Well-being in a Digital Age

Well-being in a digital age

19 Sep, 2019

After an inspiring few days at London International Shipping Week, our chief operating officer Sandra Welch reflects on life as a seafarer in a digital age…

What an incredible week we’ve just had! I came back from London International Shipping Week inspired, with my brain full of ideas, lots of new friends and contacts and, I have to admit, not a little exhausted!

The Impact of Technology on Crew Wellbeing conference, kindly hosted by Inmarsat and organised in partnership with our fellow LISW nominated charities, really turned my mind again to the remarkable digital environment we live in.

Digital technology has transformed every aspect of our lives. A decade ago we would never have dreamed that we could order a pizza simply by clicking a button or that we’d instantly be able share photos of our adventures with the world.

The technological landscape continues to change. And Sailors’ Society has embraced these changes to enhance the services we provide to the world’s 1.6 million seafarers, their families and communities.

Our Ship Visitor app enables chaplains and ship visitors to plan, deliver and report in real time, freeing them up to maximise welfare support and provide a truly connected port-to-port service. The International Christian Maritime Association (ICMA) has licensed the app from us for its members and it provides excellent insight into organisational services which span ports, countries and vessels, with 700,000 cases reported on last year.

Our free Wellness at Sea app for seafarers acts as a journey companion that not only entertains, but enables and empowers individuals to take charge of their own well-being and health.

We’ve also used digital technology to enhance our own communication and working relationships as a team. It’s brought our global organisation much closer and made us even more productive.

Technology has also brought with it so many positives for the shipping industry at large.

We’ve seen fantastic developments such as wearable technology to monitor health through to paperless systems and data analytics.

We even heard last week of the very practical development of a drone to assess for corrosion underwater; previously this involved a seafarer using a winch.

All of these can contribute to ensuring people’s mental and physical health is as protected as possible and as a consequence that fewer incidents take place.

Yet many worry that increased connectivity can add to stress and increase social isolation on board. Seafarers can now hear the good and the bad news from home, with little they can do from thousands of miles away. They may spend hours on social media in their cabin rather than getting to know their fellow crew.

Developments such as automation also bring their own stresses and worries for crew.

While technology advances at an ever-accelerating pace, human nature, emotions and feelings remain the same.

This is where our chaplains and family out-reach staff come in.

They extend the hand of friendship and can support, counsel and practically assist seafarers and their families so that they can negotiate times of worry and strife.

Technology is the now and the future; and it is a key part to ensuring issues of mental and physical well-being, and thereby safety, are addressed.

But it must come hand in hand with a healthy dose of the human touch.