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Shipping cannot afford current levels of seafarer ill health

Photo: Vikand Peter Hult CEO of Vikand speakinag at event in London
Ten thousand seafarers leave the industry every year through preventable ill health according to maritime healthcare provider Vikand with its CEO claiming that in 95% of these cases careers could be extended.

In a global employment market which is seeing a contraction of available crew, particularly from Russia and the Ukraine due to the war, Vikand’s Chief Executive, Peter Hult said that in most of these cases the causes are stress and cardiovascular problems.

Hult added that the average is loss to the industry is 20 years of experience per seafarer, collectively totalling a 200,000-year loss of experience every year, for what is primarily a lifestyle problem.

“The maritime industry needs to take more of maintenance approach to health in shipping. Imagine telling your chief engineer not to fix the main engine until it breaks down -no maintenance- that’s what we do with the crew,” Hult told an audience of industry figures gathered in the US Embassy in London earlier this week.

Chris Bhatt, of employment consultancy firm Aon, said that this failure rate had caused a “crisis in crewing”. He said, “No-one wants to go to sea anymore and the industry is looking to technology to fill the gap, but this is unlikely.”

Crew shortages are already a problem with a 9% deficit in officers in the maritime sector last year, according to Vikand MD Ronald Spithout.

“We need to make the onboard situation a much more social place to get new crew interested in going to sea,” said Spithout.

He added that the industry needs to invest in training for crew and to help crew to manage their work and prevent crew from “breaking down”.

He said that the poor health of seafarers can lead to direct costs for the company, if vessels need to divert for a medical emergency, and the health issues also impact the cost of insurance deductibles.

“Contacting a captain, asking how things are, checking on food quality on board ships, monitoring air quality, these simple changes can deal with three quarters of cost that owners pay now,” said Spithout.

According to Vikand every dollar invested by a company into the wellness of their crew will save $3. Hult said for every 100 ships there are $2 million in health costs on average of which 75% are redeemable through preventative care.