A NEW study by the International Seafarer Welfare and Assistance Network has confirmed a link between social interaction and crew wellbeing at sea.
The Phase 2 of the Social Interaction Matters (SIM) project report contains results from the charity’s Social Interaction Matters project, which collected testimonies from seafarers on 21 different ships from 10 shipping companies.
ISWAN examined project data to explore the impacts, drivers and barriers of social interaction while living and working on board.
Dr Kate Pike, SIM research manager, said the project indicated that social interaction promotes mental and physical health and provides sailors with an essential outlet for their work on board.
“It allows all crews 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,” Dr Pike said.
“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 leadership on board and ashore to encourage crew participation in social activities.
ISWAN said ships in the SIM trials that supported their crews in this way were able to mitigate the effects of long hours, numerous stopovers and other factors that typically dampen the mood of sailors.
The report also suggests that clearer boundaries need to be established between working time and rest time on board.
In response to the findings, ISWAN said it has developed recommendations for the shipping industry and its workforce to improve opportunities for crew social interaction.
The guidelines are intended to help promote a varied program of social events to suit 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.
Another recommendation is the provision of free Wi-Fi services for the crew to stay in touch with family and friends and access online entertainment.
ISWAN said its report concludes that more research is needed on the effects of fatigue and its impact on the mental health of seafarers.
Georgia Allen, ISWAN project manager, said understanding the importance of social interaction at sea is an important step in improving seafarers’ well-being.
“Like the lives of seafarers that 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,” said Ms. Allen.
The SIM project is funded by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and Red Ensign Group, who sponsored the project with support from Trinity House and funding from the UK Government.
Katy Ware, Director of UK Maritime Services and Permanent Representative of the UK to the International Maritime Organisation, Maritime and Coastguard Agency, said she was delighted to see the results of the work.
“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.”