By Capt. Priyank Agarwal, Crewing Manager
We live in an era that has no precedent in living memory.
The COVID 19 pandemic not only continues to rage but is also strengthening in certain parts of the world. Lockdowns and travel restrictions have severely hampered normal crew change operations. With no early end in sight, we need to accept that this is the New Normal and in terms of air travel/ connectivity, we have in some sense been pushed back. For seafarers, the direct implication is that of the delayed sign-on/off and unwanted contract extensions.
As an added side effect, the pandemic has also caused almost every port state to clamp down onshore leaves, with permission for doctor visits being granted only in case of an extreme emergency.
Life at sea requires high levels of mental resilience. Over the years, with the increased availability of internet connection onboard and usage of personal smartphones/laptops, seafarers have started to stay confined in their cabins during non-working hours. These factors have resulted in an increased case of depression/ anxiety and brought to the fore the question of seafarers’ mental health.
Everyday fear for the health of family members and friends ashore has added to the mental stress of day-to-day work.
We, at Thome, have taken note of these challenges and have started several initiatives, which we feel will address the problem. These initiatives will break this pattern of working in silos and will help seafarers overcome mental health issues:
- Free counseling services for the seafarers provided by the International Seafarers Welfare Association Network (ISWAN) as highlighted in the March 2021 edition of TGN
- Weekly video/audio calls to the vessels to keep them motivated, discuss any issues they are facing, updating their relief plans, encouraging them to socialize in groups – watch movies together and talk to each other.
- Organizing group activities for the vessels to participate, one such activity is the recent Christmas photograph competition where all vessels participated and shared photographs and videos for the Christmas celebrations held on board.
These initiatives are taken very positively and have helped the seafarers cope well with the new normal.
The Thome Group is actively on the lookout for new ways of engaging our seafarers and keep them motivated and adapt to the new normal.