Last Updated on September 29, 2023
Physical and mental challenges are almost a staple in the life of a seafarer. While working at sea is always exciting and thrilling, it’s common for most seafarers to deal with mental health issues.
Why Do Seafarers Feel Unhappy?
The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, or IOSH, revealed several reasons many seafarers experience unhappiness. These include lack of shore leave, separation from the family, fear of job loss, fear of criminalization, loneliness, and isolation.
The institution’s research discovered that seafarers noted several ship-specific factors depressing, including excessive work, poor food, and inability to take shore leave. Concerns related to the crew, such as boredom, fatigue, poor relationships with superiors, blame, discrimination, and a bossy captain, play a critical role.
The following are several helpful strategies for seafarers and shipping companies to promote mental health at sea.
Better Internet Facility
Many seafarers consider connectivity to have a positive impact on onboard safety. In contrast, others claimed that access to the internet strongly influences their decisions on where their workplace will be.
Internet access at sea is one of the most critical aspects for seafarers regarding their emotional well-being because it makes it easy to communicate with their family and friends. This also helps seafarers stay updated worldwide to prevent complete disconnect.
Although the Internet on ships has advantages and disadvantages, seafarers prefer to have it at sea.
Improve Global Wages
Seafarers work hard to make a living, and it’s pretty sad to hear about instances where their wages are deducted, delayed, or even withheld. There are also cases where wages have stayed the same or even decreased. Some seafarers also don’t receive benefits from their companies. For this reason, a timely deliverance and a revision in the pay scale are worth considering.
Increase Shore Leave
Shore leave will always be the best and only relaxation seafarers enjoy. A seafarer’s job comes with the benefit of being able to travel. However, things are starting to change because of faster turnaround times.
Aside from this, some seafarers are not granted shore leave in certain countries, which can be disappointing, particularly after long-distance voyages.
After the long days on end out at sea and the constant hard work, seafarers yearn for at least a delicious meal, a change of surroundings, and some time to go sightseeing. Robbing them of this change can be very harsh, so increasing shore leave might be a wonderful gift for their mental health and well-being.
Monitor Corruption and Fraudulent Agents
As the imbalance between the seafarers’ supply and demand continues to increase, leading to inadequate jobs in the current market, young professionals constantly find themselves dissatisfied.
This job shortage has resulted in more fraudulent agents who use fake promises to dupe fresh graduates. Both maritime organizations and government agencies need to prevent these malpractices to help protect the seafarers’ hard-earned money and avoid tarnishing the overall image of the marine industry.
More Accessible Organizational Support
Several organizations work to promote the welfare of seafarers. But many have no idea how to contact these organizations when they’re in need.
Although some seafarers contact these organizations during emergencies, many complain about not receiving any reply.
Despite the efforts of these organizations to provide better assistance, there are still a lot of things that should be done. For instance, they may try to ensure that mental health professionals are available on demand or onboard to assist seafarers through tough times.
The most exciting time for seafarers is the day they sign off after the end of their contract. After long months of working hard, they can return to their families and friends at home, eagerly waiting for their return.
But it’s heartbreaking that after all the plans and arrangements are made, seafarers still need to wait for weeks or even months before repatriating, resulting in great distress. Hopefully, all shipping companies will soon make it a norm to observe timely repatriation instead of being just something available in top firms.
Prevent Abandonment of Seafarers
The past few years have seen cases of abandonment of seafarers. There are instances where owners abandoned vessels with limited resources because of insufficient funds to pay their dues to some entities.
It’s already stressful to be out of the sea, and things can worsen when abandonment occurs. Organizations in charge of seafarers’ welfare should ensure they are appropriately handled during these cases. However, they can’t become the correctional and monitoring authority.
An overhaul in seafarers’ perception as a critical force in the supply chain is necessary. These professionals shouldn’t only be seen as hard-working people who can be left alone to care for themselves.
The current commercial pressures tightened vessel operations and made them more demanding, with the need to adhere to legislation and deal with mounting paperwork. Although companies may not instruct seafarers to take shortcuts, there are cases when it’s only time to tend to the voyage and its different demands. Preventing criminalization has become imperative to protect seafarers from further stress.
The Need for Mental Health Promotion for Seafarers
Now more than ever, the shipping industry and all concerned authorities should take the necessary steps to improve and support the mental health of today’s seafarers. It’s quite unfortunate that many shipping companies take the mental health of their workers onboard for granted.
It shouldn’t be difficult for them to have a helpline or hire a counselor onboard to whom seafarers can open up and ensure that their pains and struggles don’t pile up inside them.