Seafarers face unique challenges keeping mentally and physically well which is why programs like Wellness at Sea are so important. This initiative provides information and resources including podcasts, videos, and posters to download and share, and covers a range of wellbeing topics starting with ‘help in a crisis’.
Help in a crisis
From time to time an event or series of events can leave us feeling depleted and overwhelmed. If something happens to loved-ones or yourself - a sudden illness, an accident, a pandemic, or a natural disaster - these are all traumatic experiences which can provoke powerful and disturbing emotions. Events like this can turn into a scenario where you feel helpless and anxious and where there is a risk of harm or danger to yourself or others.
This is the time to reach out for support.
Immediately after such an event it is common for people to feel shocked, or numb, or unable to accept what has happened. You may also be in denial – acting as if the event never occurred. Because you are so unique, you will react in a unique way. You will go through your own process to get to grips with what has happened. In this time, it is normal to experience mixed feelings.
Being scared, feeling powerless, angry, guilty, sad or even ashamed and embarrassed - these are all normal. Physically you may struggle to sleep, have night terrors, headaches, changes in appetite, fatigue and more.
In these situations, we encourage you to reach out for help and take the personal wellness pledge.
Long periods of time separated from family and friends, extended and irregular work hours and many operational challenges, such as weather, ship motion, and task demands.
Often these factors can affect your wellbeing and mental health.
There are many ways you can improve your wellbeing while at sea:
- get enough sleep
- keep active
- eat well and drink sensibly
- try and stay in touch with friends and family
- seek help and support.
Managing and reducing the risk of fatigue at sea
Fatigue is a hazard that affects safety, health and wellbeing. It presents a considerable risk to seafarers’ lives and health, property, security and the marine environment. Fatigue is a problem for all industries and transport modes which operate around the clock, and the maritime industry is no different.
The demanding nature of shipping means that:
- seafarers may be required to work long and irregular hours
- seafarers may work and live away from home for weeks or months at a time, on a vessel subject to unpredictable and changing weather conditions
- while they are serving on board, the vessel is both a seafarer’s workplace and their home, so there may not be a clear separation between work and recreation. This can affect mental and emotional wellbeing.
When you are affected by fatigue, every aspect of your physical, cognitive and behavioural performance will also be affected—such as, your ability to make decisions, your response time, judgement, hand-eye coordination and other skills. When your fatigue impairment coincides with other risks in the environment, incidents can result.
To find out how to identify, manage and reduce the risks associated with fatigue, please read through the fatigue guidelines on the AMSA website.
- inability to stay awake (head nodding or falling asleep involuntarily)
- difficulty with hand eye coordination
- speech difficulties (slurred, slow or garbled)
- increased frequency of dropping objects like tools or parts
- digestion problems
- focusing on a trivial problem, neglecting more important ones
- slow or no response to normal, abnormal or emergency situations
- lapses of attention
- poor judgement of distance, speed, time, etc.
- forgetting to complete a task, or part of a task
- difficulty in concentrating and thinking clearly
- decreased tolerance and/or anti-social behaviour
- irregular mood changes (irritability, depression)
- ignoring normal checks and procedures
- increasing mistakes and carelessness
Seafarers often spend many months working away from family and friends with this situation being made worse if the vessel they are engaged on is involved in a maritime accident
It is unfortunate that seafarers have not always been treated fairly following a maritime accident, in some cases being denied access to their rights when under detention. AMSA is committed to ensuring seafarers are treated fairly during these circumstances.
Fair treatment of seafarers in the event of an investigation following maritime incident is addressed in Resolution A.1056 (27), adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) on 30 November 2011. This resolution endorses guidelines developed by a joint IMO / International Labour Organization (ILO) working group in 2006.
The objective of these guidelines is to ensure that seafarers are treated fairly after being involved in a maritime accident and during any investigation process that follows. They include guidance for ports and flag States.
In Australia, the rights and obligations for people under investigation for Commonwealth offences are set out in Part1C of the Crimes Act 1914. Seafarers should be treated no differently. This includes the right to legal representation, the ability to communicate with family and friends, have access to an interpreter if required and non-Australian nationals to be able to contact their consular office.
More information about the fair treatment of seafarers in the event of an accident, including a link to the full guidance document, is on the AMSA website.