Poor diets reduce seafarer productivity

A new survey by the World Health Organisation (WHO) has shown that an unhealthy diet can cause a 20% reduction in productivity levels among seafarers.

MCTC, an international catering management company, believes this statistic should be taken seriously by vessel managers, operators and crews around the world.

Christian Ioannou, managing director of MCTC, said: “Studies from recent years show that what you eat has a direct impact on your work performance. Energy comes from glucose, which can be found in almost everything we eat. However, the rate at which our bodies convert food into glucose – which our brains need to keep us alert – is dependent on what we consume.”

Foods such as bread, pasta and cereal release glucose quickly, causing a spike and then slump in energy. High-fat meals involving cheeseburgers and French fries provide more sustained energy, but the body has to work harder to break them down – reducing oxygen levels in the brain and making someone feel groggy.

Nichole Stylianou, a nutritionist at MCTC, added: “Vitamins and minerals affect our mental and physical health. Food provides the body with essential nutrients. For example, vitamin C prevents symptoms of scurvy and also lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol – while complex carbohydrates increase the production of serotonin, commonly known as the happiness chemical.”

Diets with high levels of vitamin D and other minerals have also been shown to improve the body’s immune system.

The MCTC had previously criticised the keto diet, favoured by many celebrities. This high-fat, high protein, low carbohydrate diet which forces the body to burn fats rather than carbohydrates can cause adverse health effects in some individuals.

Andrew Cox

During the 1990s, Dr Andrew Cox was the editor of UK Coal Review and was a regular writer and commentator on the international coal trade and related infrastructure developments. Post-2000, he has been a freelance writer, CPD trainer and project consultant. He focuses on developments in the energy, chemicals, shipping and port sectors.


  1. Food Inspection and Training ltd was created in response to MLC 3.2 . Led by David Steele ex British Army Master Cook . http://www.foodinspectiontraining.com . A happy ship is a safe ship is a well fed ship . Amazingly ,the military cost per head per day is 1/3rd of the merchant fleet . The amount of food wastage is criminal. The costs involved with food poisoning are huge and dangerous.
    Contact with David at FIT Cheers Jonathan

  2. It’s not mainly poor diet. it’s the load of work. specially those who works in the galley. They are working 12-16 hours a day without even having a proper meal because of load of work. Then overtimes are not properly calculated because of ILO. Everyone finishes late because of intensive cleaning and waking up at 430 am for inspection when internal people who inspects usually comes at 8-9 in the morning.

  3. In my experience on live animal export ships, poor diets for crew not only reduce productivity but they endanger health of both crew and the animals on board. Most of the live export shipping companies I worked for had a massive difference between what the officers mess served and what the ‘general crew- (guys who worked 12 hour physical shifts 7 days a week, 10 month long contracts doing very physical labour looking after the animals were provided. Shovelling manure, carrying heavy bags of fodder and dismembering and disposing of dead animals to the sea in hot humid decks is exhausting). The deck crew were often lethargic and depressed and when I saw that they were essentially being filled up on cheap carbs/potatoes etc floating in a sea of flavoured oil for their caloric intake I could understand. Meanwhile the officers mess was a veritable buffet from salads to fresh high protein options. I had crew searching the decks for stranded flying fish to eat. I also had crew asking for the dead animal bodies to supplement their rations. As a Veterinarian onboard I had to explain that any animal that had died on the ship was likely carrying disease/s and or was full of medication- neither fit for human consumption. One crew was so desperate for meat that I found them on deck with empty garbage bags cutting off the less rotten/ visually diseased parts of recently deceased animals- all the meat was unfit for consumption. I guarantee no one in the ‘board rooms’ would be wanting to share in that proposed meal. Live export seafarers have a very challenging workplace and need special dietary consideration accordingly.

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