Maritime and Coastguard Agency

Why everyone needs to play a part in a fair future for Seafarers

June 18, 2021 Maritime and Coastguard Agency
Maritime and Coastguard Agency
Why everyone needs to play a part in a fair future for Seafarers
Show Notes Transcript

To mark Day of the Seafarer, we've brought together four people from across the Maritime and Coastguard Agency with different perspectives of seafarers.

The International Maritime Organization has carried out a survey asking seafarers a number of questions - we've been musing over the results in this latest MCA podcast.

Why everyone needs to play a part in a fair future for Seafarers

Heth - Hello, and welcome to another Maritime and Coastguard Agency podcast. The Day of the Seafarer is an important milestone in the calendar. The international Maritime Organization has carried out a survey of seafarers to gauge the mood and the tempo. I'm going to be looking at some of those results with some of my colleagues in the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, Chief examiner Ajit Jacob, Julie Carlton, head of Seafarer Safety and Health, Carol Davis, whose role is Modernizing Maritime Education and Hazel Lewis, Seafarer Safety and Human Elements, policy manager. Julie, I'm going to start with you. I was looking through some of these results and, while some of them perhaps weren't that surprising there were a couple of moments where I thought, oh, that's interesting. What did you feel when you looked at some of these results? 

Julie - I mean, I, like you, there was a lot there that we would have expected, comments on the impact of the COVID crisis and the need to address the issues that have come out of that in order to encourage people to join the industry in future but some very positive views as well of things that can be done to improve the lives of seafarers I thought and also on the training side.

Heth – Carol, I know that you know, you've looked at these as has everybody else. And, and one of the things that I thought was quite interesting and I'll, I'll pick it up with everybody, I think is the, you know, the question around who should be responsible for the fair future for seafarers and just over half thought that everybody should take a shared responsibility in that.

Carol - Yes, and this is absolutely right, and you cannot disassociate training and education from safety on board, salaries and also, you know, things like motivation and equity of opportunity. So, I think that very collegial, shared collaborative approach is absolutely key to achieving success in this area.

Heth - And Hazel is interesting, isn't it? That the idea that people think that we should all take our part to play in the fair future for seafarers? 

Hazel - Yeah, definitely. And I think that's something that we in the Human Element Team have been saying at our various stakeholder groups that the MCA is here, and we want to support seafarer wellbeing and welfare, but there's definitely a role for employers to play and other sort of groups like UK Chamber of Shipping I know we're working a lot on seafarer wellbeing, the Unions obviously, looking out for the individual seafarers and other parties such as the Insurers.

Heth – Ajit, I was looking again at this and thinking that it is quite interesting. How surprised were you to see that there is this feeling that we do, we are all responsible for our own futures? 

Ajit - So. Uh, we are responsible for the, uh, for our own futures. Yes, because we have a choice. Uh, but uh, we need to be mindful that when it comes to seafarers, uh, there's a role for everybody to play. And, uh, that's been highlighted in the last one year, um, where things were taken out of hand of what the seafarers want to do, uh, with respect to them joining a vessel or getting off from the vessel. So hence the need for coordination among various agencies, government, and non-governmental, private company companies as well, uh, to ensure, uh, that the welfare of the Seafarer is taken care of. 

Heth - Julie, no big surprises in that first question I suspect, where it talks about the area that needs most improvement, you know, working conditions and salaries, but I was quite interested to see that fewer people thought there needed to be improvement in training and safety on board.

Do you think that's a positive reflection or a not positive one? 

Julie - I think it probably reflects the focus of the last year, you know, given that the problems that seafarers have had that, um, Ajit was referring to, that's going to be at the top of people's minds about ensuring the future ensuring a fair future whereas safety is going to be maybe of less immediate concern. Um, I mean, I think it's a positive, it's positive in the sense that one would expect that if seafarers felt they were working in an unsafe environment, they would say so. 12% is, is still a significant number, I guess, that we, so we're not, we're not saying that there is that they're not saying that there is no need to improve safety. Um, but let's say I suspect it's just, it's more to do with the, um, the implications of the last year, the effect of the last years.

Heth - looking again at that question Ajit, where it says that that 13% of those polled thought that training needed improvement the most, that's quite a low number. Do you think that perhaps reflects, uh, the work that was done to try and do things like move training online? 

Ajit - Uh, because it's about perception. I mean, I know only 13% have said, uh, the need improvement, there's a need for improvement in training but I would have thought it's been perceived as we would want to mandate more training, which certainly should not be the case training should be appropriate, it should be structured such that it's relevant to the roles that the seafarers are perform, uh, performing on board and hence probably the, the low percentage 

Heth - Hazel, uh, just moving on to one of the questions, that's probably the least surprising to us all and that's, uh, how COVID-19 pandemic has changed the future of seafaring for the worst, you know, nearly over 70%, so two thirds thought that it had. How do you see the MCAs role in trying to reverse that kind of trend. 

Hazel - Yeah, I think, as you say, it's, it's not surprising. Um, the pandemics had a lot of well-being impacts for, for all of us and especially seafarers, um, that were affected by the crew change crisis. Um, there's been a lot of surveys and studies done over this period showing that wellbeing has been affected, but it is highlighting in many cases, issues that are always present for seafarers, um, including things like isolation, um, living conditions, um, and fatigue and exhaustion. Um, and the pandemics has just increased, uh, the negative effects of this. So, I think that, um, as the MCA seafarer wellbeing, um, has been something on our radar for quite a while we're not just responding to, um, the effects of the pandemic. We've last year we produced, um, the Wellbeing at Sea guides. Um, one of them is a pocketbook for the Seafarer the other is a guide for organizations and I think for us, we really want to continue working with organizations, providing guidance and support. We're also working on a tool to help organizations with understanding the wellbeing of their crew and how they can make improvements in that. So, I think, um, from the MCA, we obviously have a supporting role in producing guidance, 

 As I think has Hazel said it's, it's brought these things into, into relief and we've yes, it has, it has drawn attention to them and therefore they're higher up the agenda. People are more likely to respond. Another point that that's clear is, I mean, going back to the who's responsible for making changes and there is actually a substantial number of people are saying that the Governments and the International bodies have a role to play and I think that's, that's one of the things that has, one of the things that's very much come out this year is that regardless of the efforts that shipowners have made, the, the problems that have arisen with crew changes have largely been down to restrictions put in place by, by Governments and so it's the, uh, it's highlighted how the Maritime Labor Convention and the entitlements of seafarers have, uh, are sometimes in conflict with other priorities of Government, um, protecting their own population against, against the infection. Um, and, and so, yes, that's certainly, certainly drawn that up the agenda and it's something that, um, has been discussed at the International Labor Organization meeting on the MLC and will be again in April next year. 

Heth - My final question to all of you, but I'll start with Ajit is around this idea that, you know, we there's a lot of talk about building back better there are lessons that perhaps have been learned or things that we now can look back on and say, well, actually we might do that differently. Um, you know, I suppose my question to you is how do you see your role in helping to build back, uh, the, the maritime industry? 

Ajit - Uh, so if it's regarding training and certification, then we learned a lot the last one year. So the, the, the situation that we faced, uh, and the seafarers faced as actually helped us to create an environment where they could get qualification, get the certification even if they were not, able to travel to the universities and on-site locations. So, there are learnings from the last one year, which we have already started incorporating in our training regime and it's only going to get better, uh, so that it enhances the quality of training that we, uh, impart to the seafarers and that is a separate piece with regard to the, the welfare, which the conditions, which have been, uh, exacerbated in the last one year. 

I think we need to use the experience of the last year to provide evidence of where the statutory requirements, um, where, where their strengths and their weaknesses. So, and, and to use that as a, as a sort of a springboard if you like to go forward and improve things, um, the Maritime Labor Convention itself was designed to be, uh, an instrument for continuous improvement, it has much more, um, flexible provisions for amendment than, than other ILO conventions and so, you know, we, we need to make use of that as, as a Government working with other Governments to try and address the issues. 

 Yeah. I think it's really important to note that, um, the UK was one of the first, um, flag states to designate seafarers is key workers, and I think that's a really positive thing that's come out of the pandemic and just showing the important role that seafarers have, um, in keeping the UK economy alive. Yeah, and I think that, um, just showing how important seafarers are and how their wellbeing is impacted by global events and by the environment in which they're working on is really important.

So, in terms of what we can take from this is new perspectives, and it's provided us with a new lens through which we look at common practices in training, but also assessment. So, it's not just the potential that online training and assessment offers us, but it's also being to look anew at the relevance of what we've been doing up to now, either whether it's through our professional regulatory and statutory bodies, but also at what we think a Seafarer needs to know, not just in terms of knowledge, but also in terms of skill and competency and what they know cannot be divorced from emotional intelligence and the human element as well.

Hazel - I think the idea of Seafarer wellbeing is really taken hold in the industry. There's a lot of support and enthusiasm for making things better for seafarers, which is really positive and what we want to go on to do as the Human Element team is look further at that link with seafarer wellbeing and safety and looking at that wider piece of sort of safety culture as well.

Heth - You've been listening to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency podcast. My thanks to Julie Carlton, Hazel Lewis, Carol Davis and Ajit Jacob, thank you for listening until the next time. Goodbye.

This has been a Maritime and Coastguard Agency podcast. It was produced and presented by Heather skull.