Research on social interaction among crew informs new directions for the maritime sector


In a report released today, the International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) details findings from phase two of its Social Interaction Matters (SIM) project and provides practical advice and recommendations for transport and ship management, seafarers and other maritime actors. . The project is funded by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and the Red Ensign Group (REG), who sponsored the project with assistance from Trinity House and funding from the UK Government.

The second phase of research from the SIM project gathered first-hand accounts from sailors from 21 ships from 10 different shipping companies operating around the world, and examined the data to explore the impacts, drivers and barriers of the interaction social while living and working on board. The research took place between November 2020 and January 2022 and coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic, the pervasive influence of which is demonstrated and explored throughout the report.

Dr Kate Pike, Research Manager of the SIM Project, said: “The project has shown that social interaction promotes mental and physical health and provides seafarers with an essential outlet for their work on board. This allows all crew members to get to know each other better, which fosters a caring environment that helps develop a strong safety culture where people care about each other. Social interaction and activities are not just enjoyable pastimes, they are a necessity that should be fully supported by shipping companies and strong leadership on board and ashore.

The results highlight the importance of committed and visible leadership on board and ashore, to support and encourage crew participation in all social activities. Ships in the SIM trials that supported their crew in this task were able to mitigate the effects of long hours, numerous port calls, and other factors that would otherwise alter the mood. The report also indicates that more clearly established boundaries are needed between working time and rest time on board.

From these findings, together with those from the first phase of the project, ISWAN has developed a set of practical guidelines and recommendations for transport and ship management companies, seafarers and other maritime stakeholders. in order to improve the possibilities of social interaction of the crews. These are designed to help promote a varied program of social events, suited to different crew needs and diversities, as well as different voyage plans and vessel specifications.

Among the report’s recommendations is the appointment of a volunteer social ambassador on board each ship to help organize social activities and promote crew engagement. ISWAN also recommends free Wi-Fi services for all crew to stay in touch with family and friends and access online entertainment; and frequent review of leisure facilities to ensure they meet crew preferences and needs.

The report concludes that further research is needed on the effects of tiredness and fatigue, and their impact on the mental health of seafarers. ISWAN plans to continue the development of the SIM as a long-term project to welfare of seafarers, starting with a controlled evaluation of the effectiveness of the project’s guidance and recommendations which ISWAN hopes will lead to its establishment as an ongoing resource for the sector.

Georgia Allen, ISWAN Project Manager, said, “I am delighted to be able to share this report on Project SIM Phase 2, which is the product of great commitment from everyone involved. Much like the seafaring lives we sought to better understand, phase two of the project resulted in a richly diverse and fascinating dataset that laid the foundation for much more work to come. ISWAN is committed to the long-term improvement of the lives of seafarers and their families worldwide, and improving the welfare of seafarers through a better understanding of the importance of Social interaction and its increased facilitation is at the heart of this and we will continue to work to promote SIM’s mission long into the future.

Katy Ware, Director of UK Maritime Services and Permanent Representative of the UK to the IMO, Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), said: “I am delighted to see the continuation of this vital work recognizing the importance of social interaction for the well-being of seafarers. It is important to see the recommendations of the first phase implemented and we have already seen that small steps can have huge impacts, such as having an ambassador designated well-being on board.

“Many aspects of life at sea cannot be changed, but this research shows that well-being is not one of them and can be improved by enhancing social interaction, particularly alongside engagement. organizational.”

The Phase 2 report of ISWAN’s Social Interaction Matters (SIM) project can be downloaded here.
Source: International Seafarer Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN)

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