Each month, we are sharing a discussion piece written by a member of the maritime industry who can offer a unique or interesting perspective on an aspect of seafarers’ welfare. You can join the conversation on our social media channels – Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
This month, PsyFyi Founder and CEO Claire Georgeson explains how collecting data on crew mood and wellbeing can be used to tackle risk and make the shipping industry safer.
Having spent nearly 15 years in commercial shipping, PsyFyi's Co-Founder and CEO Claire Georgeson recognised the need for professional support onshore and at sea. Her passion for change has never been greater having had first-hand experience of both the good and the bad side of shipping and its actors. She believes that continuous monitoring of wellbeing onboard should be industry standard to enable stakeholders to see trends in real time and act decisively – to prevent incidents (large and small) before they happen. Claire holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Warwick and an MBA from Bayes Business School (formally Cass Business School), and is also a co-author of Maritime Informatics.
Shipping is a hotbed of innovation, technology and safety efficiency. In the past five years, we have seen some amazing initiatives, including the maritime industry’s moon-shot goal of fuelling the shipping supply chain with zero carbon fuels by 2030. There have been advances made in the blockchain of ledgers increasing efficiency, some incredible innovation with ship building and fuel consumptions, and a myriad of companies looking to solve problems like ship-shore communications and sat comm issues.
These active projects cover well-to-wake supply chains, and truly show what can be done when we work together to find a solution.
Therefore, it is bizarre that in an industry where safety and efficiency are underwritten and guaranteed in even the most basic charter party contracts, we still don’t seem to understand what is HAPPENING on board our vessels and to our seafarers.
The old rhetoric of ‘97% of maritime accidents are caused by human error’ is one that gripes on me. For an industry so focused on safety, reporting and sustainability, it is beyond comprehension that the last chain in the link – the human element – is the one that is so misunderstood. Why is that? If the industry can work together to solve decarbonisation, then why is it struggling to understand the increase of risk onboard associated with how we are feeling?
Here is an example: You have a hard day at work which has left you feeling upset, tired and stressed. You’re keen to get home. You jump in your car and you drive, slightly erratically and faster than you perhaps normally would. You take a few more risks than normal by driving through amber lights when you know you should have stopped. But you are keen to get home as quickly as possible and thus take a few more risks. In short, your risk profile has risen because of events which took place earlier in the day. You have chosen to make certain poor choices based on your mood.
So what happens when ‘the hard day at the office’ is also your refuge? For seafarers, their work environment is their living environment, and their ‘friends’ are also their ‘colleagues’.
The answer is: risk steadily increases. The more despondent we begin to feel towards a certain action or thing, the less care we take with it.
There will be many people who might find that blaming the crew for accidents or lack of engagement whilst on board is a good reason to exonerate themselves or their companies from taking any action. Perhaps they don’t believe that there’s a solution to hand to help answer these difficult questions, such as: ‘Can I identify how people are feeling and what risks may occur if their mood doesn’t improve?’. Perhaps they are still to be convinced of the benefits of happier crew being more productive, behaving more responsibly, working more efficiently and, ultimately, making the operations and processes onboard safer.
Is there a solution to this steadily increasing risk? Yes. And it’s low cost, easy to implement, and provides enhanced care to seafarers whilst also enabling an owner to get a deep dive into what is going on onboard their vessels.
The global nature of the shipping industry means that ship owners, operators and crew managers are being driven to find commercial and operational efficiencies. Yet the simplest, more cost-effective method is to understand what is really happening on board to all your crew. Expensive emergency evacuations or deviations required to remove crew who are suffering from debilitating fatigue could be a thing of the past if that fatigue never becomes debilitating. Being able to understand how seafarers are doing at a moment in time, collecting this anonymously on an ongoing basis, then preventing risk from occurring with direct intervention is one of the most commercially savvy things a ship owner can do. It is more effective than offboarding surveys, monthly check-ins, daily chats with the Master, drinks at a crew seminar and, critically, waiting for when things go wrong.
PsyFyi runs 'SeaQ', a continuous monitoring system which collects, anonymises and examines various factors within vessel crews and individual users. The data is analysed by PsyFyi's team and reported back to the stakeholders (including owners, managers, insurers and the vessel itself). Emerging trends which may cause harm to the vessel, her crew or cargo are immediately raised with the relevant party – and ways of reducing this risk recommended.
PsyFyi has worked hard to cultivate a product which works seamlessly via WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger (because we recognise the logistical problems of an app) and asks the seafarer one question every two days. These questions are all categorised, which means that we can report the trends back to the owner or crew manager in an easily digestible way. Our reporting highlights categories which have scored the highest in their fleet (i.e. which are performing the best), and those that are underperforming and ranked the lowest. This is where risk can increase, and our reports come complete with a breakdown by our in-house psychologists on easy-to-implement changes.
For the seafarer, if at any stage they feel that they need to speak to a psychologist directly then they can do so, 24/7, 365 days of the year, in a multitude of languages, and a psychologist will respond.
This industry needs real, tangible insight which will make operations on board safer, the reputation of the company stronger and the lives of seafarers better, and these are the three key metrics for Environmental, Social, and Governance compliance (ESG).
It’s high time for the maritime industry to level up and start protecting itself and the supply chain by monitoring its people on an ongoing basis. Other industries have been doing it for years – and shipping needs to not just catch up, but take the lead.
Safer people and products. An ethically-sound supply chain. And a shipping industry proactively identifying issues (positive and negative), sharing learnings and becoming a contributor to stability, sustainability and scalability in global trade? That’s real innovation.
Find out more about PsyFyi and its work at www.psy-fyi.com.