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The issue of mental health featured prominently in a recent survey of members from Nautilus' Netherlands branch, with some feeling dissatisfied with elements of their work. Linde de Visser and Sascha Meijer examine the outcomes of this survey and look at what Nautilus is doing to make sure members can 'sail with satisfaction'
Disillusioned with sailing
More than a quarter of our working members who participated no longer enjoy sailing due to the Covid-19 pandemic and Ukraine war. Of the 161 working members that completed the survey, more than half indicated that they find sailing less enjoyable due to recent developments.
Lack of communication
The survey also indicates that contact with shore organisations has deteriorated since the start of the pandemic, whilst workload has increased.
In 2018, the research report 'Seawater through the veins' also showed that factors like human contact in communication between shore and ship, as well as targeted career conversations, are important to seafarers.
In times of war and pandemic, seafarers have experienced their HR and crewing departments more as 'crew change departments'.
Almost half of the respondents stated that they want to stop working early, but for the most part it is not financially feasible.
'Sailing with satisfaction'
The rather shocking results of the survey prompted Nautilus to give its annual symposium in June 2022 the theme of 'safe sailing with satisfaction', and to put 'sailing with satisfaction' on the agenda in the maritime sector.
A previous Telegraph article reported on input from Nautilus members and industry representatives on this topic. During the symposium the initiative was supported by the public, with almost everyone present agreeing that 'yes, I find safe sailing with satisfaction important'.
More than half of the seafarers who completed our survey think their current mental health is fine, but this is still a concerning figure. Internationally there are studies that raise serious concerns about the mental health of seafarers. Insomnia, depression and even suicide are alarmingly common. Much more attention should be paid to this subject, to make sure that the industry remains attractive to Dutch seafarers.
The European Transport Workers Federation (ETF) organised a symposium on mental health on 16 September. Sascha Meijer, the vice-chairman of Nautilus's Netherlands branch, took part due to her Union position and her as chair of the EU consultation between unions within ETF maritime transport. Nautilus member Captain Rudolf Roozendaal started off the conversation with a video message about his time as a captain onboard a Dutch merchant vessel.
There were various speakers from across the maritime sector, ranging from doctors to employers. Belgian medical examiner Rob Verbist said one problem is that seafarers with mental health issues are not always seen by doctors with maritime knowledge. As a result, it takes longer to develop standard protocol for helping seafarers. Speakers emphasised that there is still a taboo about mental health problems and that some seafarers are even afraid of blacklisting.
Sailing with satisfaction in CBAs
We are also making sure sailing with satisfaction is on the agenda in collective bargaining agreement (CBA) negotiations. In 2019, in addition to a scheme for early retirement, provisions were included in the merchant shipping CBA about the additional factors that make jobs sustainable. For example, flying with as few stressful stopovers as possible, and holding career conversations with seafarers.
For the 2023 CBA, we are now discussing with our members what they would like to see in terms of help. Members have indicated that messages of appreciation – and being properly rewarded for good work – are major issues for them.