Leading figures at LISW19 charity conference urge industry to address stigma of mental health, put seafarers at the heart of the sector, and update cadet training syllabus
Maritime charities and industry leaders debate seafarer welfare and safety in the digital age; Shell unveils new human error HiLo maritime risk management model
LONDON, 17 September, 2019 – A major industry conference co-hosted by four leading maritime charities has heard a rallying cry for action to support the mental health of seafarers, along with a major new safety initiative from Shell Shipping.
Held as part of London International Shipping Week, the conference was jointly organised by the four nominated LISW charities – The Mission to Seafarers, Seafarers UK, Sailors’ Society and Apostleship of the Sea (Stella Maris) – kindly sponsored and hosted by Inmarsat, and chaired by John Adams, Vice President of the International Chamber of Shipping. Featuring four expert panel discussions and contributions from the 240+ delegates in attendance, the event explored the impact of technology on crew welfare.
The conference keynote speech from Dr Grahaeme Henderson, Vice President, Shipping & Maritime at Shell set the benchmark starting the conference with high impact.
Dr Henderson painted a stark image of shipping’s safety challenges, noting that despite marked improvements, it continues to have one of the poorest safety records of any industry. To further tackle this, Dr Henderson announced the launch of Shell’s new ‘human error’ model of its successful HiLo maritime risk management tool.
The new model incorporates extensive research carried out by the Shell Shipping & Maritime team and Shell Health Group, which identified five key areas of influence on a seafarer’s mental wellbeing: fatigue; physical environment; the nature of the role; leadership (both on the vessel and onshore); and personal network. The initiative will allow shipping companies to better understand the wellbeing of the crew on their vessels and mitigate the human errors that cause more than 75% of accidents at sea.
Henderson also announced that Shell is developing eight wellbeing training programmes for seafarers, which will be shared with other shipping companies. The programmes will include training on subjects such as individual awareness, how to talk about mental health and provide assistance, and how to address fatigue. Both initiatives aim to drive safer practice across the industry by promoting seafarer wellbeing and contributing to Shell’s vision of a zero-incident industry.
Commenting on the event, Ben Bailey, Director of Advocacy and Regional Engagement for The Mission to Seafarers, said:
“Today’s conference was an illuminating discussion on the intersection between new and emerging technologies and seafarer safety and welfare. It’s clear that new technology and improved ship-shore connectivity has a powerful role to play in giving us new tools to support our seafarers and for seafarers themselves to be better equipped to keep in touch with loved ones and to look after their wellbeing. However, we also need to appreciate that technology onboard can sometimes create new and different challenges for the workload and wellbeing of seafarers. As new digital tools are deployed onboard, the impact on the seafarer must always be at the forefront of our thinking.
“There were some candid conversations about the mental health challenges facing our seafarer community, including some personal stories from our delegates and speakers. We won’t shy away from acknowledging the considerable progress still to be made when it comes to tackling the stigma of mental health in our industry, but we can take great pride in the progress that maritime charities and the industry have made in recent years. We are also deeply grateful to Inmarsat for their support in hosting the LISW charities’ conference this week.”
John Adams, Vice President of The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), delivered the conference opening address, in which he spoke about the importance of one-to-one communication with seafarers and warned industry professionals about the dangers of adopting a ‘silver bullet’ approach. He described the term ‘human element’ as a misdemeanour, suggesting that it implies that seafarers are a side component, rather than a core part of the shipping enterprise.
The conference included panel discussions on a number of different themes. The first looked at how technology can improve health and safety onboard, reduce accidents and lower the costs associated with repatriation and replacement crews. The second panel focused on how the industry can best support seafarers and whether technology is replacing the personal touch. This was followed by a session exploring how other industries are using technology to address mental wellbeing, and how this might be adapted for seafarers. The final discussion looked at the evolving role of maritime welfare charities in the digital age.
The conference saw questions, comments and contributions from delegates throughout the day. This included a question from a young cadet, one of a number of cadets in attendance, who challenged the panel on why mental health and wellbeing did not form part of the cadet training syllabus; a point that received widespread agreement from the panel.
The final address of the afternoon was delivered by Ronald Spithout, President of Inmarsat Maritime. Speaking after the event, Mr Spithout commented:
“It was our pleasure to host today’s conference and to play our part in bringing together four wonderful charities on a shared platform. There is a lot of common ground between these charities and between all of us who believe in championing seafarer safety and welfare. We hope that we can continue to support a collective approach to tackling this most important of causes. In keeping with our discussions today, we believe that technology can have an important role to play and we look forward to further embracing digitalisation as a force for good in supporting the men and women who serve at sea.”
The conference was followed by a dinner event, during which £11k was raised to support vital crew welfare services around the globe.