Seafarers’ Day 2024 Focuses on Safety And Health at Sea

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The Day of the Seafarer (25 June) recognizes the vital contribution made by seafarers from all over the world to the global community. This year, the focus of the day is on safety tips at sea, a critical factor in seafarer wellbeing. MedSea, the maritime arm of International SOS, offers practical measures for organizations to prevent common injuries, illnesses, and safety concerns onboard commercial vessels, complemented by data that highlights the diverse health challenges among seafarers, reports International SOS.

Various health issues

MedSea’s assistance case data from 2023 shows that seafarers suffer from various health issues onboard, each of which provides important learnings for management.

Musculoskeletal problems, often caused by improper lifting techniques, posture, and repetitive tasks, have always been a concern for seafarers. In 2023, it emerged as the fourth most common medical case type, with a significant portion (40%) involving the neck and back. Additionally, one-third of all cases where seafarers are deemed unfit for duty were attributed to musculoskeletal problems.

In 2023, dental cases saw a concerning rise, jumping from MedSea’s sixth most common medical case category to the second. 67% of these cases required further shoreside evaluation, which is higher than average compared to other medical case types. When crew members cannot be immediately attended to by a dentist onshore, the pain and discomfort they experience may affect their job performance, concentration, sleep, and safety.

It is also important to consider the impact of chronic health conditions that many seafarers suffer from, primarily due to non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Hypertension is reported to be the most common chronic condition onboard ships, followed by diabetes, depression, and obesity. When incorrectly managed, NCDs pose significant health risks to seafarers, potentially leading to complications and even medical emergencies, requiring vessel diversions and delays. The World Health Organization (WHO) stated that the increasing trend of NCDs will continue worldwide. By around 2050, chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and respiratory illnesses will account for 86% of the 90 million fatalities each year .

Whilst cardiovascular diseases represent a much smaller number of overall MedSea cases, globally they account for most NCD deaths, or 17.9 million people annually1. This poses a significant threat as potential consequences, such as a heart attack and a stroke can be potentially life-threatening. Protecting heart health, for example through eliminating tobacco use, should be a key priority for all onboard.

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Source: International SOS