It Starts and Ends with the People


Seafarers represent the backbone of global trade and are, as such, its most valuable-yet-vulnerable element. Without qualified seafarers, global trade would be hugely impacted, with accidents inevitably soaring. In the current situation with a projected shortfall of seafarers, further escalated by the ongoing war in Ukraine and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is of paramount importance to ensure healthy, happy and loyal crews to safeguard global trade.

Accidents and shortage of crew

History has shown the significance of crew retention and loyalty within the shipping industry, particularly witnessed in the challenges that were faced between 2004 and 2009. During this period, H&M claims frequency reached an all-time high. The shortage of seafarers and the simultaneous expansion of the global commercial fleet made it increasingly difficult to hire qualified seafaring personnel. At this time, Marine Benefits was established to provide a tool with which to attract and retain seafarers.

The development of more advanced ships, coupled with a growing shortage of crew, resulted in a high number of partial losses.

Typically, human error is the root cause of many accidents. Factors such as stress, depression, anxiety, fatigue and other aspects of wellbeing can also contribute. Investing in proactive wellbeing measures can therefore be a significant contributor to mitigating such accidents. Cultivating and maintaining the health and wellbeing of personnel is not only vital for crew retention but also for safety at sea.

Insights gained

During the COVID-19 pandemic, insights were gained regarding health, wellbeing and claims frequency. Due to COVID-19, crews worked more consistently together, which lead to an improvement in communication, increased happiness, as well a decrease in accidents according to Marine Benefits’ Re:fresh wellbeing study. At the same time, the overall H&M accident frequency was at an all-time low. When compared to the attrition rate, the correlation is 81%, with a probability value of 0.001. The correlation between the shortage of officers and partial claims underscores the need to recruit and retain crew members. As the current shortage of seafarers increases, it is imperative that the shipping industry prioritises the protection of this essential group. By 2027, there will be an estimated demand for at least 60,000 more seafarers, which will not be met by the current supply. Based on the recent study conducted by Marine Benefits, Re:fresh Wellbeing 2022, an additional 14% of seafarers are contemplating leaving the profession.

Key driver for retention

Fostering a healthy mindset, especially when family and dependents are included, can lead to increased crew retention, as well as reducing accidents.

Knowing that health benefits are considered a key driver for retention, the investment in such benefits may directly link to the shipæs safety. When seafarers are holistically healthy –mind, body, and soul – there is less risk onboard. Investing in the protection of the seafarers and their families does
not only benefit crew retention but also aligns with the aims of The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), and the Environment, Social, and Governance criteria (ESG). By taking care of the people at sea, the industry can work towards a more sustainable future while fulfilling its social responsibility to protect employees.

The Future

Looking ahead, prioritising the health and wellbeing of seafarers is essential. Due to the current global situation, there is a reduced interest in leaving home, an increased availability to work ashore, plus many seafarers from major labour-supplying nations are at stake due to the war in Ukraine. Re:fresh wellbeing also revealed that, in 2022, depression and anxiety increased amongst seafarers. As we continue to face the largest shortage of crew in history, it is imperative that the shipping industry protects seafarers. Developing safe environments, both physically and mentally, is crucial. This will not only encourage seafarers to remain in the profession but also attract new and qualified talent.

We must take care of the people that are driving the shipping industry. It is time to act and look ahead – with people in mind.