New research on board commercial merchant ships has provided a unique insight into life on board and the benefits of social interaction for crew wellbeing.
In a report released today, the International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) details the findings from phase two of its Social Interaction Matters (SIM) Project and provides actionable guidance and recommendations for shipping and ship management companies, seafarers and other maritime stakeholders. The project is funded by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and the Red Ensign Group (REG), who sponsored the project with the help of Trinity House and funding from the UK Government.
The SIM Project’s phase two research gathered first-hand accounts from the seafarers of 21 vessels from 10 different shipping companies operating worldwide, and examined the data to explore the impacts, drivers and barriers of social interaction whilst living and working on board. The research took place between November 2020 and January 2022 and coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic, the pervasive influence of which is demonstrated and explored throughout the report.
Dr Kate Pike, the SIM Project’s Research Lead, said:
The findings highlight the importance of engaged and visible leadership both on board and ashore, to support and encourage crew participation in any social activities. Vessels in the SIM trials that supported their crew in this were able to mitigate the effects of long hours, numerous port calls and other factors that otherwise lowered mood. The report also states that more clearly established boundaries are needed between work and rest time on board.
From these findings, along with those from the project’s phase one, ISWAN has developed a set of actionable guidance and recommendations for shipping and ship management companies, seafarers and other maritime stakeholders to improve opportunities for crew to socially interact. These are designed to help promote a varied programme of social events, tailored to different crew needs and diversities, and different voyage plans and vessel specifications.
Among the report recommendations is the appointment of a voluntary Social Ambassador on board every vessel to help convene social activities and promote crew engagement. ISWAN also recommends free WiFi services for all crew to stay in touch with family and friends and access online entertainment; and frequent review of recreation facilities to ensure they meet the crew’s preferences and needs.
The report concludes that further research is needed into the effects of fatigue and tiredness, and their impact on seafarer mental health. ISWAN plans to continue the development of SIM as a long-term project for seafarer wellbeing, starting with a controlled evaluation of the effectiveness of the project’s guidance and recommendations which ISWAN hopes will lead to its establishment as a continuing resource for the sector.
Georgia Allen, ISWAN’s Project Manager, said:
Katy Ware, Director of UK Maritime Services & Permanent Representative of the UK to the IMO, Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), said:
ISWAN’s Social Interaction Matters (SIM) Project Phase Two Report can be downloaded here.
For more information about the report and/or the project, please contact Georgia Allen, Project Manager at ISWAN, at email@example.com.
If you would like to be kept up to date about ISWAN's Social Interaction Matters (SIM) Project, please sign up to our SIM Project mailing list here.