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News 09 Apr, 2020

COVID-19: Coping with it at sea

Dean Crossley
Dean Crossley
Loss Prevention Manager

The virus and the measures needed to combat its spread are amplifying everyday stresses and the role these play in mental health conditions such as depression. 

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is an infectious disease whose common symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. While the majority of cases result in mild symptoms, some progress to pneumonia and potentially multi-organ failure. Originating in China’s Hubei province, the disease has spread worldwide to become a global pandemic.

The virus and the measures needed to combat its spread are amplifying everyday stresses and the role these play in mental health conditions such as depression – an article on reducing stress for seafarers can be found here. This has led to an increase in call volumes to mental health helplines.  

Crew members are spending increased time onboard as travel and immigration restrictions are severely curtailing the ability to make crew changes. This results in crew contracts being extended and an increase in workload, thereby often leading to a deterioration in the seafarer’s physical and mental health. The impacts of spending more time at sea, away from friends and family, is exacerbated by the possibility of self-isolation should the seafarer start to exhibit symptoms of the virus.


What material is available to help seafarers during this crisis?

As noted in our recent article on mental health, there are organisations such as the Sailor’s Society that seafarers can contact who provide specialist advice regarding the various issues they are facing.

Organisations such as ISWAN have produced videos to provide guidance for seafarers on the current pandemic, with a particular focus on mental health and strategies to combat negative emotions during the crisis.


Also, in Section VI of the IMO Circular Letter No.4221, information is provided on mental health coping strategies for crew members, predominantly focusing on relaxation through breathing exercises. Regulated deep breathing can help to manage stress, anxiety and panic attacks and is one of the best ways to control and alleviate mental stress by calming the brain and the body.

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