As anyone working in shore based maritime jobs knows, we take our ability to connect, send messages and emails, Google for information, make Skype and Zoom calls, check our bank accounts and do all the other multitude of internet based jobs and admin for granted. For those working in jobs at sea - not so much.
While seafarer jobs can offer the right person a broader horizon in a way that many jobs can’t, at times it can also be an isolated career choice. Perhaps that’s another thing we take for granted in our desk jobs: that we can go home to our family or partner, call up friends to hang out, go out for a meal if we don’t feel like cooking, take the dog for a walk...the list goes on.
Of course, the very nature of a life spent working in container ship jobs means that days, weeks, and months can pass without much meaningful contact with friends, family or partners on shore. But that’s not exactly breaking news - anyone who has gone through maritime education and training knows that.
Budding seafarers aren’t letting themselves in for the shock of their lives, however, in order for seafarer happiness, mental health and wellbeing to be optimized, it’s crucial for crew members of all ages, backgrounds and levels of experience to be able to stay in touch with the outside world, at least in some way, shape or form.
Why an internet connection is an important factor in jobs at sea
Whether having an internet connection translates to knowing what’s going on with the kids’ schoolwork or global current affairs, being kept ‘in the loop’ can go a long way to maintaining a healthy and productive mindset.
So how does this affect your small to medium sized shipping company? If you’re a shipowner or ship manager, you might have noticed that crew retention is a problem that can affect your maritime recruitment drive.
And it doesn’t take much to work out that the happier your crew are, and the more appreciated they feel by you, the greater the likelihood of them returning to you (instead of defecting to one of your competitors) contract after contract.
The difference between connectivity on land and at sea
One subject that’s often not far from the headlines is mental health. Whether the media is talking about teens being addicted to gaming or the latest app du jour, or about stressed out millennials trying to keep up with the perfect lives depicted by social media influencers, none of this is unusual.
But while most of us are being advised to put down our devices and experience the ‘real world’, for seafarers, being online is a hugely important way to stay in touch with those they care about while they live part of their lives working in jobs at sea.
Add the basic human need to keep in touch and communicate with loved ones to the rigors and hard work that seafarer jobs entail, and the need to unwind and check out a few pictures of the family dog take on an increased level of importance.
For everyone from the youngest deck cadet to the master, family life often plays a large part in staying balanced and in good mental shape while on board.
Especially in an environment in which there are other issues to tackle such as working with people of different cultures and backgrounds and overcoming language barriers. Sometimes we all just want to talk to a familiar face.
A happy seafarer is a focused and motivated seafarer
Staying positive, motivated and focused is of huge importance, both for the individual’s well-being and the working environment and vessel as a whole. And that’s where shipping companies, owners and operators come in.
Understanding education for seafarers and ensuring that all of those on board are trained and certified to the appropriate levels is of paramount importance for anyone wanting to run a efficient and cost effective ship. That's par for the course.
But to get the very best from your seafarers, it could also mean providing a stable and affordable internet connection, as well as fostering a crew-centric company culture and encouraging social activities on board.
A connection could also help with providing training for seafarers in everything from mathematics for marine engineers to coding skills that keep seafarers engaged and productive during their free time. And the knock on effect is that by taking care of your employees and contractors, you’ll be making them more loyal, which in turn benefits you by ensuring you have a ready-made talent pool to dip into next time you have a job vacancy to fill.
Having said that, it’s also crucial that seafarers don’t go TOO far down the social media wormhole and they need to resist the temptation to dwell upon the people they miss and still make the effort to socialize with their fellow crew members.
Staying connected onboard: conclusion
Life at sea and seafarer jobs come with their own, very unique, set of challenges - the learning curves of jobs at sea, the elements, and living in a small space for example. But there are many bona fide advantages too. Such as the opportunity to travel the world while working in a traditional industry that is evolving in a truly exciting way as it embraces modern technology.
And calling home every couple of days or staying in touch by social media, video calling or email should be built into a seafarer’s daily routine if they’re to maintain a healthy balance between engaging with the two very distinct sets of people in their lives: their loved ones at home and their fellow crew members.
After all, it is this equilibrium that will enable a seafarer to perform, and enjoy, their job to the very best of their abilities.
How Martide helps small to medium sized shipping companies
We love technology at Martide and we’ve harnessed it to build a maritime recruitment and crew management Software as a Service that will help shipowners and managers find the right crew for their vacant jobs at sea, and make managing contracts and people far easier.
If you'd like to find out more about how we get your seafarer jobs in front of seamen, help you track your applicants and overall run a tighter ship, get in touch to schedule a no-strings-attached demo today.
This post was originally published on April 1st 2019 and updated on September 15th 2020.