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The Psychological Problems That Seafarers Face

Just like any other job, seafaring comes with its own risks and disadvantages. But due to the unique nature of working at sea, there are psychological risks that seafarers are more exposed to.

Right off the bat, being a seafarer is one of the most challenging careers in the modern era. They have to undergo rigorous training to become a seafarer, and when they finally step on a ship for their first voyage, things are going to become even more difficult. Because of these challenges, seafaring is also one of the most rewarding jobs out there. However, the men and women in this trade may be more exposed to the following psychological issues:

Causes of mental stress among seafarers

Psychological issues can lead to more health problems when left untreated, which is the reason why ship owners should always have a contract of purchase and sale for marine insurance. But to not let things get to the point of having the shipping company sued for liability by disgruntled workers, ship managers should recognize the causes of psychological issues among seafarers firsthand, and work to avoid them. These typically include:

  • Lack of manpower and thus, heavier workload for current staff
  • Frequent working at the port
  • Denial of leave, promotion, or salary increase
  • Hostile working environment
  • Homesickness and loneliness
  • Dissatisfaction with the facilities, food, or policies
  • Conflict with other workers or managers
  • Pressure of work
  • Long working hours
  • Personal or family issues
  • Existing and unaddressed mental health problems
  • Boredom and inactivity

Signs of psychological problems

The first step to addressing psychological issues among seafarers is to recognize them before they develop. If your crew members start to display the following signs and symptoms, there is a greater likelihood that they are suffering from the psychological stress caused by their job:

  • Lack of interest or motivation towards work
  • Irritability or short temper
  • Frustration with work or crewmates
  • Being careless while working
  • Blaming others for mistakes
  • Taking shortcuts
  • General shift of behavior and mood
  • Spending more time alone or in their cabin
  • Taking no interest in non-work activities
  • Consuming alcohol or drugs
  • Bullying or harassing other crew members

How to address psychological problems at sea

When the mental health of crew members are not given the attention it deserves, it can lead to bigger problems for the company. For starters, the work onboard may be affected by the crew’s behavior, which, in turn, can result in safety issues that can put everybody on board at risk. In extreme cases, seafarers that are suffering through severe psychological problems resort to committing suicide while onboard.

Death or disappearances onboard the ship may cause financial loss to the company due to delays. Apart from that, the families of seafarers who commit suicide at sea may sue the company for damages.

To solve these growing mental health issues at sea, here are some measures that ship owners and managers can start doing:

  • Offer mental health services onboard
  • Conduct one-on-one meetings with crew members
  • Have crew members visit seafarers’ centers at ports, if available
  • Hire enough crew members to avoid a shortage of manpower
  • Provide high-quality facilities, food, and entertainment
  • Enforce fair company policies
  • Relieve crew members on time
  • Make sure crew members have enough rest
  • Encourage recreation and team-building

In emotionally, physically, and mentally taxing jobs like seafaring, the importance of mental wellness should be given extra importance to avoid worse problems such as criminal offense, negligence, and suicide.


Afbeelding van Alexander Kliem via Pixabay

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