Unsung heroes of the high seas

Columbia’s investment in seafarers’ wellbeing

Traditionally seafarers have put up with their feelings of isolation and loneliness, coupled with personal worries from home, safety concerns with risks of piracy and traumatic incidents on board, and missing their families back home. They stayed silent and ran the risk of self-medicating their issues or learning unhealthy habits to make their worries easier to handle.

With the growing number of people globally being diagnosed with mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, or personality disorders, the shipping industry is realising it must take the health and wellbeing of its crews seriously. By providing round-the-clock support and promoting regular check-ins on crews’ mental health, the risks of poor mental health escalating are reduced.

Although some might feel seafarers today have it better because they can more easily connect with their friends and family regularly through Facetime and video calls, they are also dealing with more stress due to increased social media reliance, global crises such as the long-lasting effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, financial worries and the Ukraine conflict. The recent Red Sea attacks have only added a further level of anxiety for crews who are sacrificing their safety for their jobs.

With demand for mental health services on land higher than ever, it is essential we also offer these services on board, where crews have to consistently deal with work-related stress, risk of burnout, lack of rest time, family issues, and increasing threats of global crises.

Cultural differences and language barriers add an extra layer of complexity to their daily lives. Mental health and wellbeing were thrust into the limelight during the Covid pandemic and the industry is increasingly recognising the importance of support for seafarers, offering a more promising and supportive future. This acknowledgment underscores a positive shift towards their enhanced wellbeing and a growing appreciation of seafarers, paving the way for a brighter future where seafarers feel nurtured and mental health is something to be openly discussed.

Investment in wellbeing

Columbia Shipmanagement (CSM), part of the Columbia Group, recognises the monumental challenges faced by seafarers and is committed to supporting and investing in their wellbeing.

CSM demonstrates its dedication to its seafarers through working with different partners who offer round-the- clock access to mental and physical healthcare, nutrition and fitness initiatives, wellness programmes, and the general promotion of healthy and positive lifestyles while seafarers are on board the ship.

Captain Faouzi Fradi, Columbia Group’s crewing and training director, has walked in the shoes of seafarers before transitioning to shore-based roles. His personal experience at sea means he understands the challenges seafarers endure. This understanding is at the heart of Columbia’s dedication to prioritising the health and wellbeing of their crews.

OneCare Solutions, a health and wellbeing platform, has been enlisted to provide professional support to seafarers under Columbia’s care. This platform addresses various aspects of seafarers’ health, encompassing mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing. OneCare Solutions has established a 24/7 mental health hotline staffed by professional clinical psychologists, managed by Mental Health Support Solutions (MHSS), to ensure seafarers have access to immediate assistance when needed. The MHSS team conducts first aid training for crew members on board, enabling them to recognise signs of mental distress in their colleagues and offer support before professional help can be engaged.

In partnership with Marine Medical Solutions, OneCare Solutions is also focused on providing high-quality medical care to seafarers. Recognising the profound impact of health on mental and physical wellbeing, this initiative aims to safeguard seafarers’ health on multiple levels through happiness monitors, a 24/7 telemedical helpline, biomedical preventative maintenance, and medical formulary management.

Poor health not only affects seafarers’ mental and physical states but can also impact their ability to perform their duties safely and efficiently.