Shipping companies urged to allow internet access to improve seafarers’ mental health onboard
Seafarers’ extended stay onboard has been a hot button topic since the COVID-19 pandemic. Imposed travel bans resulted in numerous seafarers unable to sign off and return home. A combination of isolation, heavy workloads and risks of infection is a perfect formula for mental health issues.
Causes of seafarers’ poor mental wellbeing
IMO’s record number of 400,000 seafarers stranded for as long as 17 months with no breaks reflects the degree of isolation suffered. Alexander Buchmann, managing director of Hanseaticsoft said, “The pandemic is shining a light on one of the key challenges for seafarers right now which is the long stretches at sea away from family and friends. With crews being stuck on ships for much longer than usual, there is a greater risk of poor mental wellbeing, which companies may need to address.
“One of the ways to improve mental wellbeing is by allowing personal internet access, however even though most seafarers have limited access to the internet they are often unable to use it for personal emails or video calls. We encourage shipping companies to change this so that seafarers can stay connected with family and friends.”
A study by Cardiff University revealed seafarers are at risks of poor mental health from long working hours, and isolation from extended stays onboard. It suggested internet access as one of the ways to alleviate seafarers’ poor mental wellbeing. Another study by Nautilus revealed that though 88 per cent of surveyed seafarers were granted internet access, only 57 per cent of the respondents were allowed to use it for personal emails, and barely 6 per cent of respondents were allowed to use it for video calling.
Staying connected is key
Based on the above findings, it is important for seafarers to remain connected to the outside world to improve their mental wellbeing with better internet access. Additionally, shipping companies are encouraged to shift their perception about having better internet facilities as extending benefits only for seafarers. Adopting digital processes through improved internet also enables companies to streamline processes and improve efficiency.
The Digital Ship