Sea stress

Simon Doughty, the CEO of Wallem Group, shares his thoughts on the Sailors’ Society’s Wellness at Sea program.

Wallem is committed to ensuring our seafarers have a holistic, well-balanced life at sea and ashore. Beyond making sure seafarers are prepared for their tasks onboard, we’re also committed to helping them, and their families, have happy and fulfilling lives.

That’s why I’m proud to have been a part of the very first discussion about the Wellness at Sea program; and proud to have Wallem be one of the first to execute the program this year.

I remember it quite clearly; it was Christmas time, two years ago. A few leaders in the industry, myself included, came together for the annual Sailors’ Society dinner.

That night we spoke in depth about the changing dynamic in our industry, of the challenges faced by today’s seafarers. As an industry, we’re traditionally very aware of coming to the aid of our colleagues who are injured, or looking after the families and honouring the memories of those who sadly lose their lives at sea.

But there’s still a missing piece of that puzzle – looking after our colleagues who are affected by trauma or those struggling with the hardships we often face when away from our families and friends on land. That night we asked ourselves, how can we better help seafarers have a well-balanced life at sea and ashore?

Shipping isn’t just a job, it’s a career and a way of life that’s brought a lifetime of challenges and fond memories for generations. But that career has changed in recent times. With the introduction of technology, the social dynamics on ships have significantly shifted. No longer do crews sit together and watch movies or play games, forging friendships and getting to know each other. Now, we tend to sit alone, watching our own devices and playing games solo.

This has a serious impact on our relationships at work. No longer are young seafarers ‘tucked under the wing’ of more experienced peers, they’re often (by their own choice) alone in their cabins. Our lack of human connection onboard becomes tangible over time and this is where our new program really comes to light.

The Sailors’ Society’s Wellness program is being executed across our business to help Wallem seafarers build up mental and emotional resilience. These are imperative for a successful shipping career.

Proudly, Wallem is the first company to roll out the Sailors’ Society Wellness program, at Wallem we call it Wellness @ Sea. The program rolled out during our Q2 fleet meetings, and so far it’s been a great success.

Up until now, fleet officers meetings seem to be full of technical talk or piracy risk. I’m relieved to see this program bring a human element to our meetings, showing the softer side of Wallem. We’re a company that truly cares about our people, these types of trainings are the reason why I believe we continue to move forward as a company in the right direction all the time.

Our facilitator, Johan Smith, is an excellent presenter. Johan is an expert in his field with extensive experience dealing with seafarers at sea and on shore – that type of experience brings a unique level of authenticity to the Wallem program.

The feedback from Wallem seafarers from all ranks was that Wellness @ Sea is a very practical guide on awareness, mindset, coping skills and support structure. After completing the session, our seafarers have shared they feel they’re able to more effectively take charge of their own wellbeing. Importantly, they also know it will arm them with the skills to identify colleagues that need help and support.

That’s a huge relief and a notable morale boost for our senior management team. Most of Wallem’s senior leaders have spent many years at sea. We know how difficult it can be and we’re always actively seeking ways to help relieve that stress for our staff and their families.

From here, we continue our company-wide roll out of the Wellness @ Sea program, supporting our teams at sea and on shore. I look forward to hearing more positive feedback from our business leaders and seafarers.

Simon Doughty was writing in response to an article on Splash last week that looked at Hong Kong line Wah Kwong’s pilot training program to address mental wellbeing among crews, which is accessible here.


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