Highlights from the Africa Wellness at Sea Maritime Schools' Conference

In a maritime industry first, cadets from colleges in South Africa, Ethiopia, Ghana, Namibia, Angola, Mozambique, Reunion, Seychelles and Mauritius joined industry experts at Sailors’ Society’s virtual Africa Wellness at Sea Maritime Schools’ Conference on September 21.

Designed exclusively for African maritime school students, this day featured top maritime industry and wellness experts, who spoke on a diverse range of current issues including being a seafarer in a time of war, diversity and women in maritime and staying mentally strong at sea.

The conferences are being offered as part of Wellness at Sea - the first holistic and custom-built global wellness programme that serves the needs of seafarers on every step of their maritime journey.

You can download the conference programme here.

of the cadets polled said they were in training for a life at sea for the financial benefits of their career, while nearly a third (30%) were doing this to support their families

of the cadets said that the treatment of seafarers was the most important factor when choosing a shipping company

of those polled said technology and the ability to connect with family back home improved their relationships

of cadets said their overwhelming fear was not getting a job at the end of their training

said wellbeing should be a mandatory element of maritime training

are among the biggest challenges the Cadets saw in their life ahead

"Thank you so much Sailors' Society. It was indeed a wonderful learning session"

A 2022 participant

"I'm really glad I got this opportunity to attend this webinar"

A 2022 participant

"The event was amazing and I learned a lot of new kinds of stuff regarding wellness. We thank you for giving us the opportunity to attend this amazing and wonderful session"

A 2022 participant


Mrs H.K. Joshi, Former Chairwoman, Shipping Corporation of India (SCI) talking about diversity and women in maritime at the first of Sailors' Society's 2022 Wellness at Sea Maritime Schools' Conferences.

"A very well organised event, we need this kind of event and more and more in the future"

A 2022 participant

"I just enjoyed the conference and got to learn a lot from it"

A 2022 participant

"The event was very helpful in understanding difficulties at sea and how to tackle them"

A 2022 participant

Speaker addresses

Inaugural Address

Capt. Subroto Khan
Campus Director IMU

Good morning dear cadets and distinguished guests

It is in indeed a privilege to be amongst you all and be a part of the Wellness at Sea Maritime Schools’ Conference.

Today’s cadets are our future maritime leaders and they need to be groomed to take on the challenges at sea.

Needleless to say seafarers are facing far more difficult times recently than what we faced a few decades back.

As some people think, this profession is just a form of adventure which gives free travel with premium salary to the seafarer. However, this is far from reality. It is vital that you cadets are aware of this truth and be mentally prepared for it rather than expect it to be taken care once on board. I believe not only the young seafarer but the near and dear ones also need to be equally mature to realise that the fact the seafarer faces different challenges compared to any other industry which one can only comprehend once out at sea.

How these challenges have changed over the years

When i joined sea there were 64 people on board .we had plenty of people to talk to or fall back on when troubled by any kind of stressful situations both personally or professionally. Today we have handful of multi-national crew ranging between 15 to 20 persons often not meeting each other for days. Stress of any kind when not shared can multiply if not dealt with timely.

Faster turnarounds and efficient ship operations leads to share holders being happy but at the cost of the sea farers .Earlier port stays were for weeks and the shore leaves were planned well in advance even if it meant keeping lengthy hours of watch to ensure your fellow mate has a good time ashore .Seeing the pyramids while transiting the Suez or even French leave to hometown from any India ports was a common privilege..Today port stays are in hours and shore leave is a miracle which only a few have the fortune of.

The constant fear of inspections adds to the anxiety levels and to have perfect ship port after port 24 X 7 is a herculean task.

More than often the sign off get delayed causing extreme conditions of mental fatigue. Imagine a ship getting stuck in a hostile port and sign off is delays by over 8 months. Probably the people who went thru this trauma will realise the anguish.

Being far from home, away from people you care about, dealing with tough conditions and strict regulations; this is what it is to be a seafarer. But above all seafarers are humans. If stressed over a prolonged period of time it leads to depression or chronic stress which can become to permanent health disorders as well.

Seafarer wellbeing-a subject that has huge importance to all of us. The focus on wellbeing is as significant as any other aspect of ship operations and often has a direct impact on the safety performance of the vessel which most companies are very sensitive about. A happy ship is very likely a safe ship.

A recent study showed a major link between seafarer wellbeing and human error.

The results showed key areas of influence on wellbeing:

  1. Fatigue…this might be due to hectic ship operations like STS operations, River passages, continuous keeping 6 on 6 off watches where insufficient rest hours may arise.

2. The environment that the seafarers are working in… separation from home, extreme weather conditions associated with the uncomfortable rolling and pitching for days and weeks.
3. The responsibilities of seafarer weighs heavy on him at times adding undue stress. The constant pressure of performance to keep the company happy often leads to a highly tense environment.

4. Long tenure and at times along with delayed signoff tend to depress the seafarer leading to erratic behaviour.

5. A new feature which sometimes has a major impact on the well being of the seafarer is over information of minor details which may be happening back home. With mobile connectivity in most areas the smallest things happening at home can put off the seafarer.

It is important to provide adequate support before-hand to help people from reaching a breakdown or disorder. These support systems will always not cure but will help to manage or deal with the problem.

The important thing which any psychologist will advice you, is that stress can always be managed by yourself or with support from experts. It is important to deal with the issue in an early stage before it affects you in more serious ways to the extent of disrupting normal routine life.

What are the tell tale signs when you can detect stress creeping in to your well being.- Sleep disorders, lack of appetite, indulgence in smoking or drinking ,being temperamental and many more similar small changes can lead to something serious .Ask your self over and over again” Am I different from my usual self” When the answer is yes reach out for help . Today’s programme will focus on key issues facing young seafarers and will help you all to prepare for a long and fulfilling career at sea

Most of the shipping majors have started providing help lines to people onboard where they can speak with a therapist to deal with their issues. Psychological evaluation has become an integral part of many companies as a pre joining routine. Many companies have similar sessions to increases awareness of cadets before they go on board ships. At IMU too there is research being carried out by scholars to mitigate this factor of stress both for students and for sea farers.

I would like to share some age old shipboard practices which are now fading away The smoke room culture is one routine which I believe is something of the past and crew prefer to spend more time with their electronic devices during leisure .If we have a healthy culture to meet in the evenings over a card game or watch a movie together I am quite convinced the issue of wellness will be of least concern on the ship. Yoga, meditation or spending time in the gym should form an essential part of your routine at sea. Remember a happy ship is also a performing ship where people go out of the way to help each other beyond the call of duty, crossing boundaries of nationality and language.

I would like to compliment the Sailors Society to spear head this unique initiative to start the peer-to-peer support groups on WhatsApp. This allows you to share your experiences good or bad with your friends and batch mates who may come up with simple solution to a complex problem.

Finally here’s wishing all budding seafarers from MTIs across India a successful and healthy career at sea. Once again congratulations’ to sailor society and all partners who have come forward to address this very sensitive issue of Wellness at sea and organise this mega event for our cadets who will be at the helm of the maritime industry in the years to come.

Thank you

Keynote Speaker

Diversity - Women in Maritime
Mrs. H.K. Joshi, Former Chairwoman, Shipping Corporation of India [SCI]

Good Afternoon, to all those who are attending the event today from India.

And a Good Day to all our other esteemed attendees.

I would like to thank the Sailor's Society for giving me this opportunity of connecting with you as I feel I have an unspoken bond with Seafarers and their wellness and when I was asked to participate..... it was something which I readily agreed to as I consider any small contribution from my side for our fellow Seafarers and their wellbeing can make a big difference in their lives.

The subject allocated to me Diversity: Women in Maritime in today's context is not only relevant to the development and growth of the Maritime Industry but is also crucial and relevant for Wellness at Sea and I am thus elated that the subject was included as part of the Conference Agenda and I shall neither be sharing the statistics that we all know so well nor shall I talk about that, although we are one of the oldest industries we have a lot of path to cover in this field. I shall be focussing on integrating Women in Maritime with Wellness at Sea.

Human beings are social animals, so they say and since the time of Adam and Eve, God created the genders to coexist to fulfil, complete and balance humanity. Life at Sea is a smaller ecosystem of the larger Universe and what applies to the Universe would equally apply to its subset and by not doing so we are bringing in a distortion that to my mind was never meant to be. If women can go out to space, is it too much for women being out at Sea?

The Maritime Industry is considered to be a male bastion. The conventions and practices that we follow are all man-made to suit ourselves and from the Stone age and the Nomadic civilization, we have now come a long way and man has exponentially progressed with women accompanying him in space missions a metamorphic transformation with which our industry too is required to brace. While there is no doubt whatsoever that life at Sea is tough, it definitely isn't as tough as going to space and being inducted in combat roles and we have enough success stories of women seafarers who have made us proud. So at least one feat is achieved, that of the barrier that women are not suitable for seafaring. If that is the case, then why is there still resistance to employing women?

Women today are competent, capable and skilled to perform, what they are looking for is simply an opportunity to prove themselves. It is our responsibility to create the right mindset for opening up avenues for employing women. On behalf of women, I can confidently say we aren't looking for being protected within the domestic boundaries and we are daring, ready to take risks and share the burden equally. However, discrimination, sexual harassment and deep scepticism over the strength and capability of women demeaning them or their esteem needs to be dealt with an Iron hand as there is no compromise over self-esteem and dignity. Women are definitely not ready to compromise on a safe working environment and employers not ready to consider women are indirectly conveying their lack of ability to do so.

While in ancient times the man went out to hunt and the women took care of the hearth, are we still wanting to live in those ages? Is this relevant in today's context? The Maritime Industry has been lagging behind in technology and development, do we want our industry to be considered archaic ? Are we wasting talent that is available? Are we suffocating some brave hearts whom the sea is beckoning?

These are some of the questions we all need to ask ourselves. This subject is thus not only relevant for Seafarers both men and women wrt their mindset and accepting the truth of diversity but also for the institutions and organizations for giving larger opportunities for promoting diversity in their work space which needs to be fast paced at the induction levels in the Maritime Training Institutes. Unless we see a substantial increase over there we shall not see the change we want out there at Sea. It is heartening to note that Shipping Companies have started working on this. Shipping Corporation of India does give incentives to women cadets in admission to it's Maritime Training Institute however considering the opportunities that are available the takers are few.

We need to introspect why this is so?

There is sufficient empirical research to prove that organizations with a diverse workforce perform better in terms of productivity and efficiency and thereby delivering better results. Why should a Vessel and the sailing fleet be any different. They too are an integrated part of the business unit which has to perform and contribute. I further feel that the advantages of a diverse work force needs to be understood from the physological as also the psychological aspect which lead to contributing to higher productivity. This clearly brings out that these Teams are able to perform better owing to their state of mind and their happiness quotient which could contribute so much for wellness at Sea.

IMO has been supporting the cause of Diversity in a big way, the Celebration of the 1st International Maritime Women's Day on 18th May, 2022 should not be seen as just another event...the awareness that this has created shall mobilise all concerned into action to show and prove year on year the progress that they have made to achieve the Goal no 5 of UNs Sustainable Development Goals.

While I have so far been focussing on Seafarers the role and importance of Women at Shore cannot be undermined and this is equally important. While having more women at sea shall in due course increase their numbers in shore positions however for that transition to take place the gestation period would be too long and till such time an alternate mechanism has to be worked out. In this context, my own case stands testimony to the difference that can be made with women at shore. The unconscious bias that deters women to be appointed in positions of authority should be shattered with my own case. I am glad that I got the opportunity to lead the Change in Shipping Corporation of India Ltd and we demonstrated to the Globe with the first ever All Women officers sailing on a Tanker Vessel m.t Swarna Krishna on 7th March 2021 followed with another one on m.t Swarna Godavari on 14th May this year as a prelude to the International Maritime Womens Day. These events were not single voyages and the Women Officers completed their entire contract period and performed close to two dozen voyages laden with Crude oil .

Women at shore can be a great support to women at sea and can also be propagators and promotors of having more women seafarers but for this to happen, it is essential that women are appointed to positions where they are able to influence and drive the tide of change with the waves of transformation that is so much needed. I consider unless there are women in the right positions at shore, the fleet getting equal shall be a far cry. If we are wanting to bring in quality, we have to select the best regardless of gender and if men can drive this nothing like it else the first visible difference that can be demonstrated is by increasing the Women at shore and in management positions to push the SGD agenda and drive the change which is very much doable.

Realities of Life at Sea and the Importance of personal wellbeing

Capt. Prashant Rangnekar
Former COO, Fleet Management Ltd., India

Good Morning to our Capt. S. Khan who is standing in place of respected DGS, Mr Amitabh Kumar, CEO of Sailors Society- Miss Sara Baade, Head of Wellness at Sailor's Society - Mr Johan Smith, and the entire team of Sailor's Society, along with Mrs Dr Deepti Mankad, Capt. Anuj Velankar Regional loss prevention Director of Thomas Miller / UK P & I Club, all the panellists, my Seniors and colleagues of the industry attending this event, and our torch bearers the Cadets and all trainees attending this event.

I had addressed the Cadets of various MTIs in the last year's programme and I enjoyed it and hope that it helped the trainees in understanding the realities of life at sea. I am happy to address the trainees again and share some thoughts with them.

First of all let me assure each one of you the Deck Cadets, Trainee Engineers and in fact, all the trainees that you have chosen a very good career, a wise choice from you and you can Thank your parents, your well-wishers for supporting you in this endeavour. I say this with more conviction than ever as the industry went thru the pandemic and as you know shipping was among the very few industries that were not only fully operational but in doing so kept the wheels of the world trade moving. You are the important key workers of the Global supply chain.

The recent conflict between Russia and Ukraine and the ongoing sanctions has limited the availability of seafarers from that region. In every challenge lies an opportunity and the Indian seafarers are rightly poised to fill in the rising demand for trained and reliable manpower at sea. So therein lies the opportunity for each one of you.

Having said above its not all hunky dory and the road ahead has its own challenges and actually if you ask me, that's good in a way as it helps you to come out of the 'protective shell' of your parents and teachers and take charge of your life, and be responsible for your thoughts which you will eventually put in action.

Now before I proceed any further, I am requesting all the ladies attending this event not to put me in your shooting range, if and when I mention the Cadets / Trainees as HE, it is more out of convenience and old habits die hard, but whatever I say will apply to both genders and meant for the wellbeing of all the trainees, in fact, all the seafarers aspiring to hold positions on board.

SAFETY: Let's start with the most important topic and there is nothing more important than your safety, your wellbeing.

First and foremost, understand that your Safety is your lookout, sure the organisation and senior team on board will provide you with all the necessary gear and equipment and will train you as well but the ultimate responsibility is yours. For God's sake don't blindly outsource your safety into somebody else's hand, and that is what I meant by taking charge of your life. When we say safety, mind you it's not just your physical safety, your mental wellbeing also plays an important part in your overall well-being. I mean have safe behaviour and that starts with what goes on in your mind.

Don't let someone else on board make you feel unhappy and sad, that privilege you keep it to yourself. So pay attention to your thoughts, you have a great life ahead and no one and no words are going to make you feel miserable.

Don't be impulsive ever, and don't rush into any job, unless you have checked all safety parameters, and that is why that safety checklist made by your QMS department comes in handy. It's not a paper exercise and it is made after witnessing near misses and accidents. Just like SOLAS took shape after the disaster of Titanic. As they say one has to learn from others' mistakes or experiences, for you will never live long enough to learn everything out of your own mistake, and that one mistake can take your life.

If you want to show off your bravery then try the Indian Army, the ship is not the place for an act of suicidal bravery. Fortunately Today you have all the resources, equipment and importantly ease of communication with your seniors on board (it's not the same Power distance that we had in our sailing days ) and you can easily approach your shore team, your DPA should something related to safety not be addressed to your satisfaction, by the senior management on board. In my last company FML, where I was the Head of India Operations, we train all our seafarers in all ranks in a behaviour-based safety programme called SafeR+, to make safety a habit. The company also has a dedicated department called Fleet Care to address all safety and mental wellbeing related issues of our seafarers and even has a tie-up with Sailors” Society who offer counselling to any seafarer in any rank in need, at no cost to the seafarer. We also give dedicated training on wellness at sea – the Psychological First Aid training, to our sailing staff.

Most good companies will have something similar which will be informed to you prior to boarding. So among all the lessons that are taught to you be it at your training institute or as part of a value-added course, take safety lessons very seriously and understand that safety norms are sacrosanct. Cat has seven lives, not you and hence don't take a chance on your life.

It will help to keep your parents, your dear ones ( including your girlfriend's) photo pinned on your bulkhead and know that they are waiting for you back home.

LIFE ON BOARD: When you step on board, understand that it's your home, your office, your playground, and your place of worship all rolled into one. Take care of the ship be it thru its maintenance, upkeep and hygiene and the ship will take care of you, even when you encounter the most challenging and treacherous seas, the ship is your best friend. Consider everyone on board as an extension of your family, and give seniors the respect as you would do to your elders at home.

Here I would like to address the Masters, C/E, and the senior management on board ( if they are present on this platform ) - Please don't live and be attached to your rank every minute on board. When dealing with Juniors, specially Trainees, it will help to detach yourself from the epaulettes you were and treat the trainees as one human being to another, with empathy. It is said that the conduct of the parents is an education to the children and that applies to every senior on board.

We end up using our shipboard identities to describe ourselves, all the time. By doing this you are restricting yourself in many ways. Firstly, these terms or ranks don’t quite capture who you are as an individual and what is unique to you. We are much more than the hats we wear at work. As we try different pathways, it is critical we do not hold on to these labels very tightly. Don’t let your current identities come in the way of your being a mentor, a guide a good human being, to others on board.

When you communicate with a trainee, listen with the intent of understanding and not with the intent of giving a reply.

Coming back to trainees, as every parent is not the same, so it is the case with your Master, C/Offr, C/E and each one will handle you in a different way. Learn to take the hard with the smooth, as no one has promised you that life at sea will be a bed of roses and that every officer will handle you gently. That is where your learning starts and you learn to handle each personality tactfully, never allowing anyone to disturb your wellbeing and your goal of becoming a Master or C/E someday. Every job given to you, whether it is cleaning bilges, de-mucking the tanks, tracing the pipelines in E/R, or climbing the mast, everything from funnel to tunnel has something for you to learn. There is no job on board which is menial and below your dignity, Take every job as new learning.

In your training institute, you take lessons first and then write the exams, however, the Life on board first puts you thru various tests and you learn your lessons from it. Your presence on board should make a difference to the ship, if more jobs are coming your way be happy, you are doing something good and getting an opportunity to learn more and winning the confidence of your seniors and that should boost your overall wellbeing and outlook.

Be inquisitive and clarify your doubts with your seniors on board, if you are not sure of something. As a Trainee there is no question which is stupid, it's accepted as you are in a learning phase, so make the most of it.

As they say ' Be hard on yourself so that Life is easy on You'.

Your tenure as a trainee will pass very fast, so before you get off for your Competency exams, you should be practically and mentally ready and confident to do the job of 3rd Officer or 4/E as applicable.

CAREER: I repeat what I said earlier that you have embarked on an excellent career. In no other industry, there is such structured growth, an assured growth I must say, if you pass your exams on time, the rewards by way of promotions and a rise in pay is assured along with it. No other job allows you to take 4 months of vacation and return to the job in the same designation if not in a higher rank.

There is no other job where your home and office are one and so is your fun place and a swanky party place by the Sea, all just a few steps away. Most importantly you are on your feet, at an early age, and remember that your family is looking up to you and you are proudly spoken off in family groups and among friends.

Get into the habit of reading, no not the messages and chats on WA or any Social Media, they are waste of time and will not take you anywhere. If and when you do indulge in WA chats be responsible for what you convey to the rest of the world, as that becomes your identity so ask yourself if what you convey is going to add any value or is just plain gossip taking up your valuable time. Instead, Read books or manuals that will enhance your knowledge, that's an investment in your career or read books on self-development, that's an investment in developing your character, and your overall personality.

Do stay in touch with your family on regular basis, but keep the exchange short, and sweet, just to let them know of your wellbeing. All they need to know is that you are safe and doing well. Your challenges in coping with sea life are for you to address and handle them with help of your seniors on board, don't get your parents overly anxious about your work routine. Yes working hard is a routine, getting up early to keep watch with C/Offr is a routine, in fact, a privilege, not a punishment, so don't get your family at home anxious over such matters. Countering rough seas and bad weather is a part of seafarers' life, not a topic to complain to your family, at the most you can boast to your friends or girlfriend as to how exciting life is.

Lastly and importantly, The organisation that has given you a job opportunity as a Trainee is keen to see you rise up in your career and when you rise up into senior rank it is then that your true potential is utilised by the organisation and you to get to know your true worth. So don't languish in a comfort zone and get out of it to explore the world around you.

As I conclude, let me assure you that the entire Maritime Industry is looking up to you to carry the baton of being a responsible and capable seafarer so make your time at sea count well for yourself and for the organisation you work.

All the very best, stay safe and happy in your sea career.

Thank You Sailors Society for this opportunity to address our future officers, a vital force in the industry.

Cadets - thanks for being patient.



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