A ship on which seafarers not only work but spend all their time during a voyage is an excellent place for health promoting interventions. Seafarers are travellers and are exposed to the same health risks as all travellers. Although the maritime industry has a tradition of working with periodic health checks, vaccinations and international health regulations, the preparation for a voyage by individual seafarers is not always adequate.
It may be recommended that crew members receive safe travel advice at meetings and at medical check-ups or periodic medical examinations. Different approaches may be used to inform and motivate seafarers to prepare for their stay on board. Communicate very clearly what kind of prevention is offered onboard and what kind of prevention and protection is necessary during a trip. Every briefing on an itinerary or change in schedule must include a part on the health risks in those regions and the kind of protection that is needed there. There must be a travel health programme for each voyage and the whole vessel must support it: captain and officers must show their commitment.
Ship owners should take sufficient time to implement a safe travel programme on board. Behavioural changes take several months and benefits may take even longer to become measurable. Draw up a systematic plan of what you want to achieve in respect to health protection and over what period of time.
Involve key persons such as the company medical adviser, the pharmacist and tropical and travel clinics, and link the plan with a company policy on health. Display details of the continuous health protection necessary for the voyage, not only regarding vaccinations and malaria tablets, but also general protection e.g. against heat and cold. Provide information (SHIP posters, leaflets, cartoons and calendars) on safe travel, disease prevention and protection on board. Give crew members the opportunity to ask questions on travel prevention on board and to make suggestions. Keep track of the measures taken, make a note of vaccinations on a vaccination list, and organize booster vaccinations if necessary. Link SAFE TRAVEL with the topics MALARIA and HIV/AIDS, STDs of the Seafarers’ Health Information Programme (SHIP), for more information contact www.seafarershealth.org
On the other hand a seafarer may also take additional vaccinations, not necessarily required by health authorities or by a company policy but for individual health reasons.
The SHIP Safe Travel campaign provides both the company and the individual seafarer with general and specific information on how to prepare for a seagoing voyage.
Crew Left Behind/ Abandoned Seafarers/Death of a crewmember
Where a ship leaves a master or seaman behind the employer is normally required to make provision for the seafarer’s return home.
In the event of a seafarer being left behind the master should take charge of all of the seafarer’s property and make a list of it in the ship’s Official Log Book. The master may sell any part of the property which is of a perishable nature (the proceeds of the sale then form part of the property) or destroy any part of the property which is believed to constitute a danger to health and safety onboard.
The master must have the property delivered to the employer when instructed to do so by the employer. The employer must then deliver the property to the seafarer’s last known address.
Alternatively the seafarer may request the master to deliver the property to an address at the seafarer’s own expense. The list of property should be returned with the goods (plus a record of property sold or destroyed)
The seafarer’s Discharge Book (record of service) should be returned with property.
Wages due must be paid by the employer within 28 days of the seafarer’s arrival at his/her place of return.
The master must keep an account of expenses incurred as a result of leaving a seafarer behind and deductions from wages may be made.
If this process is not undertaken within three months of leaving the seafarer behind, different rules are applied.
In the event of a problem it might be helpful to be aware that a P&I Club will usually meet the costs of repatriation of seafarers.
Death of a Crew Member
When any person dies on a ship the master must usually make a return of the death and notify the next of kin, as soon as possible (within 3 days).
A deceased seafarer’s property should be dealt with in a similar way to the property of a seafarer left behind (record made by two officers, property delivered to employer).
The International Medical Guide for Ships (IMGS) gives practical advice to the master on how to deal with a body at sea.
Under some crew agreements (contracts) provision is made for the employer to return a body to the next of kin at the employer’s expense.
If a person dies in a ship but is buried or cremated outside their home country, the expense of the burial or cremation must be borne by the person’s employer.
The master has to enter details of the death in the Official Log Book (OLB).
Wages due at the time of death must be paid to a superintendent (usually from the ship’s flag state administration) within a specified period.
In the event of difficulty advice may be sought from a P&I Club, who will usually cover costs of a funeral for deceased seafarers and costs of sending substitute seafarers to the ship.