Conducted as part of London International Shipping Week, the conference was jointly organised by the four nominated LISW charities:

  1. The Mission to Seafarers;
  2. Seafarers UK;
  3. Sailors’ Society;
  4. Apostleship of the Sea (Stella Maris).

Sponsored and hosted by Inmarsat, and chaired by John Adams, Vice President of the International Chamber of Shipping, the event featured four expert panel discussions and contributions from the 240+ delegates in attendance. It also explored the affect of technology on crew welfare.

The conference keynote speech from Dr Grahaeme Henderson, Vice President, Shipping & Maritime at Shell established the benchmark starting the conference with high impact.


Specifically, Dr Henderson painted a stark image of shipping’s safety challenges, mentioning that despite marked improvements, it continues to have one of the poorest safety records of any industry. In order to address this, Dr Henderson announced the launch of Shell’s new ‘human error’ model of its successful HiLo maritime risk management tool.

The new model incorporates extensive research performed by the Shell Shipping & Maritime team and Shell Health Group, which identified five key areas of influence on a seafarer’s mental wellbeing. These are:

  1. Fatigue;
  2. Physical environment;
  3. The nature of the role;
  4. Leadership (both on the vessel and onshore);
  5. Personal network.

The initiative will enable shipping companies to better understand the wellbeing of the crew on their vessels and tackle the human errors that cause over 75% of accidents at sea.

Henderson also announced that Shell is developing eight wellbeing training programmes for seafarers, which will be shared with other shipping companies. The programmes will include training on subjects like individual awareness, how to talk about mental health and provide help, and how to address fatigue. Both initiatives aim to drive safer practice across the industry by promoting seafarer wellbeing and contributing to Shell’s vision of a zero-incident industry.

Commenting on the event, Ben Bailey, Director of Advocacy and Regional Engagement for The Mission to Seafarers, stated:

Today’s conference was an illuminating discussion on the intersection between new and emerging technologies and seafarer safety and welfare. It’s clear that new technology and improved ship-shore connectivity has a powerful role to play in giving us new tools to support our seafarers and for seafarers themselves to be better equipped to keep in touch with loved ones and to look after their wellbeing. However, we also need to appreciate that technology onboard can sometimes create new and different challenges for the workload and wellbeing of seafarers. As new digital tools are deployed onboard, the impact on the seafarer must always be at the forefront of our thinking

Ben Bailey also added that there were some candid conversations regarding mental health challenges that the seafarer community faces, including some personal stories from the delegates and speakers.

We won’t shy away from acknowledging the considerable progress still to be made when it comes to tackling the stigma of mental health in our industry, but we can take great pride in the progress that maritime charities and the industry have made in recent years. We are also deeply grateful to Inmarsat for their support in hosting the LISW charities’ conference this week

What is more, John Adams, Vice President of The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), delivered the conference opening address, speaking about the importance of one-to-one communication with seafarers. He specifically warned industry professionals about the dangers of adopting a ‘silver bullet’ approach. He also described the term ‘human element’ as a misdemeanour, indicating that it implies that seafarers are a side component, instead of a core part of the shipping enterprise.

In addition, the conference included panel discussions on several different themes. The first assessed how technology can enhance health and safety onboard, reduce accidents and lower the costs related to repatriation and replacement crews.

The second panel gave emphasis on how the industry can best support seafarers and whether technology is replacing the personal touch. This was followed by a session exploring how other industries are using technology to mitigate mental wellbeing, and how this might be adapted for seafarers. The final discussion analyzed the evolving role of maritime welfare charities in the digital age.

Moreover, the conference saw questions, comments and contributions from delegates during the day. This included a question from a young cadet, one of numerous cadets in attendance, who challenged the panel on why mental health and wellbeing did not form part of the cadet training syllabus. This was a point that received broad agreement from the panel.

The final address of the afternoon was delivered by Ronald Spithout, President of Inmarsat Maritime. Speaking after the event, Mr Spithout commented:

It was our pleasure to host today’s conference and to play our part in bringing together four wonderful charities on a shared platform. There is a lot of common ground between these charities and between all of us who believe in championing seafarer safety and welfare.  We hope that we can continue to support a collective approach to tackling this most important of causes. In keeping with our discussions today, we believe that technology can have an important role to play and we look forward to further embracing digitalisation as a force for good in supporting the men and women who serve at sea

The conference was followed by a dinner event, during which £11k was raised to support crucial crew welfare services around the globe.