Share your health experiences

Vital new research on seafarers’ health seeks participants

By Nelson Turgo

During the pandemic, some working seafarers suffered health problems but were banned by port authorities and immigration officers from seeking treatment ashore. This unacceptable situation served to highlight the challenges seafarers sometimes face in gaining access to necessary medical treatment while at sea and also in protecting their own health.

To address the difficulties faced by seafarers we first need to produce evidence of the situations that they face. For this reason, the Seafarers International Research Centre at Cardiff University is seeking the participation of seafarers working on cargo and cruise ships in a new study of seafarers’ health and their access to healthcare while on board. The study is being funded by The Swedish Mercantile Marine Foundation.

Are you an active seafarer who is able to spare some time to complete an online questionnaire or take part in an internet-based (e.g. Zoom or similar) interview about your health and experiences of healthcare on board a cruise, cargo or other offshore working vessel? Would you be willing to share your stories with us on an anonymous and confidential basis? If so, could you please take a moment to visit our webpage which provides further details about the study and links to the questionnaires: centre.

All the research staff have spent time on board working vessels and have experienced for themselves the remoteness of a seafarer’s life and the barriers that exist for some seafarers in getting medical care and in protecting their health. That is why we really care about this issue. We hope that our research will highlight what needs to be improved and how, and will motivate the relevant parties to address the needs of seafarers as a matter of urgency.

The research is being organised by Professor Helen Sampson at the Seafarers International Research Centre in the School of Social Sciences at Cardiff University. Please take part if you can and spread the word about the study to other active seafarers as well. We know we can make a difference, but we also know that we cannot do it without you!

Red flags for Indian seafarers

German maritime specialist Mental Health Support Solutions (MHSS) has noted more Indian seafarers getting in touch about their well-being, Tradewinds reports.

MHSS said it is “deeply concerned” at the levels of loneliness and isolation experienced by these seafarers. This is particularly a problem on ships where cultural differences are prevalent.

Clinical psychologist Julia Oppermann told Tradewinds: “We have seen a significant increase in calls from Indian seafarers and office staff, particularly where cultural disparities have not been appropriately considered and there is an absence of a supportive environment that respects their cultural norms.”

While these issues might have always been a problem for Indian nationals, MHSS says that the escalating attacks in the Red Sea may have exacerbated them.

A lack or complete absence of communal dining on ships could be adding to the feelings of disconnection and emotional distress among Indian seafarers, Oppermann added. “Eating together and sharing meals are deeply ingrained cultural practices in Indian society. When seafarers are unable to participate in these traditions, it can further contribute to their sense of isolation,” she said.

Nelson Turgo is a research associate at SIRC.