For the past six years, the International Day of the Seafarer has been celebrated on June 25. Shipping carries more than 90 percent of world trade. Almost everything that we use in our daily lives has been directly or indirectly affected by sea transport. Making all this possible each and every day in the seven seas and thousands of ports worldwide are the 1.5 million seafarers; most often unseen.
These seafarers are responsible for operations on a variety of different ships and responsible for an even greater variety of different cargo; from the shoes that we wear and the food that we eat to complex chemicals and oil and gas which powers nations. There is no doubt that shipping is the life blood of the world economy.
The safety and wellbeing of all seafarers should be the main priority for the entire shipping industry. Seafarers dedicate themselves to life at sea, away from home, doing work that can often be challenging, lonely and even dangerous.
On the other hand, it is a profession made up of very proud men and women and one full of adventure where no two days, whether at sea or in port, are the same.
At Wallem, we know that our seafarers are the oxygen of our business. We couldn’t do what we do without them, and their safety and welfare is of paramount importance. We want our seafarers to do their jobs safely, feel a valued part of our teams and to return home safely to their families.
Our Wallem seafarers are made up of a great mix of people from different cultural backgrounds. All are respected and treated equal; irrespective of the color of the passport they hold.
We are strongly committed to ensuring their welfare. Training at our Wallem training centers emphasizes safety and a healthy work-life balance. We have a long-established wellness program on board, and we hold support and assistance for our seafarers and their families in high regard.
In turn, the Wallem professional seafarer is expected to have a strong safety mindset and take pride in his/her commitment to the ship they are entrusted with, their fellow seafarers, the environment, our customers and Wallem.
Wellness@Sea is a key aspect of our pre-joining safety briefings and training sessions and hard copies of the guide (in both English and Chinese) are available on board for ready reference. The key is that we are empowering our seafarers to take care of themselves and their health, while offering them our full support. The program, which was developed in conjunction with a clinical psychologist, addresses mental and emotional health and covers every aspect of wellbeing at sea, from stress management to healthy eating and the importance of quality sleep and exercise; as well as a positive working culture and behavior.
Monitoring is done to ensure that any seafarer showing signs of fatigue is not allowed to continue to work as they are risking endangering themselves, their colleagues, our owners' assets and the environment.
At Wallem we are very grateful for the constant support provided to our seafarers and their families by the various chapters of the charitable organization, Women of Wallem (WoW), in our seafarers’ communities. Knowing that their families are well taken care of and have a strong support system in their absence can bring comfort and allow the seafarers to focus on their responsibilities at sea.
Engagement and empowerment is also key to our approach at Wallem. We are committed to keeping our crews motivated and unified towards the same goal – safe and efficient operations for themselves, our customers and Wallem. We believe that making sure that our seafarers feel a part of our team is essential for their own well-being and to boost morale on board.
We have a strong mentorship program on board and encourage seafarers to raise any issues they have through Seavoice@Wallem - a confidential email portal that can be used without fear of bias and retribution.
We hold events such as safety dinners on board to increase social interaction and provide our seafarers with ample opportunities to upgrade their skills and training via our in-house training portal.
In short, focus and awareness on seafarers should not be limited to one day in a year. It should be part of an ongoing effort rather than a one off initiative. The industry has a responsibility to look after our seafarers and do everything we can to continuously support them. Seafarers matter.
Fared Khan is Marine Director at Wallem Ship Management.
The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.