The Human Factor: Improving Seafarer Welfare Fuels Maritime Resilience

Errikos Andreakos, Chief Commercial Officer at MarTrust

Published Aug 17, 2023 6:11 PM by The Maritime Executive

[By: Marcura]

The maritime industry is focused on addressing the major challenges of decarbonisation and disruption. However, improving the sector also requires improving the welfare of those who are its lifeblood.

The most effective crew is a happy crew, and nothing encourages happiness more than a safe and functional work environment.  

Shipping drives the world economy, and seafarers are the labour which keeps trade moving. Despite their work being so essential, they often face some of the most difficult conditions of an employee anywhere in the world.

The existing challenges have only been compounded in recent years by the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and the further subsequent disruption caused by national restrictions on trade.

Ships are inherently international with many different nationalities represented aboard the average ship. Through no fault of their own, many seafarers found it increasingly difficult to send money home or receive payment amid sanctions placed on financial institutions with ties to specific states.

The welfare of crew members is not just a moral imperative but a strategic decision that benefits the industry as a whole. This is why the maritime industry has made strong efforts in recent years to address these challenges and improve seafarers' working conditions.

The importance of well-being

Recognising the importance of seafarer welfare has become as much a priority for international organisations as other pressing issues such as decarbonisation, digitalisation, and sanctions compliance.

Not only is it beneficial to improve welfare, but it’s also very quickly becoming an unchallengeable status quo. During the pandemic, The International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) issued guidelines and recommendations to ensure the well-being of seafarers. These guidelines emphasised the importance of crew changeovers, access to medical care, mental health support and regular communication with families.   The actions of these international organisations have become indicative of where the shipping industry is going. Most efforts are now being geared towards reducing dangerous work and any company not acting in alignment will eventually find itself uncompliant. This is no different from how the industry now views the shift towards decarbonisation. 

One notable example of a focus on seafarer welfare is the introduction of MarTrust by Marcura. MarTrust is the largest  payroll and business payments provider for the maritime industry, which is geared towards addressing some of the challenges faced by seafarers in accessing and sending funds due to sanctions-related issues. The industry is looking to rapidly integrate the latest technologies to improve efficiency and futureproofing. MarTrust is symbolic of this interlinking of digitalisation and welfare concerns, utilising digital solutions to facilitate secure financial transactions for seafarers.

“Paying seafarers is a cross-border transaction,” said Errikos Andreakos, Chief Commercial Officer at MarTrust. “While seafarers send most of their money home, about 20% of their wages plus overtime and bonuses are paid in cash, which is kept onboard. This can be very costly for the shipping company because of trapped capital or expensive security factors.”  for the seafarers he added “many cases of theft onboard and onshore, excessive commissions and the risks with carrying cash when you travel have been reported” 

“By digitising this with an E-Wallet solution, you can make an instantaneous payment directly into the account of the seafarer. It’s an instant transfer of funds which both empowers the seafarer and reduces costs for the owner,” Errikos added. By leveraging technology, MarTrust ensures that seafarers can access their funds easily and without any complications, even in the face of global conflict and supply chain disruption.

A digital world  

Digital solutions have emerged as a key enabler in addressing the modern challenges faced by seafarers.

Online platforms and applications are being used across the board by seafarers to manage their travel arrangements, visas, and documentation electronically, minimising paperwork and administrative burdens and improving security. “In recent years, there has been an attempt by shipping companies to go digital,” said Errikos. “The adoption of new technologies has been slow but paying the salaries of the people working for you is by far the most important. If they don’t get paid, nothing else works.” 

Platforms like MarTrust alleviate the difficulty for employers as seafarers can receive and send money easily while adhering to international regulations. 

This realisation has pushed the industry to embrace digital solutions that enable seamless and secure transactions. By leveraging digital solutions and innovative approaches, agencies, ship managers, and companies like MarTrust are paving the way for a more efficient, sustainable, and compassionate shipping industry. The convergence of technological dedication and the prioritisation of welfare is a testament to how these objectives can complement each other.

The products and services herein described in this press release are not endorsed by The Maritime Executive.