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SF & BM on seafarers on board?

SF (Shearing force) and BM(bending moment) is how we measure the stress and strain of the ship however in the recent times, it seems that the SF and BM of seafarers sailing onboard or affecting the ship more than the SF and BM of the Hull.

In this blog we will discuss the following

1) Reasons for the stress onboard

2) Psychology of the stress

3) Symptoms

4) Past and present

5) What should seafarers do

6) Role of Families

7) What are companies doing?

8) Role of covid in increasing the stress

9) What’s the future?

10) Summary

1) Reasons for the stress onboard: To understand the stress onboard on seafarers we need to understand their work environment. location of the vessel, the vessel’s trading pattern, the size and team onboard, the shore part of the organisation, the average age group of seafarers onboard are some of the major role players in creating the stress onboard, lets discuss each point in brief

a. Work Environment-The weather around the vessel like, temperature, wind, sea state, coastal passage, passage through piracy infected areas, areas of high traffic density all these constitute the physical surrounding of the vessel which create stress on seafarers as the measure to be taken to safe guard the people, the cargo and the ship in the above areas are heightened compared to the vessel in an open sea passage with pleasant weather. This mainly affect the top one fourth of the seafarers onboard.

b. Location of the vessel: Larger vessels mostly perform cargo operations away from the civilization, even out at sea and not berthing in a port at all. Not able to set foot on firm ground causes a stress deep inside not visible even to the seafarers themselves.

c. Trading pattern: some vessels are on long passages where the ship staff has a regular routine for a month at a time hence the stress levels are comparatively reduced, however in case of some vessels where the sailing time between ports is few hours to a couple of days. Here the schedule and responsibilities keeps switching increasing the stress levels. This change however is more pronounced on the deck side compared to Engine side.

d. Size and team on board-Its always more the merrier onboard. Compared to the manning scales earlier, there is drastic reduction in the number of seafarers onboard lately for the same size of vessel. Also the mix nationalities onboard and communication gaps increase the stress onboard on the fear of incorrect actions.

e. Average age onboard the vessel-Why should this be a consideration ?1st it is possible that if the average age is less ,the total experience could be less hence creating stress onboard.2nd-if there is younger lot onboard, studies have shown that they are one who miss their families more hence becoming the reason for stress.3rd-with the average age lower there is a chance of the senior officers feeling the junior lot are incompetence which again increases the stress on board for the senior officers.

f. Recognition: Seafarers work hard and are away from their social world and they yearn some recognition for the efforts, it gives a meaning to their life and makes them feel proud. Lack of it makes it difficult for them to put in the efforts which is required for the job creating stress.

2) Psychology of stress onboard: The Psychology of why stress onboard can be divided into 5 major factors 1) Physical ,2) Psychosocial,3) Social ,4) High work demand, 5) High management tasks. These factors we have already discussed on the earlier point. These are the triggers which play on the seafarer’s minds and increase their stress.

3) Symptoms of seafarers if they are stressed: Most of the human ailments are called Psychosomatic meaning it starts with the mind in our thoughts and then converts into actual physical symptoms. This is exactly what happens in case of the stress as well. The body finds various means to express its dis pleasure with its environment. Very common symptoms which are seen and can easily be connected to stress are

1) Higher blood pressure

2) short temperedness

3) Head ache

4) Upset stomach

5) nail baiting and

6) Insomnia

There are also few subtle symptoms which are not pronounced

1) Loss of appetite

2) frequent cold

3) dry mouth.

So it is important we identify the symptoms and the reasons behind to ensure a healthier life.

4) Past and present seafarers :, Is there a difference? I actually checked with my friends if this stress was a new phenomenon or was it always there, and the answer was, yes we did have stress, however we never realised it. Earlier we never had any easy communication facility to contact our families and the world and feel we were a happier lot. As the old saying goes-No news is good news! If there was a bad news it always reached you. but my question is, is stress only at sea? Does it not affect seafarers who are ashore and doing a shore job? I think you know the answers.

5) What should the seafarers do? Don’t ignore and don’t fret. We should accept there is stress in this career and we have accepted the same when we joined the sea career and grew in rank.1st step to resolving any issue is to 1st accept its presence and work towards mitigating it. Seafarers generally have a tendency to take thing personally. Dont. Whatever is being said or done is for the position on the ship and not to you as a person. Same time also do not be a burden on someone else becoming a reason for their stress.

6) Role of families: Every seafarers sailing onboard is always concerned about his family back home, more so if they have some challenges. So this keeps playing on their minds always and the seafarers fight this back and continue working. If the family also expresses the same discomfort in any of the communication, then the seafarer’s threshold reduces and his mind tells him to go back home as a basic instinct. Now the seafarer has to fight this greater urge to go home and continue working, which increases the stress many times over. Family hence play a very important role and they should assure the seafarer that they can manage until unless they actually cannot manage.

7) What are companies doing? Most of the major ship operators and ship owners have recognised the importance of mental health of seafarers onboard and are taking proactive actions in assisting seafarers in improving their mental health onboard. Some of the major initiatives are

1) better communication for seafarers to contact families at a reasonable cost

2) extra manpower to share the load

3) better transparency with seafarer and his family

4) shorter tour of duties

5) More favourable family carriage policies

6) some owners/operators have started employing counselors to take call from seafarers onboard to name a few.

8) Is the Pandemic increasing the stress? Yes, and No, yes because the tour of duties have been increased, there are restriction in going ashore for shore leave and increased fear of contracting the disease. No because-Increase of tour of duties has happened before without pandemics and shore leave as has become a rare commodity now a days. So left is the fear of contracting the disease, which is pronounced by the challenges being faced by the family and their fears that the seafarer might contract the disease.

9) What’s the future? Are seafarers always going to be under stress? How will new aspirants join sea? The challenge of the maritime industry is that how do they project the stress to the outside world. Is there no stress affecting people who are working ashore? Are there on suicides on a daily basis of staff working ashore. Stress seems to be an integral part of life and the beauty is to accept the fact and manage it and not fear it.

10) Summary: Stress was there, is there and will be there as in all professions let it be at sea or ashore. We need to accept the same and seek external help as required. Families should be considerate to seafarers while onboard and not load him with their problems. Companies can start addition training on mental health and provide guidance to seafarers on identifying stress and actions to be taken including contact details of people who can assist them maintaining confidentiality.

This is a very sensitive topic and many seafarers would have experienced stress onboard.please share your experience,and how did you manage it,for others to learn from the experiences you had.

Thanks so much for reading through! If you liked it, please do comment and share!

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