Germanwings tragedy should serve as wake-up call for shipping: Sailor’s Society

Germanwings tragedy should serve as wake-up call for shipping: Sailor’s Society

Singapore: Contrary to a recent report from Bimco and the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) claiming seafarers were largely content with life at sea, Johan Smith from the charity Sailors’ Society has warned of severe mental health issues affecting many serving onboard today. Nine days ago Bimco and ICS released a manpower survey which suggested seafarers are increasingly happy at sea. Smith, who is behind the charity’s new Wellness at Sea programme, pointed to recent research from Swansea University in the UK which showed that seafaring is the career with the second highest suicide rate in the world after coal mining.

“This must be a wake-up call,” said Smith.

Incidents of mental breakdowns at sea are commonplace, Smith said, pointing to the recent murder of two Chinese crew by a fellow seafarer on a ship to the south of the Philippines.

“You hear many stories about violence,” Smith said, adding ominously, “For companies to address mental health is very important, especially in the wake of the Germanwings accident.” Last month a co-pilot caused the death of 150 people by steering his plane into the side of a mountain. The pilot was later found to have been suffering from mental issues.

Smith also noted that insurance companies had been paying “into the billions every year” for accidents happening at sea caused by human error.

Sailor’s Society, one of the largest seafarer support charities operating internationally, has used Singapore Maritime Week to launch its unique Wellness at Sea coaching and support programme to Asia’s shipping industry.

Wellness at Sea has been designed to promote health and well-being among the world’s seafarers by promoting cultural awareness, emotional intelligence, social skills and spiritual well-being alongside more familiar skills competence.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.

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