Seafarers are Just Like Everyone Else
There is a lot of talk about seafarers being isolated and the younger generation being unhappy at sea, to the point of suffering mental illness. I don't think this is an accurate assessment, and I don't know why the industry is talking this way.
I get a lot of people saying to me: "Young seafarers, they are closing themselves in their cabin a lot.” Well, that's precisely what happens on every train. That's what happens in every restaurant, pub, everywhere. Young seafarers are no different from other young generation professions.
Young people do like to be isolated a bit - in the name of social media. They specifically use social media to isolate themselves. Young people are just not holding their hands like we used to do 30-40 years ago when boys and girls were dating. We used to go somewhere, parks or fields or whatever; there was more physical closeness. Nowadays, young people don't do that. They use Facebook, Twitter, etc.
Why do we expect seafarers to be any different? Seafarers are human beings, and as human beings they do whatever human beings do. There's no need to treat it as something so concerning.
I am, of course, concerned about the mental health of seafarers. My challenging question is, why all of the sudden are we so concerned about the seafarers and their welfare, especially their mental welfare, when we don't seem to worry too much about other maritime profession's welfare? I have heard statistics quoted, but without benchmarking they mean nothing to me. How do they compare to statistics for other vocations?
We do need to help those experiencing problems, and I am very much into it if we can help, if we can do more research, if we can know more, than obviously I'm very happy to help and assist. But it has to be responsible assistance. If we continue saying things that are not properly grounded in fact and context, the general public will get that impression that 90 percent of the the world's trade is being carried around the world by “insane” people.
Is this really what we want to do?
Captain Kuba Szymanski is Secretary General of InterManager.
The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.