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Social Interaction Matters (SIM)

Building positive relationships with others is important for our wellbeing. For seafarers working away from home for long periods, it can be difficult to remain in close contact with family and friends, so the opportunity to connect with other seafarers can be a major benefit. However, long working hours, smaller crews, and cultural differences mean there can be barriers to socialising with shipmates.

Aims and objectives

Our Social Interaction Matters (SIM) project aims to help shipping and ship management companies improve seafarers’ social interaction on board, and to positively impact the wellbeing of their seafarers through using programmes with proven success. The project will:

  1. Identify methods to help shipping and ship management companies enhance social interaction on board
  2. Develop a toolkit which documents evidence-based recommendations for enhancing social life on board
  3. Encourage shipping and ship management companies to adopt recommendations which help to reduce social isolation of seafarers

Benefits to shipping and ship management companies

Shipping and ship management companies can make a big difference to the happiness of their seafarers with some relatively straightforward changes. In most cases, this is also likely to contribute to a seafarer’s job satisfaction, motivation and productivity.

Along with the moral motivations for providing opportunities for social activities on board, there are likely to be a number of business benefits:

  • Senior officers showing that health and wellbeing is a priority demonstrates its importance as a workplace issue and ensures that it is a shared priority across the business1.
  • There is strong evidence that addressing wellbeing in the workplace ashore can increase productivity by as much as 12%2. This is likely to be the case for seafarers and their work on board.
  • Diverse crews which include different age groups, genders and cultural backgrounds may have the potential to be more creative and productive; therefore, facilitating crew cohesion and ensuring minorities on board do not feel isolated, is a worthwhile investment.
  • Evidence that a company works to ensure the best possible on board culture will help them to attract highly skilled seafarers and to retain them.

How can companies participate?

We are approaching companies who prioritise the wellbeing of their seafarers to share information about their efforts to improve crew cohesion on board. As well as the benefits listed above, participating companies will have the opportunity to:

  • Receive research and industry informed recommendations on how to strengthen current internal social-interaction programmes on board
  • Contribute to important and potentially wide reaching research on the impact of social interaction on board
  • Gain publicity generated by the project and be highlighted as a company committed to improving and supporting the well being of seafarers
  • Benefit first hand from happier, healthier, safer and more engaged crew on board

Please contact caitlin.vaughan@iswan.org.uk for more information on joining the pilot project.

Webinar on Phase One survey results

On 9 July 2020, we held a webinar to present the initial findings from the Social Interaction Matters (SIM) survey, which was distributed to maritime professionals throughout April and May 2020. Find out more and watch the webinar here.

Phase One – Project Report

On 5 January 2021, we published a report for Phase One of the SIM Project. The research in this phase consisted of a large survey of seafarers and other maritime stakeholders as well as 10 in-depth telephone interviews, which examined the relevant drivers and barriers to the promotion of social interaction and specific activities which seafarers around the world identified as helping to engage people.

Download the full report here and a summary of the findings here. We are also publishing a series of articles focusing on the themes emerging from the research - these can be viewed here:

  1. Social Interaction Matters – Leading by example (February 2021)
  2. Social Interaction Matters – Combatting the impacts of COVID-19 (March 2021)
  3. Social Interaction Matters – What works well on board? (April 2021)

Connecting Crew campaign

From 29 June to 10 July 2020, we held a two-week digital campaign to highlight the importance of connecting with others for crew wellbeing. All the resources can be found here.

1 https://mhfaengland.org/mhfa-centre/news/cbi-front-of-mind/
2 https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/how-support-mental-health-work

Project resources

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