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By Conor Feasey

ISWAN to advance SIM project

Following the success of its previous three phases, the maritime charity has secured funding from the UK government to further its research into crew wellbeing…

The International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) has received new funding to continue its Social Interaction Matters (SIM) Project. Granted to the charity by the Trinity House Maritime Charity Department for Transport (DfT) Fund, the funds will be spent on new research to evaluate the effectiveness of the project and to develop it further.

“This funding will help an already successful – and much needed – project to broaden its reach even further and to improve the health and wellbeing of more seafarers and their families worldwide,” says Iain Lower, Trinity House’s Deputy Master Rear Admiral.

ISWAN’s SIM Project is a long-term initiative working to improve crew and their families’ wellbeing through the promotion of increased quality social interaction and rest time for seafarers, particularly in the cruise and superyacht sectors.

“The response to ISWAN’s SIM Project research has been overwhelmingly positive from stakeholders and seafarers alike, likely because we are promoting an incredibly important but under-valued area of seafarer welfare,” says Georgia Allen, Projects and Relationships Manager at ISWAN.

In the first three phases of the project, which started in 2019, ISWAN began to research and identify the key influencers that affect crew’s ability to enjoy quality social interaction on board. Leadership culture, fatigue, a diverse and inclusive environment, and the COVID-19 pandemic are found to be key influencers amongst others.

Using these research findings, ISWAN develops a set of actionable guidance and recommendations for shipping and yacht management companies. These allow seafarers and other maritime stakeholders to improve and increase opportunities, and facilitate the right environments for crew to socially interact.

According to Allen, the project has returned such diverse and interesting data from the 21 partnering vessels throughout the first three phases that it warrants further exploration. “This leads to the decision to continue developing the SIM Project as a long-term ISWAN initiative to improve the health and well-being of seafarers worldwide,” she adds.

These recommendations include the appointment of a voluntary Social Ambassador on board every vessel, active company-level and leadership approval for social interaction, and free and good quality Wi-Fi. Recreation facilities that consider crew preferences and further research into the effects of fatigue and tiredness on seafarer mental health are also included in the guidance.

In the next phase of the initiative, Dr. Kate Pike, the SIM Project Lead, explains that the future development of the project will use reliable and industry-recognised data collection technologies to produce a range of health and well-being statistics. “These will identify where welfare provision is needed most and how social interaction can assist in supporting better health and safety outcomes for all seafarers,” she says.

The findings will be used to update and broaden the scope of the project’s guidance and recommendations and to develop them as an influential, dynamic, and collaborative long-term educational resource and practical health and wellbeing tool for the sector.

The maritime NGO is set to launch its new research assignment alongside project sponsor Seaspan Corporation in the coming months, with more technology and research expected to be announced.

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