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Food at sea: changing menus

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Repost: Marine Catering Training Consultancy (MCTC) CEO Christian Ioannou reflects on how the industry has evolved over the past decade as his company reaches its 10th anniversary.

With the recent challenges of covid, the Ukraine conflict, increasing prices globally and the supply chain crisis, the last 10 years have seen significant change within the shipping industry and in particular the strong focus now on crews’ health and wellbeing.

As MCTC celebrates reaches a decade of being in business, it is a perfect time to look and reflect on how the past decade in the maritime catering sector has evolved for companies and seafarers alike.

It is astonishing when you look back at how the market was a decade ago, compared to present day. Over more recent years we have been met with a lot of the challenges. Seafarers have been meeting these challenges head on with confidence, skill, and determination, but these challenges make it even more crucial to ensure we are offering wellbeing and mental health support.

When MCTC first started out a lot of companies were not interested in investing in mental health and wellbeing support, and health and nutrition. They didn’t feel it was an issue that needed addressing or investing in. But as specialists in this area, we could foresee that these services would needed more and more in the not too distant future.

Millennials are our next generation of crews and more and more they are struggling with their mental health, with increasing rates of depression and tragically, suicides. I believe the constant access to news and social media is a significant factor as to why these issues have become so common amongst our younger people. They are logging onto their phones first thing in the morning and being exposed to unrealistic expectations and comparisons to others, as well as a constant stream of negative news.

Health and nutrition is absolutely vital when it comes to boosting mental health and wellbeing. Food is survival, we need food to survive. But aside from this it is an experience. It connects cultures and we view food as the centrepiece of connection and communication. People always have food in common and they can enjoy sharing memories and the joys of a delicious meal. Fuelling your body with the right food has so many positive impacts for both seafarers and their employers. It helps boost staff retention, morale, energy and productivity.

As fresh graduates enter the industry, more and more companies have realised the importance the new generation of seafarers are placing on their health. They want to keep fit, eat the right food and enjoy a well-balanced lifestyle. By investing in the wellbeing and health of their crews, companies are seeing savings on their costs, including less sick leave, better productivity onboard, and happier crews. We have really seen a boom in this over the last three to four years.

MCTC has always promoted natural ingredients over ready-made items and this is something that is even more important as more seafarers with different dietary needs enter the industry. We are going to see more vegans, vegetarian and other diets, so companies need to be able to adapt to this need.

Another change the industry has seen is the digitisation of training. Although e-learning was already being used as we started out, there has definitely been an increase in the digitisation of training with more companies realising that more of their training can be completed remotely. Of course, there is still a need for onshore training too, which we offer at our training bases in India and the Philippines.

Although the industry has made some significant changes over the last decade, there is still more improvements that can be made. Fresh new pools of seafarers are going to be to be the ones taking the shipping industry to the next level, so I think to improve, companies must be willing to understand their crews and their needs. I think the MLC 2006 Convention should also go further with its guidelines and be more precise over their health and nutrition guidelines. The MLC 2006 is a good foundation but it would be useful to have more precise requirements.


Crewing Online Media Team
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