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  • Writer's pictureBy Lito U. Gagni

WellAtSea Eyes New Frontier In Advocacy For Seafarers

WellatSea, an advocacy program that ensures the mental health and well-being of seafarers, has just concluded a forum in Manila dubbed Xchange, which saw industry leaders, manning agencies, foreign consultants, shipping industry officials, psychologists, and influencers, exchange groundbreaking ideas to further enhance its award-winning digital crew wellness program.

Photo Insert: The forum shared hard-hitting data collected by WellAtSea to encourage industry leaders to work together to bring seafarers’ well-being to the forefront of their business agenda.

In a day-long forum at Makati Diamond Residences where participants were engaged in mindfulness exercises and social interactions and focus group discussions, WellAtSea was able to gather innovative ways of pushing its advocacy to a new frontier via a seafarer-centric ecosystem.

Gisa Paredes, M.A., RPsy, Chief Strategy and Commercial Officer WellAtSea, summed up the Xchange as a way by which novel programs could be introduced to “support and empower seafarers” and come up with novel ways of combating mental health problems that mariners usually face while voyaging through the seas.

The forum shared hard-hitting data collected by WellAtSea to encourage industry leaders to work together to bring seafarers’ well-being to the forefront of their business agenda. Ideas were exchanged about whether health and safety training programs could be extended to include mental and social health.

Established five years ago, WellAtSea has seen incredible growth, starting with just 19 pilot vessels in 2017 to 473 vessels in 2022 due to its digitalized engagement with seafarers who go through various mental health exercises and bonding protocols while mindful of the cultural differences that have to be overcome.

For instance, seafarers from Myanmar were able to overcome their hierarchical culture to engage in exercises and community singing to battle their loneliness and depression.

Now over 18,000 seafarers and 150 cadets from 46 different nationalities have been part of the program within the last 5 years with 84 percent engagement in active ships at any one time and seafarers reporting significant improvements in their emotional and physical health.

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The ‘human element’ in shipping (IMO A947) is known to be a ‘complex’ and ‘multi-dimensional issue’, yet the forum presented hard proof that putting seafarers at the center of a maritime business strategy not only improves the bottom line but solve industry issues with recruitment challenges as well as meeting the next generation of seafarers’ needs.

Delegates heard from Ms. Paredes and Andrea Lodolo, CEO of Seably. This was followed by insightful presentations by Andi Bastian, Training Manager at BW Group, Bong Regalado, Marine HR Manager at Berge Bulk, and Lars Gruenitz, Managing Director at Norstar who each shared first-hand experience and data that demonstrated how engaging were the WellAtSea programs that had positively impacted their businesses through improved health and safety, CSR, recruitment.

Paredes said: “Five years feels like a huge milestone and I can see the tide is starting to turn. The attitude towards crew welfare was very different when we started and a ‘meeting of minds’ in a forum like XChange would have been impossible. Now I look at how the industry is starting to share learnings, accept the data and see that caring for seafarers isn’t an optional extra, it is the ONLY way to profitably and fairly propel the maritime sector towards the future."

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Andrea Lodolo, CEO Seably “It is important for all of us to challenge the norms, foster discussion and bring about new ways of thinking, especially when it comes to the many benefits that come from valuing a team. For too long the plight of seafarers has been at the bottom of the agenda and at Seably we are driven to ensure that this changes through technology and innovation that benefits seafarers and helps businesses grow."

In 2021 an industry study showed that 40.8% of seafarers were overweight. This compares to 25% of seafarers in the WellAtSea program

In 2019 it was revealed that 10 percent of seafarers were obese, as compared to only 3 percent in the WellAtSea program. Studies from 2019 also revealed that 28.96% of seafarers smoked, a figure significantly reduced in seafarers on the WellAtSea program at only 9%.

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