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Eastern Pacific unveils more comfortable living quarters for its crew

With many crews now at sea for more than a year thanks to coronavirus travel restrictions and the sterile environment of most accommodation blocks adding to declining mental wellbeing one shipowner has decided to buck the trend and actually invest to make its living quarters at sea more bearable.

Singapore-based Eastern Pacific Shipping (EPS) has unveiled the EPS Life at Sea Programme, which is an initiative designed to improve the long term physical and mental wellbeing of its seafarers.

According to EPS, the programme includes increased connectivity, start-of-the-art gymnasiums, and new interior designs. The company has displayed the new programme on a newbuild vessel this week and upgrade remodels have been taking place on the company’s existing vessels.

We are as responsible for the physical and mental wellbeing of seafarers as we are for industry decarbonisation

“We are as responsible for the physical and mental wellbeing of seafarers as we are for industry decarbonisation. My vision is to create a modern environment onboard that is a balance of form and function. These reimagined accommodations will provide added benefits to our ship staff, making their time at sea an enjoyable experience,” said Idan Ofer, the principal of EPS.

Last year, the Mission To Seafarers, a UK-based charity, hit out at standard accommodation block design, suggesting the sterile environment onboard ships nowadays make hospitals look attractive by comparison.

One area where we seem to have gone backwards is the environment we expect our crews to live in

In a post entitled Seafarers Homes Fit for Purpose, the charity stated: “[S]hipboard living space has been consumed by the sterility of the cargo carrying concept. The frills have been removed, and seafarers are left to live and work in a place which can make a hospital look attractive.”

Flooring, panelling, deck heads, furnishing, all have gone the way of “function over form”, the mission observed. Repeatedly crew taking part in there charity’s Seafarers Happiness Index have described shipboard interiors as being “sterile” and “soulless” and that shared social spaces are not being sufficiently well designed or thought through.

“We talk of mental health, or isolation and lack of social cohesion – but according to seafarers we are not providing living environments which help solve the issues, in fact many say they are part of the problem,” the article posited, adding: “There is an erosion of pride in the profession of seafaring, and it seems that some of that is a reflection of the austere, rubber, plastic, composite, foam and chrome world which seafarers exist in.”

While the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC 2006) addresses many aspects of living spaces and arrangements, the mission described it is “a lowest common denominator” and the legislation, which is due to be updated next year, has failed to capture the changes which could make life better at sea.
The issue of sterile living conditions leading to mental issues at sea has been highlighted for many years.

Occasional Splash contributor, Bei Hong, in an opinion piece from six years ago, compared conditions onboard to budget motorway hotels.

“These establishments offer small, utilitarian accommodation with no more than the absolute basics – somewhere to sleep but certainly not somewhere you would want to spend any more time than is absolutely necessary,”

Hong wrote in a widely read article that was subsequently used as research into conditions onboard ship by an Australian university.

“Of all the advances made in shipping in recent years, be they improving efficiency, safety or environmental protection, one area where we seem to have gone backwards is the environment we expect our crews to live in,” Hong wrote.

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Jason Jiang

Jason is one of the most prolific writers on the diverse China shipping & logistics industry and his access to the major maritime players with business in China has proved an invaluable source of exclusives. Having been working at Asia Shipping Media since inception, Jason is the chief correspondent of Splash and associate editor of Maritime CEO magazine. Previously he had written for a host of titles including Supply Chain Asia, Cargo Facts and Air Cargo Week.

Comments

  1. In my experience the atmosphere on board deteriorated rapidly with the introduction of stair towers and air-conditioning. The accommodation in the sixties gave an air of a small community with sounds of movement, work, conversation and socializing as one walked through it. The protocol was that if you were sleeping or didn’t want to be disturbed, the cabin door would be closed. But if you were open for socializing, etc the door was left open, with what privacy that was desired indicated by the door curtain pulled across. When l started working on a modern tanker l discovered all the doors were spring-loaded to close, stairways were boxed in by a stair tower that was always air-tight with spring loaded doors. In the cabin the low roar of air-conditioning masked any noise from the alleyway.outside. I felt tremendously isolated. The naval architects had had their day, and now life at sea was comparable to that of a monastery or prison. Improving fire protection had destroyed livability.
    I have always believed naval architects should sail on the ships they design. Hopefully this new humane initiative will reverse the asocial and inhuman institutional thinking of shipowners and architects. Does anyone else remember the ‘old’ community of noises and voices emanating from those old ship’s accommodation?

  2. The following dictum l think eloquently expresses my response to change imposed by non-Seafarers upon seafarers. “About Us, Without Us, is not For Us”. This phrase should be tattooed on the forehead of any well-meaning naval architect or degree graduate who gets hired to “improve” life at sea. The core group, the advisors and final arbiters, must be the crews who have to sail in them. Who hasn’t tried to sleep in a cabin where a noisy switch kicks in an out during the night, just on the other side of your bunk bulkhead, destroying sleep? What naval architect has even considered the Human Factor.? I’ve tried to sleep under a noisy autopilot contractor in the console of the deck above my head.
    Some of these irritants can be secured on the first night out of port, but the rest we’re stuck with. I say no to this initiative if it doesn’t include input from seafarers.

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