Human Rights at Sea Review of ZS Wellness Ltd Think Tank Event

Human Rights at Sea Review of ZS Wellness Ltd Think Tank Event

 Miss Anastasia Papapetrou, Researcher & Intern, Human Rights at Sea

 An Introduction to ZS Wellness Ltd

On the 29th of January 2019, Human Rights at Sea attended the first ZS Wellness Think and Tank event at the Caledonia Club, London[1].

The Mission of the Founder, Mr. Andrew Cowderoy, and his partners[2]is: ‘to educate, train and prevent seafarers from running the risk of loss career or life and to educate the shipping industry to take a proactive rather than reactive approach to both physical and mental health’, as is explicitly stated at the website of the organization.

Andrew has underpinned the philosophy of ZS Wellness with eight of the UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development: Good Health and Well Being, Quality Education, Gender Equality, Industry Innovation and Infrastructure, Climate Action, Life Below Water, Sustainable Cities and Communities and Partnerships for the Goals.[3]

This was the starting point of the inaugural event that took place at the Caledonian Club, where industry experts elaborated on the seafarers’ mental and physical well-being. Apart from the experts, a dynamic audience participated in this interactive procedure by discussing several initiatives and recommending solutions.

How the event unfolded

The ZS Wellness Think Tank was a collection of like-minded individuals whose focus is about shaping the future well-being of seafarers. To that end, a variety of industry experts shared their experience in the maritime working environment, and suggested solutions for a better professional and personal futures for seafarers.

Training: Impact Crew

To commence, the first speaker was Ms. Karen Passman, the Founder of ‘Impact Crew’[4], a research-based training organization which aims at leading the Maritime Industry to be in accordance with being business leaders in the 21stcentury. Karen has worked with a focus on maritime industry since 2012. Impact Crew works both on board and ashore; it collaborates with companies, at conferences and with Boards. It conducts research, individually coaches Masters and management, to name but a few stakeholders.

Recently, through conducting a survey regarding crew’s turnover in Superyacht Sector, Impact Crew found out that the 50% out of 826 crew leave within one year.The reasons leading to such a high turnover vary between leadership styles of owners and management, as well as levels of rotation and time off. Incidents of absence of team atmosphere, unprofessionalism of the crew and lack of respect of the Captain were stated as further reasons for turn-over, among others. Using an interactive game-play process, Karen suggested to the audience creative and inventive solutions. Her rationale was that when there is a problem, everyone has their share of responsibility, and only by working together can results can be achieved.

Along the same lines of thinking, Mr. Steve Cameron of CMD[5]considered ‘wellness at sea’ as a dynamic process of change and growth. Seafarers’ health both physical and mental should be seen as a means of productivity and safety on board. The focus should be on how one can measure ‘welfare at sea’.

To this end, ten questions about ‘welfare at sea’ had been formulated. For example:

  • How can fragmented activity affect and employee?
  • Do cultural differences cause difficulties on board?
  • What about bad relationships with the colleagues on board?
  • Does decent accommodation and good quality of food play a crucial role on crew’s welfare?

Other than these, the support of mental health and the investigation of reasons causing stress should also be examined.

For all these reasons and attempting measuring the success of it, Steve suggested that annual reports on wellness should be drafted.

Other suggestions provided by the attendees during a fruitful dialogue was the prevention of several diseases such as diabetes through good quality programs, or qualitative training on board. Additionally, combating loneliness on board with socialization among the crew, and internet access can be effective solutions.Another issue that should not be underestimated, is that of sexual discrimination and homophobia on board. It is further necessary that gender equality and the rights arising from it, be promoted and protected.

Where does responsibility about the ‘wellness of seafarers’ lie?

What was articulated at the Think Tank event focused on the responsibility of colleges to train and equip future seafarers. Moreover, the need of providing them with mental health training was also stressed.

Mental health, as a management concept was considered as being a long-term and continuing awareness process, but which still has a long way to go in order to acquire the correct level of wider public and commercial awareness that it should have in the sector. Thus, it appeared necessary that management on board must have the appropriate training regarding mental health issues.

It was also concerning that there is stigma about people having mental issues, and that this may prevent someone from being hired. However, when discussing mental disorders, there must also be a distinction and hierarchy between them and what is considered ‘normal stress’ in a role, and how that manifests itself.

Further questions arose.

  • What happens when an employee on board takes medication?
  • Are they more inclined to having accidents?
  • What about personal health tests?

It was saddening to note that the UK shipping industry is behind in this sector, and it needs to do more. Unlike the UK, it was noted that Germany, the Netherlands, as well as crew from the Philippines require thorough personal health tests in order to go to sea in an employed role.

Expanding the issue of wellness of seafarers, one could also refer to suicides on board. According to the UK P&I Club, there is not a definition for suicide. However, suicide should also not be closely linked to every kind of mental health, as in this case, it could be too generally applied. The point was, that there is a long way in terms of interpretation from mental health issues to committing suicide, as everyone in the room agreed.

Training: Freedom Training and Consultancy

As highlighted, training and the acquiring of mental health awareness should be of vital importance when working on board. For this reason, Ms. Tracy Keane, the Executive Director of Freedom Training and Consultancy, presented the work of this organization in regards with its aims, objectives and learning outcomes.

To begin with, the aims of the organization are to ’deliver mental health awareness’, to encourage seafarers to share their mental health issues without being embarrassed for them, and to provide them with the ability to ‘identify’ possible issues regarding their colleagues.

Freedom Training and Consultancy supports people to complete their course and to provide a variety of training models suitable for maritime services, both at national and international level. On completion, the trainees will be able to have awareness of what mental health is, to communicate effectively, to get rid of ‘the myths and stereotypes around it, for example. Besides, as Ms. Keane noticed one does not need to be a mental health expert in order to help one. Sometimes talking and supporting them can be enough.

Lastly, the most valuable thing is, that due to the training more seafarers can confidently talk about their mental health and the factors that may affect it.

Sea Fatigue

Another interesting topic discussed, was Project MARTHA on sea fatigue[6]Or otherwise put, how long it takes one to recharge one’s batteries? The findings of this conference have shown that ‘fatigue can result in long -term physical and mental health issues.[7]Wellness at Sea: The Sailors’ Society

In 2014, The Sailor’s Society[8]established a holistic focus on the well-being of seafarers. This has to do with their physical well-being, the emotional, spiritual, social and intellectual ones.

To name but a few of their successes in 2018, they trained 5,830 seafarers, won the Sea Trade (Investment in People) and Safety at Sea Awards (Best Crew Welfare Programme), and they collaborated with the UK P&I for the promotion of their ‘Wellness at Sea’ programme. They wish to include more elements in the future, namely, to establish a Wellness at Sea Institute, to review and develop the programme and to reach 7.500 seafarers.[9]It was also mentioned within the conference that there will be more opportunities for academic research in relation to those issues in the future.

Red Square Medical Maritime Medical Solutions

The presentation of the Red Square Medical Maritime Medical Solutions[10]and Liz Baugh presented the services of the organization, which includes training, Telemedicine 24/7, Health Services and consultancy. The training includes among others, STCW onboard and Emergency Preparedness. Telemedicine provides 24/7 access worldwide to available experts of mental health and translation services. The Health Services include crew health, travel health planning, vaccinations and outbreak procedures.

It was noteworthy to mention that the instance of malaria was cited. Ms. Baugh said that ship-owners should know there is different medications (prophylaxis) for malaria. Normally, however, ship-owners do not opt for the expensive solution and consequently, it is usually the most effective one. The urgent need of awareness of such issues was therefore stressed.Health is a human right and the maritime industry must invest on it as far as their seafarers are concerned.

Education: The Marine Society

Another interesting initiative was that of The Marine Society.[11]With the programme Learn@Sea, they have started delivering Maths, English and writing training in order to help the crew to develop their core educational abilities. The Society regards education as a means of helping the seafarers to acquire status, and to boost them professionally so that they can develop from seafarers to officers in the future. They stated that they are looking forward to collaborating with both the commercial and charity sector as well. They suggested the creation of learning through apps, of teaching maritime language and Maths, and to make links with both seafarers, and everyone who can provide such services.

Recruitment: Spinnaker Global

At the last session of the Think Tank conference, the field of recruitment and Human Resources (HR) in the maritime sector was introduced. Karen Waltham, the Managing Director of HR Consulting from Spinnaker Global[12]presented the current state of the HR Industry in the maritime sector.

It was noticed that the maritime HR industry is 25 years behind any other field. HR has to do with each individual and the focus should be on them.

In a section called ‘Global Voices’ Karen talked about the newly published UK Maritime Growth Study and Maritime in 2050. A saddening estimation and fact that was presented in that by 2030 8 million jobs across all commercial sectors will be lost due to the increased use of robotics, while a successful HR strategy is made of competitive salaries, opportunities, transparent and regular communications and a strong focus on employees’ welfare. Alongside this, according to Karen, there must be investment in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and plans for the future are needed.

In regard to this, it was stressed that the problem in the maritime sector is that HR is somehow undeveloped. However, it has increased visibility the last 8-10 years and this was promising. Besides, “even a subtle change is still a change”, as Karen aptly remarked.

One therefore needs to think strategically for a successful HR industry. There also needs to be traditional ways of working, as well as new opportunities. All these approaches can be succeeded by constant education and training, and this vital importance should be never forgotten. Managing people’s talent is crucial; and at the end of the day, nobody should forget that the core of the industry is the individual employee.

Closing Actions & Recommendations

To close, attendees and speakers were divided into teams of four to focus on the main ideas discussed, and to provide a variety of recommendations regarding them.

In amongst many points raised, it was suggested that seafarers have to be treated more as individuals, and not as numbers.That means having closer relations between the maritime companies and their crew. Companies should listen to crew’s concerns, and be able to provide effective solutions as often as possible.

Alongside this, the issue of mental health and its problems should be approached differently.In 2019, there is no room for stigma regarding mental health. Anyone who faces such issues must have the ability to speak up about them and not be afraid of the consequences just because of the current prejudice that exists.

Companies must think about better collaboration as the core route to success. Networking should be expanded, and there is no need for working individually when ‘together’ can be very effective.

As mentioned earlier, individual employees must be the center of this procedure. The vast majority of seafarers are let go after the period of their contract ends. This makes them live in insecurity and, of course, may cause mental health issues such as stress about their future employment, and which can be linked to depression.

Maritime companies should therefore have longer employment contracts, as longer contracts mean better HR facilities for the crew. For instance, health insurance as standard could be a good suggestion. Health is an indisputable human right and companies should invest more in it. Further, stability in the employee’s working environment can help them to be more calm and secure.


Human Rights at Sea was pleased to have been engaged in the first ZS Wellness Think Tank conference. The charity continues to independently observe the developments in seafarer’s ‘wellness’ projects and programmes, and the emerging provisions for better working environments at sea which encompass rights and protections in relation to better mental health awareness, support and an increasing workplace culture which moves away from stigmatization and isolation.


[2]The Partners of ZS wellness are:  Dan Roberts Live Athletic Life, In Strategic Partnership with NAUTILUS INTERNATIONAL, GARMIN, UK P&I CLUB, Red Square Medical Maritime Medical Solutions. Read more

[3]See more at: UN Sustainable Development Goals available at:

[4]For more information about Impact Crew

[5]See more about Cameron Maritime Resources at:

[6]See more at:


[8]See more about The Sailors Society at:

[9]For more information contact

[10]See more at:

[11]See more at:




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