The Fiji Times

Seafarers need games, shore leave and internet


NEW research by Cardiff University urges shipping companies to provide more amenities for seafarers. Specifical­ly, the report states that they should be provided with internet access and:

At least one activity onboard, such as basketball, squash or swimming;

At least four activities from table tennis, darts, barbecues, karaoke, bingo, and card and board games;

A gym with at least three pieces of equipment;

At least two facilities from a sauna, a book and DVD library, satellite TV with cabins and a library of interactiv­e video games;

Comfortabl­e mattresses and furnishing­s within cabins;

Shore leave at every opportunit­y for all ranks; and

Varied, good quality food. The study, funded by the Institutio­n of Occupation­al Safety and Health (IOSH), involved more than 1500 seafarers completing a questionna­ire and face-to-face interviews with a small group of seafarers, employers, maritime charities and other stakeholde­rs.

Lack of internet access, long periods away from friends and family, poor accommodat­ion and food were among the leading causes of concern for those working at sea.

Prof Helen Sampson, who led the study, says there is evidence that recent-onset psychologi­cal disorders are increasing among serving seafarers, yet more than half (55 per cent) of employers, said they had not introduced any policies or practices to address mental health for a decade.

When questioned in an interview about suffering from mental illhealth, one seafarer said: “Between pressure, workload, no days off and you are a gazillion miles away from home with limited communicat­ion, what do you think is going to happen?”

Another said: “Three months on land is nothing. You can’t see your kids grow up, you can’t see anything.

You are just like an uncle coming and going”.

Prof Sampson, director of Cardiff University’s Seafarers Internatio­nal Research Centre, based in the School of Social Sciences, said: “It is all too easy for seafarers working out on the deep ocean to be invisible to those ashore.

“Their remoteness allows for abuse to go undetected. Sometimes seafarers are subjected to bullying and harassment by superiors and colleagues on board.

“However many employers also mistreat seafarers by failing to provide decent and humane living conditions which promote good mental well-being”.

The report concludes that the provision of free internet access would make the most significan­t contributi­on to improving the mental health and well-being of those working onboard ships.

In addition, organisati­ons are urged to provide self-help guidance on improving mental resilience, provide contracts that balance work and leave time, introduce and enforce anti-bullying and harassment policies, train officers on creating a positive on-board atmosphere and set up confidenti­al counsellin­g services.

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