While a career aboard a superyacht is often portrayed as the dream job for the travel-hungry, no matter how glamorous a gleaming superyacht may seem, those in the yachting industry know that it’s not all sunshine and smooth sailing. In the last decade there has been a noticeable shift in attitudes towards mental health on board, and now the International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) is looking to take awareness to the next level with the launch of a new online toolkit, yachtcrewhelp.org.
A charity working to promote and support the welfare of seafarers all over the world, ISWAN already operates SeafarerHelp - a 24-hour multilingual helpline as a direct service for seafarers – but following its 2018 research into the welfare needs of superyacht crew, and the increasing awareness of mental health issues, the team believes that much more still needs to be done to change the culture in yachting.
ISWAN is now in the process of launching an online toolkit, yachtcrewhelp.org, which is designed to raise awareness of the direct support available to superyacht crew and make it easier to access this support worldwide whenever life gets tough.
The support that the toolkit will offer is three-fold:
• Signposting organisations and the specific help that they can offer. This will include direct access to information about SeafarerHelp as well as contact details for the Mission to Seafarers’ Palma-based Chaplain, Nautilus, the PYA, port welfare organisations and more.
• Cataloguing the port-based facilities which exist for superyacht crew as an extension to seafarerhelp.org/en/seafarers-directory
• Guidance on various issues affecting superyacht crew, including the promotion of good metal wellbeing
For all supporting companies, publicity and website branding opportunities will be offered.
How can you help?
ISWAN requires an estimated £20,000 for the technical set up, content review and marketing of the toolkit, and are looking for donations of £1,000 or more from larger organisations, while any contribution from individuals, no matter how small, are highly appreciated.
When ISWAN teamed up with MHG Insurance Brokers in 2018 to conduct a survey for seafarers on superyachts to investigate welfare issues in the industry, nobody quite anticipated the extent of the problem. While the sunny side of life on board was showcased, the extensive, first-of-its-kind superyacht crew survey found some compelling and alarming issues, with more than three quarters encountering leadership problems alone.
Some findings based on the responses from 402 superyacht crew who participated in the 50-question survey include:
• Accessing mental health care was more of an issue for women than for men, with 55% of female respondents reporting this to be an occasional or regular challenge, compared to 28% of men (or 37% of both male and female respondents)
• 82% of superyacht crew had experienced low crew morale “sometimes”, “often” or “always”
• 80% of female and 54% of male crew had experienced work-related stress
• 57% of women and 39% of men suffered from social isolation or loneliness ‘sometimes’, ‘often’ or ‘always’ while working on board
It wasn’t all negative, though – for instance the survey found that 60% of respondents say they have no difficulties in obtaining physical healthcare, while 55% successfully address their mental healthcare. 67% of crew “usually” or “always” feel rested in port, while 51% were satisfied with their employer’s leave policy.
The report also made the following recommendations for heads of departments to keep in mind when considering the mental health of their crew:
• Improving recruits’ knowledge of what to expect on board before they go to sea
• Improved support for seafarers who are coming out of the superyacht sector
• Raising awareness of what support for wellbeing is out there for seafarers, and widening distribution of welfare materials and information to include yacht crew
• An increase in the availability of rotational posts, which would make a concession to family life
• Enabling more time for rest and relaxation
During a presentation of the report at Inmarsat’s headquarters in London, ISWAN’s Executive Director Roger Harris said: "The research highlights some real concerns of crew working on superyachts that need to be addressed by the sector. We are grateful to MHG Insurance Brokers for funding the research and to The Mission to Seafarers for supporting it."
Download the full report here.
According to the World Health Organisation, one in for people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives – a statistic which is surely only going to rise in the coming years. ISWAN’s latest initiative is a huge stepping stone in helping crew have better access to the support they deserve, and one that we hope the industry will rally round to secure.
Again, to make a donation, please click here.
Images: ISWAN, Pexels, Unsplash