Posted on | June 17, 2010 | 3 Comments
We should welcome this new enthusiasm, but also consider just what we have done as an industry to make the seafarers’ life a darned sight less healthy. We are told that seafarers tend to obesity, and are increasingly prone to heart disease. What are we doing to encourage them to take exercise?
Are they supposed to run on the spot in their cabins, because the average modern container ship will not have a dozen square feet of deck space not festooned with boxes and their apparatus. You cannot even go for a walk. Forty years ago there were beautiful Scandinavian ships being produced with well-equipped gymnasiums aboard. They are all long gone in this utilitarian world of accommodation tower blocks, where running up and down the stairs offers about the only opportunity for exercise. Skipping? Sadly there’s not the headroom.
Well, they should go for a long walk or a run when they get to port, perhaps? You must be joking, as there is first of all no time, with the ship alongside, and secondly endless bureaucratic obstacles preventing such an excursion in so many different countries, in which there is a marked aversion to seafarers enjoying a bit of shore leave. Try even kicking a football around on the quayside in some ports and the marines will be on stand-by.
We should be worried about the health of seafarers as all employers ought to feel in some way responsible for the welfare of all staff. It is plain economic sense, for a start. But there is more needed than companies hired to monitor drugs and alcohol, and systems designed to prevent sick seafarers from claiming on shipowners. The industry needs to do things proactively, not defensively!
Obesity, we are told, reflects lifestyles. Do we help seafarers live a full and interesting life, when we put them under stress, deny them a big enough crew for a decent social interaction on board a ship, and ignore the long term consequences of sleep deprivation? Maybe we should ask a doctor!