Neglected Health Issues Seafarers Must Be Aware Of

It’s a tough job – navigating through some of the most challenging environments on Earth, with a long haul ahead of you. But if you’re not careful, it can become even more difficult. In recognition of the health risks seafarers face, here are 34 crucial issues that need to be considered before being hired as a seaman.

You have been warned! Never forget these things when you start work as a seafarer:

  1. It is essential to know how long your vessel will be underway and how often it will come back to port. Never assume that your vessel will return to its homeport once it completes its voyage. Knowing in advance will help you plan for the trip.
  2. Seamen are in charge of working in extreme weather conditions
    According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, people who work in a cold environment are at risk for hypothermia. Seafarers should always be aware of freezing temperatures or below zero degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit) and take necessary precautionary steps when outside.
  3. You must always wear a life jacket when working aboard a vessel
  4. It’s best not to drink alcohol while sailing, especially if you’re alone on board or if you’re intoxicated.
  5. Those who work in the maritime industry are at risk for asbestos exposure, not only on ships but also onshore, for example, through exposure during working hours at port facilities.
  6. Working as part of the crew should never be used as an excuse for neglecting your health
  7. Preventive medications are prescribed to seafarers at high exposure levels to prevent the development of various diseases. Some preventive medications may cause irregular heartbeats and thus affect their performance
  8. The cargo you’re transporting can include hazardous materials that can cause severe damage to your health if not taken care of properly.
  9. Seafarers should be able to recognize and respond to signs and symptoms of mental health issues
  10. Seafarers need to understand the signs and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  11. Seafarers with PTSD may not be aware that they have it. However, they tend to show behavioral changes such as anger, depression, alcohol abuse, difficulty sleeping, anxiety, and withdrawal.
  12. Seafarers should follow the guidelines on mitigating the adverse effects of long-haul voyages. These include:
    a. Establish a healthy diet regimen while onboard a vessel – a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help relieve tension.
    b. Get sufficient rest, avoid alcohol and tobacco, and eat the right foods.
    c. Limit alcohol intake to two drinks per day or less. The effective coping mechanism could be exercises that will help break the monotony of making long-haul voyages
    d. Gradually reduce your working hours – increase your off-duty time, increase your off-duty time. Don’t focus or become emotionally involved with the tasks you are doing. Maintain a healthy lifestyle
  13. Seafarers should take all medications prescribed by their doctor, even if the medication may seem excessive to them since it may help prevent disease
  14. If you feel that your mental state worsens during your voyage, talk to your union representative about seeking professional help.
  15. Every year, approximately 160 people die in accidents involving ships, and 456 people die during their voyages. Deaths among seafarers rank first worldwide.
  16. Seafarers should bring copies of the working conditions agreement signed by the shipowner and the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA). They should also bring a copy of their certificate of employment or training.
  17. Seafarers should remember to take all the medical and other required documents for inspection upon arrival at the port. They can visit one of the ship offices at Port of Brisbane, Port of Brisbane Cruise Terminal, or the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA).
  18. Seafarers should visit a doctor as soon as they arrive in Australia and before they start working to discuss injury and illness prevention and the possible need for medication.
  19. Sometimes, it can be difficult to tell if someone is suffering from mental health issues, depression, or anxiety. Therefore, allow them to express themselves freely during this period.
  20. Seafarers should be able to recognize symptoms of stress, depression, and anxiety in themselves and maintain good health
  21. It’s essential for seafarers to know their rights when it comes to working in a safe environment
  22. Seafarers should make a point of knowing what to do in an emergency. They also need to know the layout of the vessel and its equipment
  23. You should not drink alcohol while you are working on a vessel unless you’re off-duty
  24. If you’re working at night, your eyes may not adapt quickly to darkness. Always wear sunglasses when out on deck when the sun has gone down
  25. Seafarers should know how to react during fire or fire alarm situations. 
  26. Seafarers should know how to react in an emergency by following the emergency evacuation procedures. It is essential to know the location of emergency exits and have a quick escape plan
  27. Seafarers need to be vigilant in knowing what kind of cargo is being transported, its size, and weight. They also need to know the location of dangerous goods, especially when they’re on watch duty.
  28. Know how to use the equipment for seafarers’ safety, such as fire extinguishers and lifebuoys.
  29. Seafarers should always keep a low profile as there is always the possibility of being caught with drugs or stolen goods.
  30. If you’re an Australian national, you’re entitled to all the benefits and services available to seafarers regardless of whether you’re working on a vessel. Check with your nearest Australian embassy for more information.
  31. Seafarers need to be aware of all laws and regulations regarding working in Australia, especially if they are expected to work at sea.
  32. Seafarers should consider getting additional qualifications for this line of work
  33. Seafarers should learn to swim. They need to know the location of lifebuoys and how to use them if needed
  34. Seafarers can get support from their families by making them aware of the hazards they face every day on the job.

However, the life of a seafarer can be highly hazardous and full of stress and anxiety. Therefore, you should always exercise caution when dealing with other crew members. The risks associated with this line of work can’t be underestimated.