Our Ref: HSR/1/9
Head Office Circular: NP/151/22
12th July 2022
To: The Secretary
ALL SHIPPING BRANCHES
MCA WELLBEING AT SEA TOOL
Poor mental health at sea is still taboo. Your union is fighting for better support for seafarers in the maritime workplace and a new joint report from the Department for Transport and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) provides evidence of the need for serious action to embed a permanent improvement to the wellbeing culture at sea and in port.
Alongside the report, the MCA has launched a new digital tool designed to support seafarers’ health and wellbeing. The Wellbeing at Sea Tool is a new online resource containing practical advice for seafarers and assistance to employers in monitoring wellbeing and supporting their seafarer employees.
Its launch is supported by the findings of the research which gathered the views of chaplains, charities, unions and employers across the maritime industry.
Despite ongoing work, many of those questioned said they still felt mental health issues were poorly understood not just by employers but among seafarers themselves. Many of those questioned said that there needed to be better reporting and investigatory standards to understand and act upon suicide rates at sea, for example.
Many also claimed that the subject of mental health and suicide was also off-limits for some crew who are deterred from discussing these issues on cultural or religious grounds.
The Maritime Minister Robert Courts MP said:
This new report will help us to address this important issue, and with support from the MCA with its new online service, we will continue to challenge the sector to take action to ensure all seafarers are properly supported on land and at sea.
Katy Ware, Director of UK Maritime Services at the MCA said:
There is – sadly – still a stigma around mental health. The fact seafarers still don’t feel able to talk about it or access services says a lot about how far we still have to go in terms of reducing that taboo.
This is exactly why we have launched our Wellbeing at Sea Tool. By identifying stressors and issues at an early stage, we hope that the tool will help to reduce stress among seafarers which is a contributory factor to mental health problems.
The MCA Human Element team, which RMT sit on, developed the Wellbeing at Sea Tool. It is part of a range of guidance to improve seafarer wellbeing your union is developing, from individual employers like CalMac and Stena Line to industry wide standards at ITF level.
When a seafarer uses it, they are asked to take a digital survey. Once completed, the seafarer is given personalised advice on how to improve their wellbeing at sea. Data captured is anonymised and shared with managers within the company to help them better understand what the priorities are for improvement. We would expect these strategies to be discussed at Safety Committee level and RMT Maritime Health & Safety reps are encouraged to make wellbeing a standing agenda item for meetings of the onboard safety committee.
The website can be viewed at: https://www.wellbeingseatool.com/
Members are encouraged to use this tool, also to feedback to RMT (firstname.lastname@example.org) on the usefulness or otherwise of the tool. We will feed members’ (anonymised) comments back to the MCA in order to continuously improve this and other support for the mental health of seafarers.
Please bring the contents of this circular to the attention of relevant members.