Clay Maitland

On a quest for quality in shipping

Seafarer health: Isn’t it a little too late to care now?

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!


3 Responses to “Seafarer health: Isn’t it a little too late to care now?”

  1. Soren Johansson
    June 18th, 2010 @ 11:13 am

    Well, I’m one of “them” you are giving a picture of in your article, though not suffering any of those your symptoms described, but a full time seafarer since many years. Taking part of your reflections over a sailors life onboard reflects in many aspects the sad,true and brutal reality for many of us, especially groups under long contracts which may last up to 12 months.

    Regularity, short and intense cargo operations, poor social atmosphere depending of various groups of nationalities leading at times to social isolation, boredom, mastering officers and hard management attitudes creates conflicts and also contributes to a very unsafe ship-board environment, and unprofitable for the shipowner..

    A balanced stress level is essential for survival of man. It is also a well known fact that a too high stress load creates chaos and inefficiency, releases unknown and hidden reactions and mistakes are imminence. Less known is the fact that the under stimuli, boredom and social poverty, blame cultures, creates as high levels of stress as the first mentioned example with a too high stress load.

    My conclusion follows your line that the shipowners investment in the individual onboard, not only his or her two hands together with the vessels SMS, will be rewarded by a progressive and healthy crewmember who actively takes a high responsibility for all duties onboard. This, the shipowners action will also in the long term show up as a positive result in the balance sheet.

  2. tropical cyclone
    December 13th, 2010 @ 4:44 pm

    dear all

    time has come for IMO to make mandatory requirements to increase crew on vessels which have fast turnaround at ports mainly container vessels and parcel tankers. these vessels have hectic schedules after long passage and seafarers rest goes for a toss, where there are back to back ports with very short stay.biggest sufferer is chief officer who is awake nonstop throughout. it is only a matter of time where a big disaster is waiting to happen, and root cause of this will be fatigue of crew onboard. IMO has to wake up now, don’t wait for accidents to happen and then amend rest hrs will serve no purpose until manpower onboard is increased, stress level has to be reduced. the mindset of marine industry has to be changed. Money is not the everything but safety is first. shipping compaines have to take a bold steps by increasing manpower.

  3. gingerpills
    January 3rd, 2015 @ 9:45 am

    Fantasic website you have here but Iwas wondering if you knew of any message boards that ckver the same topics talked about in this article?
    I’d really love too bee a part of group where I can get feedback from other eperienced people that share the same
    interest. If you have any suggestions, please let me
    know. Cheers!

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