Government recommendations published in wake of seafarer Covid survey

A new report from an international research team led by the University of the Philippines Visayas reveals which interventions were offered to seafarers during the pandemic – and which they believed were most valuable in helping to manage mental health and wellbeing.

The team, which included the World Maritime University and the University of Plymouth, has made a series of recommendations to employers and government on the back of the survey results.

The recommendations include asking employers to improve efforts to support seafarers’ mental health and wellbeing onboard such as but not limited to videos, books, or other materials on psychological resilience, self- support, peer counselling, or good mental health. Owners have been asked to prioritise facilitating timely crew changes, the provision of immediate family support, an increase in wifi data allowance, and the reduction of overtime hours.

We must recognise that seafarers are humans first, workers second

Recommendations to other stakeholders include getting governments to ensure that seafarers are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and classing seafarers as essential, or front line, workers.

Almost 80% of of the more than 1,400 seafarers surveyed said the most common intervention provided by employers during the pandemic were regular updates on crew changes and Covid-19, followed by timely crew changes (57%) and provisions of sufficient and high-quality PPE (53%).

Facilitating timely crew changes were listed by 79% of seafarers as the most useful action an employer could provide while 68% said that the provision of immediate family support would have been the second most useful – something that only 21.9% of companies provided.

The most common interventions by industry stakeholders experienced by seafarers were positive collegial atmosphere onboard (77%), physical exercise (70%) and casual counselling among crew members (70%).

However, those listed by seafarers as being most useful were communicating with family (87%) and being prioritised for vaccination (77.6%).

A total of 1,412 seafarers took part in the survey sponsored by Lloyds Register Foundation. Filipinos made up 67% of the respondents, with 8% Chinese although the pilot study included seafarers from several countries also including Brazil, India, Jamaica, Japan and the UK. The average age of respondents was 30 years old and 96% were male. More than half of respondents (67%) had non-permanent contracts.

Senior programme manager at Lloyds Register Foundation, Olivia Swift said: “There’s a real disparity between what has been provided and what seafarers believe they would have found most valuable in terms of mental health… We must recognise that seafarers are humans first, workers second and this pilot study shows that both companies and other stakeholders could do more to provide support. These findings will hopefully be of great interest and use to maritime charities and employers.”

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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