The International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) held a seminar on the health of seafarers at the Danish Shipowners’ Association in Copenhagen on 10th November. A number of speakers from across the shipping industry were invited to present on subjects related to protecting the health and wellbeing of seafarers. Attendees represented shipping companies, P&I clubs, government organisations, unions, and welfare organisations.
Presentations focused on the main aims of the seminar: to highlight the common health issues affecting seafarers; to investigate successful health programmes for seafarers; and to discuss areas of health improvement that need further development. A common theme throughout speaking sessions and discussions was the importance of working in partnership to make a positive impact on seafarers’ health. This was highlighted by Louise Hall of Shipowners’ P&I (seminar sponsors) in reference to the Club’s recent partnership with ISWAN, and other presentations demonstrated how vital co-operation is across the industry. Presentations from shipping companies Anglo Eastern and MF Shipping Group discussed successful health programmes in which seafarers’ feedback, concerns and requests played an important part. Collaborative working was further emphasised in sessions about the roles of unions, government and welfare organisations in keeping seafarers healthy.
Common obstacles to seafarers’ health were cited such as the effects of long periods away from family on mental wellbeing, and the difficulties of maintaining a healthy diet and regular exercise regime when battling fatigue or a heavy workload. There are some innovative approaches that have had success in dealing with these challenges on board, as discussed by Capt Pradeep Chawla (Anglo Eastern Shipmanagement), Capt Tjeerd van Noord (MF Shipping Group) and Chris Little (Garrets International). In addition, the prevalence of some other health issues were highlighted by some of the other speakers. For example, the issue of dehydration on board and also the frequency of back pain and injuries were recurring examples of challenges on board during the day.
The progress of digital technology and opportunities to improve health using online programmes was a central point of the presentations from Dr Olivia Swift, Research Impact Manager at RHUL, Kimberly Karlshoej, head of the ITF Seafarers’ Trust and Roger Harris, Executive Director of ISWAN. A particular point to take away from these sessions was the importance of recent developments in health improvement, and the potential for reaching seafarers more effectively by using digital technology.
A number a valuable insights were raised by presenters and attendees at the seminar which ISWAN will now aim to incorporate into future health initiatives. As a membership organisation with a history of providing information and services on health and wellbeing to seafarers, ISWAN intends to continue to develop strong working relationships across the industry to make long term improvements to the health of seafarers worldwide.
For further details of ISWAN’s health programmes please contact Caitlin Vaughan.