and example set by the captain and other senior officers, so strong leadership is key, particularly in the case of multinational crews.
- Different nationalities can also have different responses to authority
- A supportive company culture which considers diversity and gender and promotes inclusion is vital to establishing a safe, happy and productive environment on board.
- Diverse crews can bring different skills, viewpoints and creativity
- The age of crew members may also have an impact on socialising among the crew. ISWAN research found that 49% of respondents over 40 years old considered WiFi a barrier to social interaction, whilst only 12% of those aged 18-28 considered it an issue.
- Younger generations have grown up with connectivity and internet access, whereas older generations may remember a time when alcohol and bars on board were focal points for social interaction.
- Engaging crew members of different generations with varying interests requires creative thinking – while activities involving social media and gaming may work for some, they will not necessarily suit everyone.