People are the lifeblood of every economy and every business. Regardless of whether you work in an office, a factory, a shipyard or at sea, it has not been an easy year for anyone. The global routine change forced by the COVID-19 pandemic has affected us all. The familiar patterns of our lives have been adjusted, the way we work has changed and sacrifices have been made along the way – particularly by the men and women onboard who tirelessly keep the world’s supply chains open.
Never has it been more important for us to look out for each other, to reach out and connect, and to offer help where we can. Many find blurring of the borders between work and home life difficult to navigate. This, coupled with anxiety about the current situation, is recipe for being tired and stressed. But with loved ones close at hand, support networks nearby and the opportunity to step away, take a walk and clear our heads, we are almost always well positioned to persevere.
It is not that easy for the crews at sea. Many have been on onboard for months, far away from their families, fatigued and feverish with worry – about family and friends at home, the full impact of this pandemic, and what it means for the future. Far too many crews have been at work for longer than expected. Facilitating crew change may be dominating industry headlines as well as the attentions of governments and industry bodies across the globe, but progress is slow, piecemeal and seafarers continue to suffer. In so many parts of the world, shipping lacks the public focus it deserves and the efforts of the people that move 90% of the world’s good are all but invisible. This needs to change.
We all know what being underappreciated feels like. We all know how being tired can alter our outlook and our state of mind making the simplest of tasks so much more difficult. We all know how these factors can affect our ability to do our jobs as well as we would like. There is a clear link between wellbeing and safety. I don’t believe you need me to restate it. Everyone’s wellbeing matters and it is in the interests of us all, that we acknowledge and respect a healthy work-life balance for those who work at sea. As leaders, we shouldn’t sit back and allow circumstances to exploit their willingness to serve or let it box them into a corner with no other choice. And, at no time, should we overlook our responsibilities to safeguard, protect and champion the committed people who maintain our global supply chains. It is, without question, our unequivocal duty.
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