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Soft Skills: Ensuring The Well-being of Seafarers

25 / 08 / 2020

The well-being of seafarers has always been a critical topic in the maritime industry. Besides being a challenging profession in its very nature, this year proved to be extremely hard for seafarers considering the adverse circumstances brought by the COVID-19 world pandemic. During such challenging times, the well-being of seafarers is of utmost importance to ensure that their focus is on operational safety and excellence.

Challenges of Shipping Jobs

Being a seafarer is an extremely challenging profession. The life onboard has its unique characteristics. For extended periods, seafarers remain far away from home, family and friends. They lack access to many facilities that we have access to when ashore. They are isolated at sea for months at a time and frequently faced with stressful circumstances onboard.

As a seafarer, being away from family and friends may mean that you are less likely to talk about poor mood or feelings of unhappiness than someone ashore who sees their loved ones every day. Just as means of communication with family is limited, seafarers may face other restrictions to their well-being such as limited shore leave, monotonous routines, long working hours, shift work, and few opportunities for exercise or socialising. We must pay attention to our mental health because it affects how we think, feel and act.

A Group "At Risk"

Evidence collected from maritime organisations has highlighted that seafarers are a group ‘at risk’. Based on research, around 6% of seafarer deaths were due to suicide, between 1960 and 2009. This increases if suspicious cases when seafarers go missing are taken into consideration. Further, according to IOSH, mental health issues are generally higher among seafarers. Moreover psychiatric disorders have become more common onboard cargo vessels in recent years. It is generally noted that seafarers may be particularly prone to emotional exhaustion, “burn-out”, and loneliness at sea.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines mental health as a “state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and can contribute to her or his community”.

Seafarers are exposed to an increased number of work-related stressors: fatigue, long hours, monotony, noise, vibration, temperature changes, a multinational environment, limited recreation, isolation, long periods away from home. It has become apparent that seafarers should possess not only the knowledge but also the skills and experience which can help them efficiently deal with such stressors. Seafarers who are required to lead, perform within a diverse group of people, achieve tasks and be efficient should develop a strong skillset in a range of areas such as coping under pressure, self-management and interpersonal skills.

1, Coping Under Pressure

Life at sea requires mental resilience which most seafarers learn and get better at with experience. According to Gard, Every seafarer has his or her own coping mechanisms to deal with feelings of anxiety, loneliness, helplessness and depression. Certain unique aspects of life at sea can contribute to stress for seafarers, causing reactions which can jeopardise physical health, well-being, and workplace morale.

The demands of work onboard, such as split shift patterns, the pressure of frequent inspections and administrative tasks all create a very demanding environment. Other challenges such as excessive responsibility, monotony, fatigue and others all affect well-being and mental health on board.

The ability to cope under pressure, make decisions and maintain healthy functioning are of utmost importance to survive and thrive in such an environment.
Seafarers must manage to make decisions, plan and respond efficiently to pressure and stress. How seafarers respond varies from one to the other, depending on the soft skills they possess.

2, Self-management

Well-being and efficiency are linked with competency and confidence. It is essential to have the knowledge and skills to perform at high standards and support self-assurance. Further, the ability to adapt to change and still thrive are critical to successful performance in a fast-paced workplace. Learning to adapt and be open to new ideas and procedures are essential to be able to maintain healthy functioning. By being confident and capable and performing to high standards, seafarers can be considered accountable and trusted by others and thus boost the overall well-being.

3, Interpersonal Skills


Individual well-being is associated with choices and activities aimed at achieving physical and mental health. Maintaining a healthy body that has the energy to get through activities while maintaining emotional well-being that enables to cope with life’s challenges are of paramount importance.

Soft skills have the power to improve our relationships, mental health and well-being. They are all about human interaction, coping and communication. They are the personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with

other people in the workplace, cope under pressure and perform efficiently. Therefore, seafarers should spend some time to assess, identify and develop their soft skills and as a result, improve their well-being and mental health. Developing these skills will enable them to perform more efficiently and increase their confidence.

Psychometric assessments for seafarers

To facilitate, the well-being of seafarers Safemetrix now offers individual seafarers the opportunity to assess their non-technical skills at no cost. Completing these assessments will grant you insights into your level of soft-skills via a short report and also determine any areas of potential improvement.