Let’s be honest. There is never an easy time to have a difficult conversation, and in the shipping business, there are plenty of difficult conversations to be had when it comes to crew welfare. Physical well-being, fatigue, mental health stigma, as well as discrimination towards gender, sexual orientation or culture are all difficult conversations, especially when layered with a complex generational divide, whereby as many as 5 generations of seafarers may be thrown together in harsh and relentless conditions.
We’re not telling you anything you don’t already know.
The question is WHY, if we know these complex issues are happening, are we unable to move forward? Why can we not find a solution to something that is damaging to human life and the industry too?
These questions were the seed of an idea that became XChange, our first WellAtSea forum, in November 2022, where 120 of our colleagues and partners gathered together with the challenge of breaking the stigma, sharing our challenges and learnings and Xchanging ideas to shape the future of crew wellbeing together.
An industry that doesn’t know where to begin.
Amongst our partners, we found a willingness to exchange data and information about strategies that worked, as well as a desire to improve best practices and collaborate to prioritise crew well-being. There was an overwhelming sense that given the incidents faced during the pandemic, the industry understands the value and relevance of crew well-being, but doesn’t know where to begin to put it right.
Evidence is the catalyst for change.
The forum strongly felt that concrete evidence, showing the real state of seafarers’ well-being, will be the catalyst for change that the industry needs.
Business decisions aren’t made based on ‘emotional choices’, especially in an industry that is set in its ways and in which the ‘value’ of the human element has always been low. How can the industry change an entire culture and justify the budget to achieve it, based on something that is not tangible or backed up by hard data?
What we heard was a call for help.
On an emotional level, behaviour change is ready to happen. It is clear our industry is gathering momentum and wants to act with more integrity and accountability to transform the lives of those at sea. Yet on a business level, without evidence to prove the business case, change isn’t possible on the global scale our industry requires.
This brings us back to the difficult conversations we must continue to have. We have to keep collaborating and we have to keep the lines of communication open, with the stakeholders, policyholders, decision-makers and seafarers all taking part in the conversation. Only then will we find a solution to how we gather the data that builds the business case and ultimately garners the weight and backing of policy, and legislation, to create organisational change.
A difficult conversation.
There’s no denying that the solution to finding data in such a diverse population is not an easy one. According to the International Chamber of Shipping, there are 150 nations in the maritime sector, along with 50,000 International merchant ships and over 2 million seafarers worldwide.
The cultural, religious, social and family influences of the 2 million seafarers will have a significant and variable influence on how they think about stress, mental health and whether or not they would call for help.
The goal of XChange Forum 2022 was not just to collaborate and show our delegates that their ideas and dreams really can advocate change. But to show that the ‘future-orientated’ vision of mental health and well-being for seafarers that we all share, is a real thing!
We were amazed at the acceptance and willingness of our partners to share their learnings and try new ideas. It goes to show, that when you exchange information, you grow.
Key outputs from XChange Forum 2022
1: Standardisation – The forum wanted to see accurate statistical data and reporting on trends from standardised assessments that measure job satisfaction, productivity and team dynamics, stress, fatigue and financial and mental well-being. The vision is that data will shape and drive sustainable behaviour change through crew welfare policies that are aligned with the IMO (International Maritime Organisation).
2: Collaboration – Collaboration between industry leaders, lawmakers and decision-makers. The vision is to drive the agenda on the Human Element, Diversity & Inclusion and Mental Health Policies in the maritime industry.
3: Digitalisation – Using digitalisation to support crew well-being in the future. The vision is that this can improve diversity and inclusion, improve access to telehealth and mental health support and become an integral part of new policies that drive safety and well-being.
The second XChange Forum is already being planned for the 24th of November 2023, the day after CrewConnect, in Manila, Philippines. This year we will open the forum beyond our partners and welcome anyone in the maritime sector. Are you willing to share YOUR Big Vision for improving the wellness of seafarers in 2024?
If you would like to register your interest to attend in person or online, please email Arvin and we will reach out as more information becomes available.