Ensuring the wellbeing of crew brings business benefits, speakers told the Sailors’ Society Wellness at Sea conference on 16 March.
In his opening speech, Stuart Rivers, CEO of Sailors’ Society, said, “The result of not looking after crew is costly and will hit your bottom line at some point. You have a duty of care to the seafarers you employ. There is a need to spread this message far and wide to equip seafarers for the challenges they might face at sea.”
Meanwhile, Paddy Rodgers, CEO of Euronav, added his voice to the many at the conference calling for shipping to deal with and confront all aspects of wellness as a responsible, modern industry.
“The idea [that shipping can] somehow ignore mental health or aspects of looking after crew as 'not our business' is completely and utterly ridiculous. Who are we leaving it to: the captain, chief engineer, a colleague, a roommate? They will have to engage and deal with the problem without us supporting or equipping them in any way. It is negligence and it is costly. This is not an argument about altruism; it is about enlightened self-interest.”
Rodgers pointed to the downturn in the tanker market in 2011–13 as a time when Euronav’s accident record worsened. “Why? Our budgets didn’t come down and we didn’t spend less money but I think the hearts and minds of everyone ashore was on the market and that could be felt at sea. They [seafarers] were visited less. We thought there were more important things and we took our eye off the ball.”
Since then Rodgers said accidents had been reduced by going on board more often, listening to crew “and focusing on what mattered to try to drive the agenda”. There has also been the creation of safety ambassadors on board and the launch of a ‘Safety starts with me’ campaign.
“Observations through vetting can insure against accidents but not lost days if an inspectordoesn’t like the way the ship looks or feel crew are neglected,” Rodgers stressed. “When we nailed safety we nailed quality. Our ships became more efficient and the ships began doing better. Our share price then goes up. It is A, B, C, D. Wellness at sea is not a bolt-on or another thing to annoy the captain or company with; this is absolutely central to run a good business in a quality environment. It can be frightening as well, but you can make a difference and then you wonder why you didn’t do it earlier.”
The need to spread this message outside the conference to other shipowners was noted by a number of attendees, including Drew Brandy, senior vice-president of maritime market strategy at Inmarsat, who said, “It is not about legislation alone, but [about] a culture and mind shift in the industry. Part of that is in understanding the financial impact. People here today subscribe to this and understand, but people who sit outside of this room and are looking at the bottom line, such as an owner with just five vessels, don’t necessarily realisethe impact [wellness can have] on their operation. We need wider visibility to understand the real impact and the need to address issues from the human perspective but also to understand the financial impact of putting people on board that aren’t well.”
Rivers stressed there was no silver bullet but “there are some really good programmes, like Wellness at Sea and others”, that can help shipowners to look after crew wellbeing.
The Sailors’ Society Wellness at Sea app focuses on a holistic view of ‘wellness’, focusing on maintaining good social, emotional, physical, intellectual, and spiritual wellbeing.Rivers said that so far the app had helped to train more than 4,000 crew, of all ranks, with 1,800 online students undergoing training and more than 100 trainers delivering wellness at sea training around the world.
Contact Tanya Blake or follow on twitter @Tanya_Blake