Safety - BIMCO Bulletin


SAFETY December 2019 The link between crew welfare and safety By Craig Eason, Journalist and event host Craig Eason is a business journalist, editor, photographer, event moderator and public speaker. He reports on the transformation of the shipping industry and has been covering the regulatory framework, technological developments and social and environmental impact of shipping for 15 years. Craig is editorial director of Fathom World, a provider of news and information relating to the changes in the maritime sector, and former Deputy Editor of Lloyds List. The connection between depression and onboard safety becomes apparent For a long time, experts have pointed to a clear link between operational performance, crew safety and crew welfare, particularly in relation to mental health. Companies such as Shell, are now focusing more heavily on the issue, as the connection between depression and on-board safety becomes apparent. Shell and a growing number of shipowners and managers have begun to realise that onboard safety is linked to among other things a crew members wellbeing and mental health. A depressed or suicidal crew member could be a risk to others, as well as themselves. Over the past year, more and more attention has been focused on the need for crew welfare to be taken seriously by shipowners and operators. Charities such as The Mission to Seafarers, Apostleship of the Sea, Seafarers UK and Sailors Society have run campaigns to raise awareness and develop support networks for crews. To address the problem, Shell has begun rolling out a new crew welfare angle to its HiLo Maritime Risk Management platform, which has been running for a number of years. The multinational company is encouraging the firms with which it works to use the platform to help tackle crew safety, seeing a clear connection between safety and operational performance. How many seafarers have a network of support around them with which to raise sensitive issues? Away from home a major stress factor Shells vice-president of shipping and maritime, Grahaeme Henderson, has recognised that safety, the business costs of safety and crew welfare namely keeping the shipboard crew engaged and connected are entwined issues. But mental health remains a tough and, at the same time, sensitive topic to tackle. We all know that talking about mental health can be challenging and uncomfortable, but it is important, Henderson said during a recent welfare and technology conference hosted by some of the leading seafarer charities. The next stage of Shells fight to reduce accidents is formally to bring welfare into its HiLo equation. During his speech in London, Henderson put forward research data that suggests six per cent of deaths at sea are suicides. He believes there are five areas that influence the mental health and wellbeing of a shipboard crew member. The first is the simple fact of being away from home, the second is the individuals workload, which links to the third element: job satisfaction. The fourth area is the leadership on the ship and in the companys office, which is instrumental in setting the right culture. The fifth is the network surrounding the individual and therefore his or her ability to reach out for help. Helplines launched Mental health in shore-based workplaces is being tackled head on, with UK-based charities such as Mind working to raise awareness and provide support. Poor mental health can impact anyone, regardless of their age, gender, background or profession, but there are some groups in which mental health problems can be more prevalent, says Emma Mamo, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at Mind. In the UK, for example, men are approximately three times more likely to take their own lives than women. The reasons for suicide are complex and varied, she says, but it is known that men generally find it more difficult to ask for help if theyre struggling with their mental health. Sectors that are typically male-dominated often report greater incidences of poor mental health and suicide among their staff, says Mamo. We also know that people who come from different ethnic backgrounds are disproportionately likely to find themselves experiencing a mental health crisis and be sectioned under the Mental Health Act. Any crew member will no doubt suffer during a lengthy period away from home At sea, with fatigue and depression leading to accidents and worse, mental health is becoming an important issue, and it has begun to raise some uncomfortable questions in a traditionally male-dominated stoic industry. How many seafarers have a network of support around them with which to raise sensitive issues? How many seafarers have the courage and empathy to notice that another seafarer may have an issue, to ask them if they are OK, and do more than just nod at the answer? There have been accounts of crew members who have committed suicide including recently a young cadet where fellow shipmates had neither realised there was a problem, nor known what to do. Efforts are now being stepped up to address this. Some ship managers have launched telephone helplines offering expert advice to a depressed crew member or one who thinks a colleague may be at risk. But any crew member will no doubt suffer during a lengthy period away from home. The charities, such as the four that organised this event Seafarers UK, The Mission to Seafarers, Apostleship of the Sea and Sailors Society have been doing the best they can to provide help, but clearly need more support. Work on board more mentally demanding The environment in which seafarers work may also have a significant effect on their mental health. Nick Brown, Marine Manager at Lloyds Register says technology onboard ships should assist the seafarer, not cause them stress, and points to the USD 200bn Americans pay to deal with stress and depression in society as an indication of the potential size of the problem. Work onboard, in the modern maritime sector in general, he says, has moved from being physically demanding to being mentally demanding. And he points to some current challenges, including those highlighted by recent research from the Seafarers International Research Centre at Cardiff University in the UK, which showed concern from seafarers that technology is leading to what they consider as interference from ashore. Interference from ashore could mean the efforts of the shipowner to contact the vessel relentlessly, or regulating the amount of internet access a crew member has. The latter has become a contentious issue; some shipowners believe that less access is good as it means less distraction, while others think greater internet access is a basic right for their crew. Photo (top): iStock / yoh4nn Ronald Spithout, President of satellite service provider Inmarsat Maritime, believes not allowing crew members internet access is the same as taking away their sense of self-destiny. Not being in control is one of the big human fears, and not giving crew access to keep in touch with home is tantamount to taking away that control. Connect with BIMCO Facebook Twitter Linkedin YouTube