Shipping Industry Needs to Improve to Prevent Injury and Suicide Says Gard

crew injuries
More could be done to prevent a worringly high number of suicides and an increase in the frequency of injury claims says Gard (IMO)

Published Jul 5, 2024 1:47 PM by The Maritime Executive


A new report examining key trends within crew-related insurance claims identifies concerns with an increase in injuries as well as a “worryingly high number” of the percentage of deaths caused by suicide among seafarers. While there is a positive trend in illness-related claims (excluding COVID) the report warns that the industry must do better on issues such as mental health and addressing concerns such as isolation and working conditions. 

Norwegian insurer Gard analyzed claims over the past five years reporting that personal claims made up nearly half of all the cases reported to the marine insurer. They reviewed 20,000 personal claims reporting most involved crew, although some incidents involved stevedores or passengers, concluding that there is a concern that crew claim frequency has been trending up since 2021.

“As an industry, we are unfortunately far from where we would like to be when it comes to crew fatalities and injuries. Respecting human rights at sea also relates to making sure seafarers’ place of work, on keel, is safe, healthy, and attractive,” said Lene-Camilla Nordlie, Vice President and Head of People Claims at Gard.

Seeking to identify the most frequent issues of injuries, illness, and other risks that seafarers can face, Gard says that more than 40 percent of the P&I claim amounts paid relate to claims from people. The company reports it believes that more can be done to prevent some of these accidents. They write that most cases of crew deaths are preventable.

Over 400 crew fatalities have been recorded by Gard over the past five years. While most deaths among seafarers (74 percent) are from illness, they highlight that 15 percent were due to injuries. More concerning to the insurer is that 11 percent of the crew fatalities are due to suicide. 

“This is a worryingly high number and we believe that the actual number could in fact be much higher due to underreporting,” writes Gard. Among medical issues, they cite mental health among the top 10 saying that annually since 2020 they receive reports of 47 cases, 18 cases of suicides, and 16 cases of missing persons. Mental health cases they report grew significantly during the pandemic likely as a consequence of strain and isolation.

The frequency of injury claims was up 44 percent between 2020 and 2023 with Gard registering close to 1,000 injury claims in 2023. They are most often caused by slips, trips, and falls. The second most common cause is being hit by an object or a line, mostly during mooring operations. They report a high number of crush injury claims, such as fingers caught in hatch covers, as well as burns, falls, and injuries from heavy lifting. 

“The health, safety, and wellbeing of seafarers is the single most important factor for safe operations on board ships,” writes Gard. By publishing the report, they hope to increase the focus on the issues to encourage preventative measures by shipowners, managers, and seafarers.