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COVID-19: Hanseaticsoft urges shipping companies to help seafarers reduce stress

As Stress Awareness month in April coincides with a global pandemic, maritime software provider Hanseaticsoft is urging shipping companies to tackle stress and depression amongst seafarers by ensuring connectivity at sea.

{mprestriction ids="1,2"} During the coronavirus crisis this is even more imperative, says Hanseaticsoft. Global travel restrictions and changes to crew change over frequencies could start to have a negative impact on seafarer’s health and wellbeing if they have to stay on their ship longer than usual.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has issued a statement recognising frontline workers in the shipping industry and highlighting the importance of their health and safety at sea.

The International Chamber of Shipping and the International Transport Workers’ Federation have also stressed the importance of seafarers in global trade and supply chains. They say 100,000 seafarers must change over every month to comply with regulations and calls for them to be classed as ‘key workers’ to enable this to continue.

However, several shipping companies have announced they have suspended crew changes because of the coronavirus, potentially meaning longer stretches at sea.

Alexander Buchmann, managing director, Hanseaticsoft said: “Stress and depression amongst seafarers is common. Long spells at sea and increasing workloads can seriously impact seafarers’ health and wellbeing. With the coronavirus situation this could be made even worse for crew with more time away from their family and potentially having to self-isolate if they show symptoms.

“One easy solution to help workers manage this is providing personal internet access. This can enable seafarers to keep in touch with family and friends whilst at sea which can help improve their mood, it can also mean crew are able to access up-to-date information on the health crisis. They can make use of apps to access mental health support or other groups and organisations too.”

The latest Seafarers Happiness Index highlights that seafarer happiness dropped in the final quarter of 2019 and research by the Sailors’ Society and Yale University suggests that more than a quarter of seafarers suffer from depression – and many won’t ask for help.

Another survey by the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and the European Community Shipowners’ Associations (ECSA) found that 60 per cent of respondents said that the provision of internet access to seafarers for personal use may have improved the mental health and wellbeing of seafarers and 69 per cent believe it is good for morale.

Ensuring seafarers get enough rest and stick to legal limits on how many hours they can work is also essential. Not having enough sleep can boost the body’s level of stress hormones which becomes a vicious circle for those already stressed. Work stress and impaired sleep are linked to a threefold higher risk of cardiovascular death in employees with hypertension, according to a study in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

Hanseaticsoft is helping companies prevent tiredness and improve the health and wellbeing of seafarers with its Rest Hours Module, part of the company's Cloud Crewing software solution. This digitalises and centralises the management of rest hours via cloud technology.

It allows crews to enter their own rest hours rather than relying on someone else to collect and enter the data. This means they can access their own data and ensure the correct times have been entered.

“In Stress Awareness month we want companies to consider the wellbeing of seafarers and look at how they could help improve their working environment. Ensuring crews get enough rest is one way to do this. With the global coronavirus pandemic it’s even more important for companies to look after the health and wellbeing of crew," continued Buchmann. 

“Having internet access at sea means that shipping companies can make use of cloud technology solutions, which can assist in every aspect of crew management and administration, including health and wellbeing. Introducing these measures now will help them over the coming months as well as help future proof their business.” {/mprestriction}

 

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    Demand for faster and cheaper connectivity at sea is set to increase as sailing is recognised as a safer place to work, travel and holiday during the COVID-19 pandemic says satcom specialist IEC Telecom, which is experiencing an increase in enquiries from vessel operators in the maritime leisure sector.

    With ‘lockdowns’ and restrictions easing in some parts of the world, yacht owners are now able to enjoy ‘social distancing’ onboard their vessels, which is leading to a boost in demand for high-speed connectivity and increased bandwidth capacity. With the focus on social distancing, yachts are becoming increasingly attractive remote offices for those able to attend to business matters while enjoying the open sea, sunshine and fresh air. During this challenging time, sailors have an increased need to stay connected for both personal and operational purposes as well as to avoid the need to go ashore as much as possible.

    The signs are pointing to an upsurge in leisure boating. Yacht chartering is seen as one of the safest ways to enjoy a break at present due to the minimal contact charterers have with other people. Yachts are considered to be more hygienic, given the ratio of crew to guests and the exclusivity of being on a private boat. Affluent consumers are looking for getaways with fewer crowds, more privacy and the ability to gather privately with those closest to them. The Boat Affair platform (whose rentals are available in more than 60 countries) has seen a 23 per cent increase in requests from customers who traditionally would opt for a hotel vacation or a seaside resort but are now seeking a safer alternative. And, according to a new survey by LuggageHero, 25 per cent of travellers report they will try to avoid crowded commercial flights and public transportation in a post-coronavirus world.

    Meanwhile, in countries where travel is still restricted, many larger leisure boats and super yachts remain fully crewed and operational – also leading to increased need for connectivity as crews try to stay in touch with family and friends while conducting as many ship operations as possible via remote techniques. With crew restricted to remaining on the vessel in many places, higher speeds and larger bandwidth capacity is needed to provide leisure activities too.

    The leisure boat sector was initially hit hard by international lockdowns and is now incurring additional costs for deep cleaning, personal protective equipment, virus testing etc which are not generally reflected in the charter fees. As a result, systems which allow to optimise bandwidth consumption in order to reduce expenses on communication are proving popular with consumers looking to install or upgrade yacht connectivity systems.

    Gwenael Loheac, chief executive officer Western & Southern Europe for IEC Telecom said: “Data traffic on leisure vessels has increased during this crisis period because crew, vessel operators and passengers need to exchange information on a more regular basis. In response to COVID-19, we are seeing increased demand for flexible tariffs to enable leisure vessel operators to adapt quickly to fluctuating connectivity requirements. Fortunately, we are well-placed to meet these needs, having a wide portfolio of solutions designed to provide best user experience, while keeping communications costs at bay.

    IEC Telecom recently launched OneGate Marine Compact, a new lightweight digital solution with a network management system which provides full visibility over on-board network assets (both satellite and GSM) and enables vessel owners to control expenses and optimise consumption via a digital dashboard.

    Mr Loheac commented: “OneGate Marine Compact was developed to cater to all major requirements of the leisure boat sector – addressing their needs for speed, bandwidth and cost optimisation. OneGate Marine Compact is an agile, lightweight, highly-adaptable and easy-to-install digital communications system which gives complete access to the benefits of digital connectivity even on smaller vessels. At this challenging time this system is providing many of the answers yacht owners need to enable them to conduct online business and leisure activities safely and securely.”

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