The shipping industry must help seafarers now to prevent a mental health catastrophe, says international maritime charity Sailors' Society, as the most recent Covid wave threatens a new peak in the crew change crisis.
The stark warning came as the charity announced its new Wellness at Sea e-learning platform, due to launch later this year, which it will make available for free to all seafarers around the globe in response to the pandemic.
As well as the Wellness at Sea e-learning, Sailors' Society is also offering a free 27-week Wellness at Sea awareness programme to shipping companies, which starts at the end of June 2021. It will provide information and resources on mental health for their crews, alongside a free helpline for seafarers who are struggling with their mental health or just need someone to talk to.
The Society said companies had raised fears that the crew change crisis will be worse than last year, following surges in crew supply countries and a number of ports closing to seafarers arriving from India.
It is asking the shipping industry to 'act now to make crew wellbeing a priority and prevent a mental health catastrophe', adding that companies 'urgently needed to get on board' its Wellness at Sea campaign.
Sailors' Society's CEO Sara Baade said: 'Seafaring was already one of the most challenging jobs in the world, and now the Covid crew change crisis has added even more intense pressure on our crews. They are exhausted and anxious – they either face months of uncertainty at sea or the fear of being unable to work and provide for their families.
'It's a mental health time bomb for the industry, which relies on their labour to keep our global economy moving.
'We are making our Wellness at Sea e-learning and awareness campaign available for free, so there is nothing stopping companies from getting on board to protect their crews' mental health. Their future – and ours – depends on it.'
To find out more contact Sailors' Society's Wellness at Sea programme manager Johan Smith on email@example.com or +27 82 772 1814.
The Sailors' Society emergency helpline can be reached on +1 938 222 8181 or wellnessatsea.org/helpline. Union members in need of urgent help can also contact the free Nautilus 24/7 helpline service where there are options for live chat messaging, email, and Skype as well as toll free calls.