Nautilus International, the union for maritime professionals, is calling for shipping companies and employers within the maritime industry to pay closer attention to the mental wellbeing of their workers. With 20 January being dubbed ‘Blue Monday’, the most depressing day of the year according to various pseudoscientific calculations, Nautilus International has republished the mental health guidelines that it produced with the RMY Union and UK Chamber of shipping in 2018. While these guidelines were not drawn up specifically for the superyacht market, much of the information can be transposed into this industry.
According to the Office of National Statistics, one in six adults are experiencing a mental health problem at any one time. Due to the unique nature of seafaring professions, where workers often find themselves isolate and separated from friends and family, seafarers can be particularly at risk of having poor mental.
Nautilus has identified seafarer fatigue as one of the biggest threats to health and safety, and one that has a direct correlation with mental health. This phenomenon certainly rings true for the superyacht market, especially where heavily chartered vessels are concerned.
Seafaring truly is a unique industry and whilst posing its own challenges, is a profession that can be extremely rewarding and offer a completely difference to many onshore, nine to five jobs,” comments Mark Dickinson, Nautilus’s international general secretary. “That said, as in any industry, there are still a number of improvements that need to be made to working conditions in order to reduce the threat of workers suffering from poor mental health.”
In the guidelines published in 2018, Nautilus and its partners outline a seven-stage approach to tackling issues of mental health on board. These stages include an introduction that defines ‘mental health’ and ‘mental issues’, the aims of the guidelines in terms driving changes to company policies, what these policies should look like, how they should be implemented, necessary training, how to assist and treat employees with mental health issues, as well as how to monitor seafarer’s mental health and monitor the effectiveness of the implemented policies.
“Simply pointing to the name and number of a Designated Person Ashore and informing a new crew member that they can call this person whenever they feel uncomfortable is woefully insufficient duty of care when it comes to mental health,” starts one former crew member. “Likewise, to believe that an hours of rest reporting system that is checked monthly and has a ‘copy and paste last week’ function will provide an accurate picture of the stress a crew is under is deluded at best and, at its worst, purposefully negligent.
“Many crews have open ended owner trips, and it is hard to understate the negative effect of a never-ending Monday. The means by which this is conveyed to a neutral and trusted third party regulator, or even discussed on board, must the rethought urgently. It would be foolish to take the absence of evidence and reporting as a clean bill of mental health on board superyachts.”
In recent years, mental health issues have become an increasingly prominent part of the global discourse, with increasingly large numbers of governments, industries and businesses appreciating that more needs to be done to protect the mental well-being of individuals – the superyacht industry is no different. The old adage goes, “happy crew, happy owner”, let’s make sure we work hard to make this a reality, not just a saying.
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