Whenever I address a gathering of Mariners, the one dominant image that hits me in the eye is their obesity. It is a rarity to see an undernourished or underweight Mariner. The other disturbing observation is that this obesity is accepted as a norm and they experience no concerns about the health handicaps of being obese.
No doubt food is free on board the ship and drinks can add to the appetite. Once the habits form as a young seafarer, they rarely undergo change. The other contributory factor is the euphoria that it is a good life and each Mariner has “made” it and it is great to enjoy it. What better way to enjoy than a hearty meal with friends and exchange “mariner’s tales”?
It is good to remember that the true sign of prosperity is good health which is mostly associated with the right weight for the right height. There are a family and children depending on them. Even if the family is well provided monetarily, the loss of a father can be devastating.
The well-known analogy is that the fuel used for the engines is the food we consume. The blood running through our system is the lubricating oil used by the engines. We know that, to keep the engines running trouble free, both the fuel and the lubricating oil have to be clean, without contaminants. Does this not apply to our own bodies? Truly it is said, if you eat crap you will feel like crap!
We use so many instruments, inspections to ensure that the marine machinery will not have a breakdown. Do we treat our bodies with the same degree of respect? In the aviation industry, there are cases of pilots experiencing cardiac arrest and expiring while they are actually piloting the aircraft but very very few cases of an aircraft engines folding up and failing while they are afloat mid air! This is because the aircraft engines undergo rigorous inspections and condition monitoring, something that the pilot may not be doing systematically to his body.
Ship management companies conduct annual educational seminars for the floating staff. This is to make the ship staff understand the machinery and fuels and lubes better so that they may operate the engines better. Why not also give the ship staff tutorials on how to care for their health and well-being? Why not train them on Yoga? Why not educate and motivate them to look after their health and eat the right food and exercise?
Ultimately, the responsibility for one’s health lies in one’s own hands. This is the realization that must permeate the Mariner community.