At Höegh Autoliners we understand that a seafarer’s job is like no other. Working at sea for months at a time, a seafarer faces many challenges including psychological distress arising from an isolated life away from land and the family. Ensuring good mental and physical health is not only an issue for the individual, but also a matter for the organisation as a whole.
Dante Elpedes, Head of Höegh Fleet Services Philippines says, “We believe it is important to provide adequate information and support to seafarers to ensure that they have the necessary tools and resilience to maintain their own positive mental health.”
To do this, the crewing department at Höegh Autoliners seek to educate seafarers, often before they embark on an offshore career, about the challenges of a maritime lifestyle and how to efficiently cope with this. “In addition, we have taken measures to ensure the wellbeing of our seafarers are met,” Dante says. As an example, a program has started where the spouses of our seafarers are invited to join, to ensure the focus on a healthy lifestyle is kept also when seafarers are home on leave.
Connecting with loved ones
One of the greatest challenges, many seafarers say, is the long time away from family and friends. Then being able to connect with loved ones over Skype or the like makes a great difference. In Höegh Autoliners we acknowledged this early on and installed Internet for everyone on board our vessels, several years ago. Now, all Höegh vessels are equipped with satellite broadband internet to enable the seafarers to keep in touch with friends and family, while sailing.
Interaction on board
Healthy body for a healthy mind; being physically active has shown to improve overall welfare whether you work at sea or at land. However, when you are at sea, this can be somewhat more challenging as you have a confined space where all activities must take place. Then the vessel owner and crewing office must secure that there are activities available for physical and social activity.
Victor Li, Head of Höegh Fleet Services China says, “Almost all our vessels have an exercise room on board, not only for physical exercise but also a place for the seafarers to interact. Furthermore, each vessel has a welfare fund provided by the company annually, where seafarers can choose how to spend the money, if it is for sporting equipment, videoke or new DVDs.”
Rest and diet
Other ways to cope with stress at work onboard are meditation and mindfulness exercises. Also, taking proper rest during off hours, is important to keep healthy and to ward off fatigue. Dante says, “Working in shifts, it is imperative that seafarers ensure they make good use of their rest time. In Höegh Autoliners we follow the MLC requirements guaranteeing seafarers have a minimum of 10 hours rest time in any 24 hour period or 77 hours in any seven day period.”
"Whilst working irregular hours, it is also essential that we provide foods that are right for the start, middle and end of each working period. Eating provides both essential nutrition and can also be an important social activity. These aspects contribute to wellbeing as well as to physical health.”
Good mental health is of paramount importance and there are simple steps one can take to avoid many conditions, such as stress, fatigue and loneliness on board.