A new report shows that Social Interaction Matters between crew members

A new report shows that Social Interaction Matters between crew members

The report for Phase One of ISWAN’s Social Interaction Matters (SIM) Project, sponsored by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and Red Ensign Group.

The SIM Project was initiated with the primary objective of encouraging social interaction on board and is divided into three phases, with this report marking the end of Phase One. The research consisted of a large survey of seafarers and other maritime stakeholders as well as 10 in-depth telephone interviews, which examined the relevant drivers and barriers to the promotion of social interaction and specific activities which seafarers around the world identified as helping to engage people.

The project recognises the importance of crew coming together during their leisure time and the contribution improved mental and physical well-being makes to efficiency and safety.

Seafarers are key workers, recognised as such since the COVID-19 pandemic. This has resulted in dramatically extended voyages and has focused attention on the importance of social interaction and seafarers’ well-being.

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The SIM Project has identified or confirmed the following: Social interaction can improve the mental and physical health and well-being of seafarers and demonstrated clear benefits for:

  • developing trust and better working relations with other crew members (family away from home).
  • developing team cohesion and improved resilience that can increase motivation and productivity at sea.
  • improved safety practice.
  • combatting isolation and providing a release from the daily work environment.

The research also identified areas that can negatively impact opportunities for bringing people together socially on board, including:

  • fatigue, lack of time and increased workloads.
  • shorter port calls and less shore leave.
  • the effectiveness of the leadership and management skills on board and ashore.

The SIM project, sponsored by the Maritime Coastguard Agency and the Red Ensign Group, is a three-phased project, with this research element making up Phase One. Research was conducted between March and September 2020. The research collected information from a review of literature, a widely distributed email survey targeting all maritime stakeholders and ten semi-structured interviews, also with experienced maritime stakeholders.

The research additionally identified areas of controversy including whether alcohol restrictions and Wi-Fi on board helped or hindered social interaction. The data conclusively showed the benefits of encouraging social interaction to take place on board and highlighted the need for sensitivity paid to the various nationalities that might be sailing on the vessel. Different cultures have been seen to influence the preference of certain activities and how the interactions take place. Generational as well as gender differences were also noted to influence the perception of the drivers and barriers of social interaction. Additionally, Wi-Fi was seen as essential to social interaction by many current seafarers, but less so from non-seafarers working on shore.

Future considerations for the industry need to have seafarers’ well-being at the forefront of decision-making concerning ship operations, ship design, and crewing. Leaders and managers should be current and sensitive to a changing industry, continuous crew development and efficient vessel operations. The shipping industry, like others, must be able to adapt to external influences, whether this is guided by technology, a pandemic, or other factors. A flexible and sustainable management approach, and one which puts people first, is therefore essential.

A summary of the findings can be downloaded here.

More information about the SIM Project can be found here.

Brian J McMullin Solicitors
MMG Welding Killybegs

Report Shows Social Interaction Matters between Crew Members

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