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Trauma in Shipping

To learn more about the effects of trauma experienced at sea from industry and clinical perspectives, Alandia organised a workshop on trauma in shipping in conjunction with Seaways Psychology Services. 

The themes discussed during the workshop included the following:

  • Preparing for and responding to critical incidents in shipping – best practices
  • Support for those impacted by critical incidents –  maritime industry innovations
  • The results of our Trauma in Shipping Survey

The Trauma in Shipping workshop gathered seafarers and shoreside personnel and shared crucial insights and practical guidance regarding the human aspects of business continuity and the welfare of those impacted by distressing events at sea.

We were delighted to welcome a range of excellent speakers from in and around the maritime sector to highlight the welfare, commercial, and insurance benefits of understanding how to respond when people onboard or ashore have experienced trauma at sea.

Hearing from these speakers about their lived experiences of trauma and challenging events at sea as well as gaining perspectives from industry professionals working onboard and ashore was both important and educational. The invaluable expertise, insights and recommendations provided during the workshop enable us in the industry to reflect on our experiences and actions in our current roles, help others overcome lived trauma and learn to prevent potential future incidents.

Recordings and information about the speakers:

Rachel qualified as a Clinical Psychologist from Liverpool University in 2000. Working in the UK’s National Health Service, she became the clinical manager of a psychological therapies service, whilst running her own independent practice, specialising in psychological trauma after industrial and civil personal injury.

Married to a seafarer, Rachel has experienced life on-board different vessels. Inspired by the resilience of the seagoing community, she established Seaways Psychology Services and together with a network of accredited, professionally regulated Psychologists, she provides evidence-based psychological assessment, therapies, training and critical incident stress services to seafarers and shore-based staff. This year has seen the launch of Recall Recover Ltd, a collaboration between Rachel and Captain Terry Ogg, Marine Casualty Investigator, which combines an innovative trauma-informed interviewing approach to marine investigation with concurrent integrated psychological support for those impacted by the incident via a crew wellbeing continuum.

Why do you think knowledge about trauma could benefit shipping?

Seafarers live and work within a high-risk environment where incidents of varying severity are not uncommon. Although it is recognised that the seagoing community are amongst the most resilient workforces in the world, they are still human, and therefore are programmed with the same human reactions to frightening, unexpected change and incidents as anyone else. However, stigma may prevent recognition, discussion and support for this onboard.
We know that acute stress reactions following a shocking incident can impact clarity of thinking, decision-making and soundness of action to varying degrees. It is also recognised that human factors are the largest contributory or causal factor of recorded untoward incidents and casualties at sea.
In such a safety critical environment, this ought to make post-incident stress a significant concern to the maritime industries.
Recognising the changes associated with post-incident stress and providing what can be quite simple support, could minimise exposure of the seafarer, the crew, the vessel and commercial interests to further incident. Having a knowledge of trauma and how to manage it means actions can be taken by individual seafarers, leaders and companies which make it less likely that mental health difficulties would develop. It would also help companies demonstrate that they meet their legal and ethical obligations to protect the health of those on board.

Watch the recording >>

Johannes decided at the age of 5 that he wanted to become a Sea Captain and signed on his first ship as a deckhand in 1983. After qualifying as a deck officer, he has served on high-speed catamaran ferries, car ferries, North Sea shuttle tankers and a total of 27 years on cruise ships in which the last 17 years serving as Captain. When not at sea he is based in Charleston South Carolina, and being a certified private pilot he also enjoy spending time in the air flying around in the south-eastern part of the US.

Why do you think knowledge about trauma could benefit shipping?

In Shipping, like Aviation, safety is always the number one priority. As knowledge is power, the more we know and understand about trauma and how it can affect people and manifest in different ways after a serious incident at sea, the more power we have to deal with it. Having the knowledge and knowing what signs to look for will help us as an on-board group and individuals to recover quicker from a serious incident. The main focus tends to be on accident preparedness and not much on post-accident trauma. When it comes to psychological trauma, the attitude has often been more of a macho culture “man up and deal with it / get over it”. Having experienced a few incidents with previous companies, I am happy to see Alandia putting focus on trauma in the aftermath of shipping related incidents.

Watch the recording >>

Cath Kerr is an Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society and a Chartered Counselling Psychologist. She specialises in managing the psychological impact of critical incidents, with an MSc in Psychological trauma and around 25 years’ experience of working with high-risk organisations and clients suffering from the full range of reactions to crisis and trauma from acute stress to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Within the shipping industry, these have included serious assaults, sexual violence, hostage situations, firearms incidents, witnessing violence and death. She is a consultant, internationally published author, and presenter. Cath helps organisations to consider the valuable human aspect of their business, enabling them to stay on course whatever storm they were forced to weather!

Why do you think knowledge about trauma could benefit shipping?

Life onboard operates in the context of a very distinct, cohesive culture, and when something traumatic happens, because emotions can be contagious, it can have a devastating ripple effect. This may be intensified by the unique aspects of seafaring, such as confinement, separation from family, isolation, and working hours.

When crew members cannot manage high levels of stress, it can result in poor working relationships, higher healthcare costs, and costly turnover.

We cannot treat people in a vacuum under these circumstances, therefore, it is vital that all crew are provided with the right training and support so that they can understand their reactions and build their resilience. This enables them to work as a team to support one another when things get tough! Providing these tools can lead to increased morale, higher productivity, lower levels of presenteeism, absenteeism and reduced crew turnover.

Watch the recording >>

Terry Ogg served at sea for 16 years in general cargo and vessels and handymax bulk carriers. He obtained his Master Mariner’s certificate of competency in 1988 and was promoted to Master before coming ashore at the end of 1989 to work with international shipping law firm Clyde & Co. He worked as a marine investigator and consultant to the firm’s “wet” and “dry” practices. He left Clydes in 2004 to become and independent self-employed marine investigator and consultant and to undertake marine expert work. He started his current consultancy, OGG Expert, in 2012. He holds an Advanced Professional Certificate in Investigative Practice.

During his 30 years as a marine investigator for commercial interests he has attended and investigated many kinds of marine and offshore casualties. During the course of these investigations, he has interviewed and obtained witness statements from around 1,300-1,500 people working throughout the maritime and offshore industries. Many of these people were highly stressed and, in hindsight, traumatised, by the incidents they experienced.

In January 2020, he started working with clinical psychologist Dr Rachel Glynn-Williams on a new casualty investigation interview model based on trauma-awareness and trauma-informed interviewing techniques in order to mitigate the cognitive impairment effects of trauma and stress at the time of interview and to assist interviewees on the path to a return to wellbeing. The model they developed is called Trauma-informed Interviewing in a Marine Setting (TIMS®). In April 2021 they set up Recall Recover Limited to provide TIMS® within a broader suite of psychological support services for those affected by marine incidents and casualties called the Crew Wellbeing Continuum.

Why do you think knowledge about trauma could benefit shipping?

In my job as a marine investigator, understanding trauma and stress and their effects helps me to obtain more complete, accurate and reliable evidence and information during investigative interviews while at the same time attending to the interviewee’s wellbeing. Digital data often plays an important role in individual cases, but so long as humans are in the loop, whether on board or ashore, their experiences are often invaluable to understanding factual and legal causation, which has implications for loss prevention and industry regulation.

In a broader sense, trauma has a visceral quality that all of us can relate to. Knowledge of trauma can therefore act as a gateway to better understanding by lay people of the human face of seafaring, and shipping in general. There are so many issues that can be accessed through trauma understanding – human performance, metacognition, psychological safety, training, role identification, work processes, automation, ergonomics, human-machine interfaces, job satisfaction and seafarer retention are just a few that come to mind.

Trauma understanding can help us use the bad to do some good.

Watch the recording >>

Capt San Win is the Human Resource Manager for Wallenius Marine Singapore Pte Ltd. Capt San Win has 18 years of sea experience sailed onboard varieties of vessels trading worldwide, after which he transited to Wallenius office working with different departments which includes safety, quality and environment. Now he has over 30 years of experience in shipping business with a primary focus on crew recruitment, development and operations.
Capt San Win has been working very closely with HR team in Stockholm, Singapore, Manila and Yangon, crew software team in Copenhagen and training development team in Gothenburg.
Capt San Win’s crew management expertise includes managing of the crewing system, crew insurance, promoting social responsibility, crew training and company culture as he himself was once a master mariner. Besides handling accounting, cost control and KPI reporting, he oversees his crewing team to ensure that all crew matters are in order and the operation of the vessel in safe hand with excellent reserve control over the operating budget.

Why do you think knowledge about trauma could benefit shipping?

In shipping, severe psychological stress or potentially traumatic events can result from ship wrecks and accidents, threats and experiences of violence from piracy, stowaways and in life-threatening rescue situations during the rescue of refugees on the high seas.

Leaders should be empowered to recognize signs of psychological overburdening, instability, and shock in their crew members and to provide assistance wherever possible. Psychoeducation should therefore be established as a preventive measure for extreme mental stress situations. Nevertheless, it is not possible to prepare for all crisis situations that can lead to extreme psychological stress. However, it is important to attend to immediate stress reactions and to maintain the control belief.

Watch the recording >>

With a background in counselling-psychology and organisational psychology and being an ex-seafarer herself, Karine helps Superyacht Crew overcome career adversity through online counselling, builds Crews leadership confidence through the GUEST IAMI accredited Advanced Leadership Course as well as provides an exclusive membership for like-minded individuals to come together to access a robust support network and practical resources.

Why do you think knowledge about trauma could benefit shipping?

Knowledge around mental health is a powerful resource to have regardless of the industry you work in. However, I have found that in isolating industries such as shipping, we have neglected to prioritise the topic until more recently.

It is of utmost importance that, like physical safety, we ensure that the psychological safety needs of our seafarers are met. Research has highlighted that when psychological safety is absent, we see an increase in workplace accidents. Understanding what constitutes trauma and how we can engage in the available preventative and protective measures available will create a safer and happier workplace for all seafarers.

Watch the recording >>

Andy has been married for more than 30 years, has 4 children and 1 grandson – he considers these his greatest achievements, along with the 20 foster children who have passed through his family. He qualified in Psychology & Social Work before moving to support those impacted by HIV/AIDS in Asia in the 90’s. On return he became a Director with a national disability charity before training to become a Vicar. Since then he has started a church in a café/restaurant where he was also the chef, explored creative ways of helping people engage with struggles in life, opened a young peoples community hub & ice cream parlour. He spent 4 years working for ‘Head Office’ of the Anglican Church leading the focus on poverty and justice issues. Since 2018 he has been in Dubai working with the Mission to Seafarers across the Middle East and South Asia focusing on developing a culturally agile team to respond to the traumatic situations that seafarers can experience. Andy has 25 years of engagement in existential counselling work and has a particular interest in seeing all people flourish. He was first team life-coach and Chaplain in the EPL at Southampton FC for 11 seasons.

Why do you think knowledge about trauma could benefit shipping?

I think an awareness of and an understanding of how different cultures describe and respond to trauma would benefit all industries. Shipping, with its heavy reliance on diverse international crews, often working under stress in extreme situations, should make it a very high priority.

Watch the recording >>

Becky Newdick is a deck officer who sails as both Chief Mate and Captain on Wightlink vehicle ferries. She has been working at sea for 15 years and has sailed on a range of vessels including general cargo ships, bulk carriers, dredgers and passenger vessels.

In 2019 she founded Safer Waves, a non-profit organisation which supports merchant seafarers who have experienced sexual harassment, sexual violence and gender discrimination while working at sea. Safer Waves has grown rapidly over the last 2 years, from a simple website, into a registered charity with a dedicated team of volunteers and trustees.

Why do you think knowledge about trauma could benefit shipping?

An understanding of trauma within the maritime industry could help in a number of ways. It could help crew on board to spot signs that a colleague is struggling, so that they can support them better on board. It could also help management ashore to respond in an appropriate way to crew that have been involved in a traumatic incident, thereby encouraging reporting, particularly with regards to encouraging crew to report bullying, harassment and violence.
It may even help during an emergency situation, if coastguards and other first responders are able to recognise signs that the crew on board are struggling to cope with the situation, they will be more equipped to communicate in ways that will help calm those crew members, rather than adding to their stress levels.

Watch the recording >>

Johanna Kull holds a MSc in Psychology and BSc in Social and Behavioural Science. She joined Alandia in 2019 as Loss Prevention Executive with specialty in Human Factors. Alandia is a Nordic marine insurance company, which is expanding internationally. Johanna’s work experience is broad; she has had her own company in health business and worked as a counsellor and project manager for youth groups. She is also a member of the Alandica Shipping Academy (ASA) reference group and is a certified coach in psychological safety. Recently Johanna has been part of a team developing a Mental Health package for Crew and an additional project to spread knowledge about psychological trauma in shipping.

Why do you think knowledge about trauma could benefit shipping?

Shipping is an industry with a high risk for events that could manifest in psychological trauma. The safety in our industry is depending on human performance and a smart way to manage the risks is to give seafarers all the tools that they need to keep their focus and motivation to perform their tasks. To have knowledge about trauma, what it is, how it is showing, and what we can do to help ourselves and others, could really make a difference for the seafarers ability to cope with all the critical events that happens when working at sea.

Watch the recording >>

Are you curious about the results of our Trauma in shipping survey?

Read the article and watch the recording here

Podcast

Heading for change - Trauma at sea

We want to spread knowledge about what trauma is and how we can deal with it in the best way.

rachel_trauma_at_sea