Many Shipping Jobs Available! Register and apply now.

How to cope with a colleague’s passing onboard


Grief comes first, followed by possible panic attacks

He was someone whom the crew worked and horsed around with everyday. When the pandemic hit the globe, all made the decision to press on and complete the voyage. As fate would have it, the partner whom everyone collaborated closely with is suddenly gone. The spot where he once stood becomes an empty space. Grief sets in, accompanied by a myriad of emotions.

Caring for crew after a death onboard
Seafarers are no strangers to high levels of stress. After the captain’s passing onboard Ital Libera from COVID-19, more attention is certainly warranted on the crew’s well-being. The existing crew change crisis paired with vaccine rollouts (which need time) can jeopardise crew’s mental health. Watching a teammate die from something everyone is vulnerable to is not only stressful, the emotions intensify when the crew is not vaccinated.

While grieving, panic attacks can occur given the uncertainty of the outbreak’s degree onboard, plus vaccine availabilities. If left untreated, it can become a disorder with unpredictable symptoms and actions – even putting the others in danger. In Ital Libera’s case, the operator has to be cautious for the remaining crew’s mental health. Detecting symptoms early can help contain the condition, before receiving medical assistance.

Common symptoms of panic attacks include:

  • Perspiring and shortness of breath
  • Chest pain and involuntary trembling (shaking)
  • Intense fear (of dying or losing control)

While the above are symptoms, it is important to observe the affected crew before conclusion. Pay attention to any changes because symptoms can occur due to undeclared substance abuse or withdrawals, side-effects from medications and not from the traumatic incident.

Some approaches can be adopted to help the seafarer cope with the symptoms. They are relaxation techniques, exercise, and ensuring the crew is eating and sleeping well. Providing access to a licensed counsellor (online or through telephone) is also helpful – akin to receiving first-line medical assistance.


Crewing Online Media Team
Please email us at to contact the author for this article.

crewing online