An outsider’s view of our neglect of seafarers

In April Hubert Jaroni (pictured) will be running the London Marathon to raise funds for Sailors’ Society. Below this landlubber explains why he chose to run for this charity.

My brother-in-law is your not so humble editor of this site and my window into an opaque industry that the more I get to learn about the more it blows my mind.

Throw a dart into the middle of a map of Poland and that’s where I call home, Plock, a town that’s a couple of hundred of kilometres from the nearest sea.

Like 99% of the world’s population I had little comprehension of the global shipping industry and the women and men who work at sea to smooth our daily consumption needs until my sister picked up the co-founder of Splash hitchhiking a number of years ago – a story for another time! Since then I have learnt about this largely hidden, out of sight industry and been amazed at its scale and complexity. What has hit home more than anything else, however, as an outsider looking in, is the scant regard so many of those in shipping working ashore have for their peers at sea.

Yesterday I saw one of the most shocking images that anyone could ever see in shipping – one I hope never gets shared online – something that has been impossible to get out of my head since. In orange overalls, a seafarer was photographed dangling from an OSV in Malaysia. He’d tied a noose around his neck, and leapt over the rails. Life at sea had proven too hard for this man, his corpse swinging with the gentle waves below.

Numbers from Singapore shipmanager Synergy Group show 5.9% of all deaths at sea are proven suicides. If the suspicious cases of probable suicides – seafarers that went missing at sea – are considered, then this figure jumps to 18.3%, close to one in five deaths, a truly horrifying statistic.

Researching the mindset of crew in 2019 for this article I clicked on the tag Seafarers for this site and I would strongly recommend all Splash readers do likewise – laid bare through hundreds of articles are the daily travails of those at sea.

The Mission to Seafarers publishes a regular Seafarer Happiness Index, a gauge of life at sea. It makes for essential reading for anyone with even a fleeting care for the 1.25m men and women working on ships today around the globe.

The latest results from the survey show seafarer happiness around the world places crews in the ‘struggling zone’ on the UN Happiness Reports’ Catril Scale.

In a study from last year of seafarers’ mental health, conducted on behalf of Sailors’ Society by Yale University, more than a quarter of seafarers indicated signs of depression.

Is it any wonder when conditions onboard are equal parts stress and sterile? I hope many people read yesterday’s article carried on Splash that described living conditions on today’s ships as sub-par compared to hospitals and budget motorway accommodation.

Flooring, panelling, deck heads, furnishing, all have gone the way of function over form throughout just about every accommodation block sliding out of shipyards the world over these days.

“All those who promote seagoing as a professional career should be asked to read it,” someone on LinkedIn commented on yesterday’s Splash article, adding: “A pity articles like this are not presented at the myriad of manning and training extravaganzas around the world.”

What I would like to see – as an outsider – is for shipping to take greater care of those that make the industry actually function. In April I will be running the London Marathon, raising money for Sailors’ Society. Whatever you can spare I can guarantee is going to a worthy cause. Donations can be made here.


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