An army marches on its stomach, said Napoleon – but crews sail on theirs. Meals are vitally important on ships, not just from a nutritional perspective, but also as a form of social activity bringing people onboard together.
The Maritime Labour Convention (MLC 2006) and flag State requirements impose the duty for the shipowner and master to ensure that food and drinking water of appropriate quality, nutritional value and quantity is provided free of charge to meet the needs of those on board. There is also a requirement for catering staff to be trained and qualified. However, even quality food and qualified cooks do not always mean that crew are happy with their food.
In the Seafarers Happiness Index there are often concerns raised by crews about the standard of food onboard, and it is clearly and understandably an emotive issue. There are concerns about cultural divides on mixed nationality vessels, there are frustrations when companies seemingly reduce the spend per head and seafarers are often concerned about the levels of healthy nutrition they are receiving.
The rules on food onboard state that the quantity, nutritional value, quality and variety of food must be taken into account – so too the religious requirements and cultural practices of the seafarers, and they must be provided with adequate, varied and nutritious meals prepared and served in hygienic conditions.
Seafarers often raise concerns that the standard of food is poor, and that there is too much fat and salt, with not enough healthy options. While on ships which good food, cooks who can deliver the meals the seafarers want, then the atmosphere is so much better and crews are so much happier.