Seafarer support charity Sailors' Society has unveiled a new coaching and support programme designed to promote health and well-being among the world's seafarers. Named Wellness at Sea, the industry led programme aims to equip seafarers with the resources to cope with the stresses of life at sea including mental health issues, isolation and fatigue – both for themselves and for their shipmates who may be struggling. The programme addresses five specific needs: social, emotional, physical, intellectual and spiritual wellness.
"Seafarers are not just occupational beings, but unique, multidimensional human beings," Wellness at Sea project manager Johan Smith (pictured) told The Marine Professional, adding that the programme would promote cultural awareness, emotional intelligence and social skills alongside more familiar skills competence. He stated that he hoped the initiative would bring about a cultural change within companies and increase retention of seafarers.
Sailors' Society will offer the course at two levels for Cadets and Officers. In 2015 the Officer Programme will be offered to selected companies to integrate with their in-house training programmes. The Cadet Programme will be available through maritime training colleges working in partnership with the charity.
The initiative has already garnered support from RightShip, Wah Kwong, Pacific Basin and Wallem. RightShip has pledged AUD70,000 to the cause, which will contribute to Sailor Society's plan to roll the coaching programme out to seafarers in South Africa, Namibia, China, Hong Kong, and the Philippines. Smith says the programme is a proactive initiative that will equip seafarers with a range of knowledge and skills that can prevent rather than cure, minimise instead of react. He hopes that attendees will pass on the lessons they have learned to crew-mates and others under their command.
"Fatigue, poor mental health, stress and many other issues all affect seafarers going about their daily work, and can be the difference between a safe transit and a major incident," said Sailors' Society CEO Stuart Rivers. "By choosing to be person-centred instead of problem-centred, we are focussing on people: the centre point around which the industry revolves."
Tim Huxley, CEO of Wah Kwong Maritime Transport feels that the term 'human error' disguises the variety of underlying problems that seafarers face: "Problems such as loneliness and separation from friends and family lead to many seafarers abandoning a seagoing career. If we can identify these problems early and empower masters and senior officers to deal with them as they arise, we have a much better chance of solving this problem. Wellness at Sea is not looking to add the role of the parish priest to the established skillsets of our captains, but instead to support crew retention and show commitment to our colleagues at sea."