As crew wellbeing is in the spotlight for shipping industry, Danish health and safety company CONOVAH is currently running a project focusing on loneliness at sea and how changes such as the role of managers and new technologies affect it.

This study is expected to be published later this year, and is being led by Connie S. Gehrt from CONOVAH Health and Safety Solutions.

At the latest issue of Crew Watch by Britannia P&I Club, she provides tips for leaders at sea to address social isolation onboard:

  1. Take time for regular tours round the ship and have informal chats
  2. Take responsibility for crew health, safety and well-being and handling conflict
  3. Encourage social activities onboard and ensure that regular initiatives are taken
  4. Treat everyone onboard with respect and dignity and do not tolerate bullying and harassment
  5. Be proactive: Be a good colleague and care about yourself and others – ensure that you are part of a great team!
  6. Welcome new crew members onboard – it makes a big difference
  7. Take initiatives: Even small things like having an open door to your cabin or watching a movie in the common areas can have an impact and after a while others may join in
  8. Participate in social life onboard and don’t wait for others to think of all the good ideas – try and contribute ideas and help with the planning of social events
  9. Engage and respond to others in a respectful way and if there are any problems, deal with these as soon as possible
  10. Reach out to any of your colleagues who seem to be feeling down or who have withdrawn from social life onboard
  11. If you feel lonely, reach out to others, do something together, e.g. go to the gym or play a game, and try to maintain good links with your colleagues.

At all levels healthy relationships are built on:

  • Mutual respect for yourself and others, even if they are different from you or disagree with your opinions
  • Trust: Believe in your colleagues, take the time to listen before you jump to conclusions and ask questions about their intentions if you are in doubt
  • Good communication: Ask colleagues for their input and ideas about work, but also ask them about their hobbies, families and lives away from the ship.

Many maritime health-related researches have highlighted lack of social interaction as a key factor of seafarers’ mental health issues, while active engagement in social life onboard is considered to have a real and positive impact on their welfare. Nationalities and different cultures have different ways of socializing, so companies should adopt new ways to encourage socializing of crews onboard.

For example, introducing alcohol restrictions instead of alcohol bans, and arranging team activities like basketball or karaoke, are some of the things that can make people onboard create relationships, argued Mr. Yves Vandenborn, Director of Loss Prevention at Standard P&I Club, at the latest SAFETY4SEA Conference in Athens.

In line with a greater awareness surrounding the importance of seafarer wellness, SAFETY4SEA launched the Crew Wellness Survey which is running within Q4 of 2019 with the aim to examine factors around seafarers’ life while working at sea and provide a picture to shipping organizations as they actually have very little information about it.