Idwal Senior Marine Surveyor Thom Herbert told Seatrade Maritime News that as a former seafarer, the inclusion of crew welfare-related questions in Idwal’s inspections was a passion project of his.
In total, 12 new questions have been added to the firm’s vessel checklist with the focus on objective questions to make the findings harder to ignore and focus on areas where any problem has a clear solution. Questions seek details on amenities like Wi-Fi onboard, gym facilities, onboard training facilities, and access to bonded stores, whether additional periods of rest are available and access to catering services.
After six years at sea on oil and gas tankers across Africa and Venezuela, Herbert said he had first-hand experience of the challenges seafarers face and the tasks they are asked to perform.
“Internet access made a huge difference at sea, and within that there’s a huge difference between having access, having metered access and having no access at all. Seafarers can be well paid, but not always enough to offset the sacrifices of being away from home. Internet access helps create a bridge between home and sea,” said Herbert.
The answers to the 12 new questions form part of the Idwal grade, an overall grade the company grants a ship based on over 500 data points from inspections which are run through an algorithm. Idwal’s clients are often commissioned by hedge funds, banks and other large corporations looking to assess the risk profile of assets in sale and purchase deals. Portfolio risk analysis is also offered for larger fleets.
Given their client base, Herbert said the approach to crew welfare had to be focussed: “We can’t just raise the issue, we have to prove it and point to a solution.”
Many of the new questions relate to issues raised repeatedly in the Mission to Seafarers’ Seafarers’ Happiness Index, a project for which Idwal has become a sponsor. The latest edition of the index showed seafarer happiness at an all-time low as the pandemic and Ukraine war increased made seafaring more difficult and strained relationships onboard many vessels.
The company found the pandemic increase demand for its services as owners and managers leaned on Idwal’s network of surveyors to carry out inspections while travel restrictions prevented their own surveyors attending vessels. “We have a network of over 350 surveyors located throughout the world. The use of locally based surveyors ensured there were minimal limitations in place when it came to Covid restrictions. This not only allowed us to inspect vessels which Super Intendents could not travel to but also ensured that a minimal carbon footprint was generated for each,” said Idwal.