Q1 2021: New Kit Onboard Welcomed

6.73 up from 6.68

Health and fitness onboard relate not just to the physical aspects of seafaring but the psychological too. Mental wellbeing is increasingly recognised as being vital, and thankfully it does seem that there are some signs of encouragement as companies look to do more to protect or improve the wellness of crews.

It has been encouraging, therefore, to see a rise in the figures this Quarter. Prompted in no small part by the seeming trend of companies providing more entertainment and exercise equipment onboard.

From gyms to table tennis, games consoles and video on demand – there are increasing signs of investment in the non-work environment onboard. Which is extremely important and has been all too easily overlooked and ignored for decades.

Sadly even with the relatively high rate of respondents and the positive trajectory of the figures, it does seem that there are still many seafarers facing problems. Indeed, the responses we received seemed to be very polarised. While we did see increased signs of positivity, those who were left struggling were facing many similar issues and problems.

Sleep and good quality rest were repeatedly seen as a problem by those seafarers who scored lowest in this question. There were issues of noise, bad weather, and also poor quality mattresses and bedding. It can be all too easy to overlook the practicalities, and where there are threadbare blankets, understuffed pillows, or lumpy mattresses, then it will likely be all the more difficult to get good rest.

We heard from a number of seafarers who were extremely frustrated by the quality of bedding and claimed that this had a major effect on their health. “A port State inspector does not know how bad a pillow is, or how hard mattress is – so how can they say what is good or bad”, said one respondent.

The Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) does indeed state that bedding shall be provided and that it shall be of “good quality”. However, this does appear to be very open to subjective assessment by differing regimes. While it is also far from the norm to expect an inspector to do more than give a cursory look at the bedding in question. So unless the problems are manifestly obvious, then it is likely that they will not be picked up.

This is a potentially serious issue, as poor mattresses mean bad sleep, leading to tiredness, fatigue and even physical issues such as bad backs. This in turn can lead to stress and injuries, meaning affected performance, and time on the sick. Which has implications for all the crew if having to work to cover colleagues.

The ramifications of seemingly small issues are magnified at sea, and those seafarers who reported having issues with the facilities and sleeping arrangements and bedding recorded low scores across the board. So it can be seen that there are big impacts from even easily overlooked issues.

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