The Crew Welfare Week took place from 20 to 22 June 2023, focusing on how to discuss and embrace the role of the seafarers in shipping.
The shipping industry, the invisible industry for the public transports more than 90% of the goods with approx. 50,000 merchant ships trading internationally, transporting every kind of cargo. The world fleet is registered in over 150 nations and manned by nearly 2 million seafarers.
The worldwide population of seafarers serving on internationally trading merchant ships as per ICS/BIMCO is estimated at 1,892,720 seafarers, of which 857,540 are officers and 1,035,180 are ratings with Philippines, Russian Federation, Indonesia, China and India being the largest suppliers of seafarers on the oceangoing merchant ships.
The event was organized by SAFETY4SEA having MacGregor and SQE MARINE as lead sponsors. Other event sponsors were: The American Club, Arcadia Shipmanagement Co. Ltd., Blue Planet Shipping Ltd., Capital-Executive Ship Management Corp., Capital Gas Ship Management Corp., Capital Ship Management Corp., Columbia Ship Management, Diaplous Group, DNV, Dorian LPG, Eastern Mediterranean Maritime Limited (EASTMED), EURONAV, Green-Jakobsen A/S, I.M.E.Q. Center, Latsco Shipping Limited, NorthStandard, OSM Thome, RISK4SEA, SEAFiT, Steamship Mutual, UK P&I Club, V.Group, VIKAND, WellAtSea.
The event was supported by the following organizations: Australian Mariners Welfare Society (AMWS), HELMEPA, InterManager, ISWAN, Sustainable Shipping Initiative (SSI), The Mission to Seafarers, WISTA Hellas.
DAY 1 – Tuesday 20 June
Opening the event, Apo Belokas, Managing Editor, SAFETY4SEA, explained that for a third year, this unique industry initiative aims to bring together many of the stakeholders to discuss how to join forces and improve living and working conditions onboard.
“Partnerships is the key priority for shipping for the time being as collaboration is the new fuel. In this respect, it is extremely important for all industry stakeholders to collaborate and support crew welfare with more initiatives, more projects and more tools.”, Apo Belokas said.
The event started with a key video message from Kitack Lim, Secretary-General, IMO, who reminded that once again this time of the year we celebrate the International Day of Seafarer on June 25th, to honor their contribution to the safety of ships and protection of the marine environment. Kitack Lim highlighted that every day seafarers are requested to implement rules on garbage, sewage and air pollution strategy. On the occasion of MARPOL’s 50-year anniversary and as shipping industry accelerates its support of the global efforts to combat climate change, IMO has chosen to focus this special day on how seafarers protect the marine environment, our ocean and planet. ‘
“Seafarers are key to ensuring a just transition to a zero-carbon future”, Kitack Lim said.
Session #1: Ship Managers Session – Panel Discussion
Ship managers and operators need to keep promoting efforts targeting both the physical and the mental health of crew onboard. In the first panel, moderated by Joanna Koukouli, Co-Global Claims & Managing Director, The American Club, the following ship managers shared their perspectives on crew welfare: Capt. Faouzi Fradi, Director, Crewing and Training, Columbia Shipmanagement; Capt. Shashank Jahagirdar, Managing Director, Synergy Nordic Shipmanagement Pvt Ltd; Sunil Kapoor, Director, FML Ship Management Limited; Matthew Los, CEO, Blue Planet Shipping Ltd; and Praveen Shukla, Crewing Director, Wallem Group
Session #2: Human Sustainability in Shipping
Ronald Spithout, Managing Director, OneHealth by VIKAND, challenged the industry to rethink its human wellness strategy and consider a Crew Asset Management approach. Through proactive care supported by modern technology, ship owners and operators can help optimize vessel operations and improve seafarer wellbeing with regular “predictive maintenance,” just as they would with any other valuable onboard asset, he pinpointed.
Session #3: Physical Wellness
Christopher L. Hall, Managing Director, Hong Kong, The American Club, highlighted the importance of quality and adequate sleep for people onboard. Sleep at sea can play a critical role to seafarers’ safety and health and industry needs to make the promotion of better sleep a priority. ‘’Ensuring sufficient, quality sleep is not just an individual responsibility—it’s an organizational one.’’, he argued and presented useful toolkits to create a sleep- inducing environment onboard.
Sandra Welch, CEO, Seafarers Hospital Society, referred to key aspects of physical wellness onboard, mentioning that the organization has recently launched a free Seafarer Health Consultation Guide to assist interactions between seafarers and health professionals with the aim of improving healthcare outcomes and meeting the unique needs of seafarers. Their next step is to develop best practice and performance indicators for seafarers’ health to create the ‘caring culture’ that is often lacking in the industry, she concluded.
Session #4: Physical Wellness – Panel Discussion
Physical Wellness is the direct result of our lifestyle choices and recognizes the need for physical activity, healthy food, sleep and other behaviours that ensure good health. In this panel discussion, moderated by Sandra Psychogiou, Editor In Chief, SAFETY4SEA, the following experts shared their views on how to promote a health lifestyle as sea: Capt. Konstantinos G. Karavasilis, Regional Director, Loss Prevention, UK P&I Club; Kostas Katsoulieris, Senior Executive (Claims), NorthStandard; William Moore, Global Loss Prevention Director – S.V.P., The American Club; Periclis Tzardis, Chief Medical Advisor, ShipMedCare and; Sandra Welch, CEO, Seafarers Hospital Society.
Session #5: Mental Wellness
Athanasios Bourlios, Account Manager, SQLearn, explained the importance of improving seafarers’ mental health through innovative solutions and the latest AI technology. As he highlighted, it is vital the maritime industry to further increase awareness and education around mental health through training programs and resources to reduce stigma and encourage seeking help. Solutions include telemedicine services, dedicated mental health facilities, and partnering with local organizations for counseling services
Maris Cirulis, Managing Director, CleverPoint Marine, referred to individual physiological and mental factors that lead to burnout. The way people think and behave differentiates burnout from non-burnout; in that regard, managers need to create an environment that supports and promotes positive behaviors, she said. Concluding her presentation, Maris Cirulis suggested that taking breaks, cultivating skills such as self-awareness, adaptability and resilience and evaluating employees not only on results but how they achieve them, can improve work performance.
Evros Damianou, Education Program Lead, KeelX, revealed that stress, depressive symptoms, and burnout have been prevalent among seafarers for many years. Factors related to mental health and psychological issues among seafarers could be categorized into individual (seafaring experience, age, health status, and resilience) and work-environmental factors (job demands and job resources). In that regard, he mentioned practices, training and activities that can support seafarers’ mental health and create awareness.
Dr. Christian Lubaton, Medical Director, Nordic Medical Clinic, stressed that a seafarer who is psychologically distressed is not safe for all people onboard and suggested a three-step framework for seafarers’ mental health. As he explained, firstly, it is important to recognize, be able to spot the warning signs of mental health crises, secondly, to resolve in order to assess the immediacy of the situation and thirdly, to refer to the right techniques that can de-escalate the crises.
Session #6: Mental Wellness – Panel Discussion
Mental Wellness is described as a combination of how we feel (our emotions and life satisfaction) and how we function (relationships with others, personal control, purpose in life and independence). This panel, moderated by Gina Panayiotou, ESG Manager, West of England and featuring Maris Cirulis, Managing Director, CleverPoint Marine; Christopher L. Hall, Managing Director, Hong Kong, American Club; Güven Kale, Clinical Chief Officer, Mental Health Support Solutions; Guru Kohli, Business Development Manager-Marine, AP Companies; and Gisa Paredes, Chief Strategy and Commercial Officer, WellAtSea APS, tackled with ways to support seafarers’ mental health and continue raising awareness across the industry to eliminate the stigma that still exists around mental health conditions.
DAY 2 – Wednesday 21 June
Session #7: Industry Stakeholders Panel – Panel Discussion
Industry’s initiatives and portfolios for an enhanced crew welfare should meet all the necessary requirements and go beyond minimum standards argued experts of this panel, moderated by Namrata Nadkarni, Founder & CEO, Intent Communications Ltd. The following participants shared their key takeaways and highlighted the power of collaboration to raise awareness on crew welfare: Capt. Akshat Arora, Senior Risk Assessor, UK P&I Club; Rob Gale, Head of Training, IMEC; Capt. John Lloyd, Chief Executive Officer, Nautical Institute; Jongchul Park, Technical Officer, Maritime Training and Human Element Section, IMO and; Helio Vicente, Senior Manager Policy and Employment Affairs, ICS.
Session #8: Seafarer Health – Panel Discussion
To ensure good seafarer health onboard starts from the top. The concept of leadership bears the responsibility and shapes the work culture, ultimately having a major impact on seafarer health, concluded experts in this panel discussion, moderated by Capt. Yves Vandenborn, Director of Loss Prevention, NorthStandard. The following stakeholders took part in the conversation: Marinos Kokkinis, Managing Director, OneCare Solutions and OneLearn Global; Dr. Christian Lubaton, Medical Director, Nordic Medical Clinic; George Pitaoulis, Head of Marine Personnel, Nakilat; Johan Smith, Project Manager, Sailors’ Society and; Ronald Spithout, Managing Director, OneHealth by VIKAND.
Session #9: Seafarer Health
Andrew Stephens, Executive Director, Sustainable Shipping Initiative, highlighted that lack of transparency and poor regulatory enforcement at sea enables poor practices such as forced labour, withholding wages, recruitment fees among others. He presented progress so far from the implementation of industry’s Code of Conduct and concluded that shipping must act differently to attract and retain future talent, recognising and respecting workforce labour and human rights for those at sea, affording the same as for those onshore.
Session #10: Soft Skills
Capt. VS Parani, HSSEQ Manager, Tufton Asset Management Ltd, explained what would be the key soft skills for seafarers and how we can train them to acquire good soft skills and practice them onboard. He mentioned some examples of challenging situations onboard to stress the importance of soft skills which can actually amplify ands complement technical skills and overall contribute to enhanced safety onboard.
Gisa Paredes, Chief Strategy and Commercial Officer, WellAtSea, presented why Mindful Leadership is considered as a critical skill for the next generation of Seafarers. She highlighted the need for mindfulness in the maritime industry, how self-awareness leads to other awareness and the results WellAtSea have seen from the WellAtSea Mindful leadership program for cadets.
Session #11: Soft Skills – Panel Discussion
Soft skills such as emotional intelligence, decision-making, and conflict management are essential for keeping crew members motivated, productive and engaged. This panel, moderated by Maria Mavroudi, Founding Partner, Searock Marine Insurance Broker, highlighted the importance of soft skills for the maritime workforce and discussed ways to attract and retain the next generation of shipping. The following experts shared their thoughts: Rachit Jain, Founder & MD, Safe Lanes Consultants Pte Ltd; Adam Lewis, Fleet Training and Development Manager, Zodiac Maritime Limited; Capt. Dimitrios Melas, Deputy Training Manager, Angelicoussis Group; Adam Parnell, Director (Maritime), CHIRP and; Lennart Ripke, Director of Sales, Green-Jakobsen.
Session #12: Soft Skills
Edel Kutukovs, Maritime Training Facilitator, Green-Jakobsen, talked about the importance of soft skill acquisition and development when it comes to human performance in an on-board setting. She also talked about two of the many soft skills that help the crew deal with the realities and conditions on board and support their welfare, thereby enabling them to deliver excellent performance.
Valentinos Steliou, Innovation Director (MD Cyprus), Mintra, highlighted that the technological evolution that has impacted every corner of our industry, it has also brought challenges to our seafarers and their future. The need for upskilling and reskilling of our seafarers to become ready for the new era has become a priority.The essential skills that a seafarer had to possess to navigate metaphorically and physically during COVID-19 has prompt all of us to look at skills beyond the traditional technical competencies, Valentinos stressed.
Session #13: Crew Welfare – Panel Discussion
Crew welfare refers to the well-being of the crew members working onboard and measures that ensure healthy and safe working conditions, leading to better productivity, morale, and job satisfaction among crew members. The panel, moderated by Capt. Hari Subramaniam, Regional Head Business Relations, The Shipowners’ Club, involved the following participants in the discussions around crew welfare challenges: Marios Minou, Deputy Crew Manager, Latsco Marine Management Inc.; Ross Millar, Loss Prevention Associate, Steamship Insurance Management Services Limited; Penelope Robotis, Clinical & Organizational Psychologist Msc, IMEQ Center; Christos Sialakoumas, Crew Manager, Dorian LPG; and Belinda Ward, Director (Claims), NorthStandard.
DAY 3 – Thurday 22 June
Session #14: Euronav’s Approach on Crew Welfare
Capt. Alexandros Serpanos, Fleet Personnel Manager, EURONAV, presented how the company supports crew welfare, their best practices for people onboard and ashore as well as initiatives and training that raise awareness around wellbeing, promoting overall a healthy lifestyle that enhances work performance and safety onboard. Euronav’s approach on crew welfare supports seafarers’ physical and mental well-being onboard and ashore, resulting to many benefits such as high crew retention rate,
Session #15: Crew Welfare
Capt. Ahmet Özgür Alemdağ, Managing Director, Maritime Trainer, presented ways to improve crew wellbeing through a talent management approach. He highlighted that in order to train and retain seafarers, first and foremost we need to understand them, taking into consideration the challenges that may affect their mental state. Moving forward with Generation Z, we need to acknowledge the benefits of digitalization and use AI, AR, gamification and the emerging technologies to attract them as well as to focus on wellbeing by defining our retention strategies.
Mailyn Borillo, Managing Director, OSM (Philippines), OSM Maritime Group, noticed that the maritime landscape is shifting at a high speed, thus there is urgent need to have a stronger and relevant Crew Welfare programs to help seafarers. A crew welfare program must be holistic covering all aspect of welfare, i.e. health, wealth and happiness. A high performing vessel and a healthy ocean is highly dependent on healthy and happy people managing or operating in it, Mailyn said and referred to their latest onboard program in collaboration with Catering Academy and Nordic Medical Clinic.
Simon Grainge, Chief Executive, International Seafarers’ Welfare & Assistance Network (ISWAN), highlighted that crew welfare has now a higher profile as a result of the pandemic but we must not lose our focus on this important issue. Seafarers of the future will need to cope with the demands of more technology and smaller crews so good quality welfare remains crucial to the future of seafaring and has important implications for recruitment and retention, he explained.
Catherine Logie, Director of Direct-to-Consumer Services, Ocean Technologies Group, suggested ways for ship operators to help individual wellbeing. Seafarers and shore staff are key to business performance and work in demanding conditions that can take a toll on physical and mental health. Employers can support personnel by raising awareness of the diverse aspects of wellbeing, as part of a wider strategy. In that regard, she presented how e-learning and a learning culture around health can help crew wellbeing.
Rob Parkin, Business Development Specialist, BazePort, pinpointed how new technology and digitalization can improve crew welfare. As connectivity improves and airtime continues to commodify, the need for content management and a standardized playout platform grows. Offering correctly licensed entertainment content and a shared viewing experience stimulates better onboard crew social interaction and mental wellbeing. Effective corporate engagement with crew enhances overall performance, morale, safety and the general welfare of seafarers, he concluded.
Loukia Stelliou, Seafarers & Family Care Officer, Gaslog Ltd, referred to company’s key actions that demonstrate care for its people onboard and ashore. As she explained, the company has developed a culture of change ensuring a holistic approach that goes beyond occupational safety and health related to the whole package of benefits and support offered to seafarers and their families. Among others, Gaslog focuses on strengthening seafarers’ mental health and social wellbeing through ensuring effective communication with their people ashore.
Session #16: Omicron Ship Management Approach on Crew Welfare
Capt. Sokratis Tigkos, Crew Manager/Marine Manager, Omicron Ship Management Inc. mentioned company’s key strategy and their holistic approach on crew welfare. The company invests in continuous training in innovation and new technologies that not only provides personnel with the required skills but also increases their ability to effectively respond to changes and challenges. Omicron supports it seafarers, providing among others travel arrangements, insurance and health schemes, overall career development, with a focused interest in their day-to-day safety and welfare.
Session #17: Women at Sea – Panel Discussion
According to a Seafarers’ Charity recent report, women seafarers remain invisible and unintentionally overlooked by port-welfare workers. Industry still needs to acquire a better understanding of women seafarers and their needs. In this panel, moderated by Anastasia Kypriotaki, News Editor, SAFETY4SEA, the following female representatives discussed the next steps towards a more diverse and inclusive maritime industry: Capt. Ayse Asli Basak, Shipping Operations Manager, Mid-Ship Group LLC; Sophia Bullard, Crew Health Programme Director, Thomas Miller P&I Ltd; Ondrilla Fernandes, Employment Affairs Advisor, International Chamber of Shipping and; Elina, Souli, General Secretary, WISTA Hellas.
Session #18: Crew Wellness: A key pillar of ESG
Iasonas Lainos, Maritime Manager, HELMEPA, presented results from their recent survey which identified crew fatigue, mental health and poor safety culture as the most important safety concerns for seafarers. With regards to emerging trends in shipping, the survey revealed the following key concerns: additional responsibilities and workload due to new regulations; increasing crew change and disembarkation difficulties due to the pandemic; and increasing qualification and training demands due to new regulations.
Session #19: Focus Presentations
Penelope Robotis, Clinical & Organizational Psychologist Msc, IMEQ Center, referred to the key challenges of multigenerational crew and highlighted that we need to systematically explore and analyze factors that may covertly interact and negative impact crew welfare. Multicultural and multigenerational factors may constitute factors that we need to identify and address in creating a positive work culture for all crew members. As such, it may be worthwhile to further investigate, understand and take measures to promote a health work environment for all.
Session #20: The Seafarers Perspective
Concluding the event, ocean going seafarers shared their thoughts on crew welfare and their suggestions on how to attract more people to join a seafaring career; how to improve life onboard and; what should be industry’s key priorities to ensure decent working and living conditions at sea that will enhance crew happiness. A happy crew provides a welcoming, safe, inclusive and positive environment onboard and SAFETY4SEA would like to thank the following seafarers who participated in the video and shared their messages across the industry: Capt. Nikoleta Akrivou, Chief Officer, Maran Gas Maritime; Capt. Anastasios Chrysikopoulos, Chief Officer, Maran Dry Management; Danica Madela, 2nd Officer; Yrhen Bernard Sabanal Balinis, Licensed merchant marine officer; and Capt. Gurpeet Thandi, Master, EURONAV.