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Are We Doing Enough for the Well-Being of our Seafarers?

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By Dimitrios Lyrakos 2019-04-20 20:31:56

Are we doing enough for the mental health and well-being of our seafarers?

The answer is “no,” but this is not the end, but the beginning, of this article. 

In one of the biggest and growing industries worldwide, in the industry with the biggest cultural diversity, mental health and well-being are factors that are important for most companies, but the quality of service is very low, completely inadequate, and it is dependable on the individual work of some of us.

In 2018, 18 percent of deaths of seafarers were suicides, others say 20 percent, others 25 percent, others even 30 percent. The truth is that we do not know for certain, because we do not have data, or we have contradictory data. This is mind-blowing for such a big industry, an industry that has so many issues to deal with.

ISM, TMSA and other regulatory bodies are beginning to set rules about seafarers’ mental health and well-being, but still there are several questions that rise:
1. What kind of regulations?
2. How to implement them?
3. How to monitor the quality of those regulations?

As ASCOT Consulting is assessing pilots and flight attendants on airlines, we often monitor the new changes in the aviation industry to update our tests and services. In the aviation industry, there is a specialization called Aviation Psychology: a specialized body of professionals that work with the other official bodies about the health, safety, soft skills and incident management. Aviation psychology has created mandates and protocols for accident handling, support and relief. Also, they play a prominent role in designing awareness and safety procedures, plus they take part in investigations from a behavior point of view.

While I was reading about this field, I could not stop wondering, why not in maritime? How beneficial would be for the industry to have a specialized body about these issues:
· Assessment
· Awareness
· Safety
· Soft Skills
· Mental Health
· CISM after an Accident or Piracy and many more.

Also, consider how beneficial it would be for the maritime companies as well. They would be able to identify ill-trained “professionals” for the very demanding and crucial jobs they have. A process like that could reduce costs and increase service quality.

We are in an industry that will face great changes in the coming years; changes that have to do with the workforce (seafarers) as well, if not mainly. 

It disappoints me greatly when seafarers of all ranks cannot be convinced that assessment, mental health, resilience and soft skills play an important role, a role that will become even more important in the future. It is not their fault. Most of them have undergone tests and training, theoretical, outside of the scope of their profession, so they cannot see the point of all this. We have to admit that they are right!

I was unpleasantly impressed when on a study of the most stressful occupations in the world, I could find Executive Officers, Conference Organizers and Taxi Drivers but nothing about Maritime. I am not saying that these jobs are not stressful, but I was surprised, so I contacted the authors. Their response was no surprise to me: we either do not have any data, or we have too much contradictory data (like the example with suicide data that I mentioned in the beginning of this article).

I am not saying that with specialized and recognized services there will be no accidents or piracy incidents. What I am saying is that the number of these incidents can be reduced; we can learn from them; we can offer better services to the seafarers that have experienced them. This would be extremely beneficial for the industry as a whole.

It might seem like science fiction or like something that it is not essential, but for those who think that, I ask this: “If it has worked for so many other industries, including aviation, why can't we make it work for maritime?

Dimitrios Lyrakos is CEO of ASCOT Consulting.
 

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.