The marine industry is constantly striving to improve safety levels and its own standards, be it in design or operation, to ensure sustainable and successful business. However, it often fails to recognise that a major part of success in any workplace is reliant upon three crucial elements: the overall happiness of the workforce, staff that feel supported and people that feel valued.
Statistics suggest that we are failing to deliver these three vital workplace requirements, with studies revealing an alarming number of seafarers have considered self-harm, taking their own lives or suffer from varying levels of depression and work-related stress. Such grave findings force us to consider the question - are we doing enough to address the issue of mental health and wellbeing in the marine industry?
The challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic has demanded drastic changes to our way of life and thus altered our wellbeing at work. It has shone a spotlight on the shortcomings in an industry that is not empathetic enough to the needs of its workforce and must take a greater level of ownership for the welfare of its professionals.
The current solution to this unprecedented situation has simply been to ‘stay at home’. However, this has often been instructed with little thought to the implications this can have on mental health and wellbeing. More than ever before, a workforce may feel isolated, depressed and/or stressed about their financial future. Combined with concerns for the health of their families all while being confined to small spaces that are often unsatisfactory for working in at home, 2020 has seen a myriad of challenges emerge that employees face and have to deal with on a daily basis.
The effects of the COVID-19 crisis extends far beyond the shoreline, with seafarers stranded on ships after being denied entry into ports due to local quarantine or lockdown rules. Crew changes have been minimised to adhere to social distancing guidelines, which has come with the consequence of extended tours of duty, stress and fatigue along with mental health issues associated with being separated from their families at such a difficult time.
The IMarEST has launched a marine mental health & wellbeing initiative to position itself in a pivotal role to address the complex issues discussed above. Embarking on the course towards practical solutions, it has created a Nexus group, where the IMarEST membership are able to share their experiences, views, ideas and best practices in a safe environment where they can be heard and supported.
The Institute will also be taking the lead by hosting a series of mental health & wellbeing webinars, following experts who will analyse the current situation faced by seafarers and other marine workers to set the scene and propose interventions as the industry transitions into the post-COVID era. The Institute will discuss with regulators, industry employers and employees to gather views and influence for bringing a positive change in the industry and the marine profession.
We ask the membership to please join the Nexus group to follow and contribute to the discussions, sharing your experiences and expertise with the IMarEST membership so that we can overcome this systemic issue together.