Reasons and Symptoms of Physical and Psychological Stress On board Ships

Working on ships is not an easy task. Negligible social life, monotonous routines, and harsh working conditions are some of the many difficulties faced by seafarers on board ships. This leads to both physical and psychological stress.

Maximum of the shipping companies employ multinational crew, which brings along its own set of problems such as language barrier, group formation etc. All these factors along with the reducing number of crew members on board ships have been one of the main reasons for increase in physical and psychological stress on board ships.

Representation Image - Photograph by Delimajunel
Representation Image – Photograph by Delimajunel

Needless to say, conflicts, politics, ego-clash etc. are bound to exist among crew members. These problems further results into a variety of physical and psychological problems among crew members. Some of the main ones are:

  • Lack of interest in work
  • Lack of motivation
  • Short temper
  • Careless mistakes while doing work
  • Tendency to take short cuts to finish work
  • Frustration
  • Lack of seriousness towards ones duties and on board safety
  • Tendency to blame juniors or colleagues for mistakes
  • Frequent absence from work place
  • Making professional mistakes 
Main reasons that lead to above mentioned problems are:
  • Shortage of man power because of less crew members
  • Frequent calling at port (Duties at port require most physical efforts and long working hours)
  • Personal or family problems
  • Long working hours
  • Homesickness
  • Not being relieved on time by the company
  • Work pressure
  • Unfriendly working environment
  • Differences of opinion/conflicts with colleagues
  • Unavailability of necessary provisions
  • Dissatisfied with company policy
  • Dissatisfied with quality of food
  • Rejected from promotion, salary or leave
  • Dissatisfied with facilities provided on board e.g. entertainment facilities

Long and uncertain working hours have been one of the main reasons of stress onboard ships. This leads to imbalance in human biological clock caused because of lack of proper work and rest hours schedule.

Because of such continuous stress, seafarers are often seen resorting to alcoholism and smoking in spite of company policies prohibiting use of such elements.

Psychological Impact on Seafarers

Prolonged stage of frustration and stress can be extremely harmful to both physical and mental health of seafarers. Continuous psychological stress can lead to the following effects:

  • Repeating of the same mistakes
  • Reduced work efficiency
  • Reclusive behaviour/ neglecting interaction with crew members/withdrawal symptoms
  • Refusal to follow instructions
  • Negligence towards duties
  • Making serious offences against law 

Resources to Fight Stress on Ships

15 ways to keep your mind and body fit on board ships

6 Ways to Improve Inter-personal relationships onboard ships

The Importance of having the right attitude in life

10 ways to deal with long distance relationships

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About Author

Raunek Kantharia is a marine engineer turned maritime writer and entrepreneur. After a brief stint at the sea, he founded Marine Insight in 2010. Apart from managing Marine Insight, he also writes for a number of maritime magazines and websites.

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  1. Lack of sleep. Excessive, lots of overtime. ISM regulation not followed. Lots of paper works

  2. Shipping companies will not provided extra crew members for this kind of problems.
    The management on board should plan the working arrangements and give the crew enough rest before duty and after duty. Most crew members dont get enough rest which leads to many of this problems. Rest hour regulation must be followed on board.

  3. The U.S. Merchant marine should be nationalized and run like the post office. Commercially operated ships are never adequately crewed owing to false economies. No commercial shipper wants to pay for launch service for ships anchored out to provide crew with Liberty. They also figure that seamen on Liberty just get themselves thrown in jail (Gail in U.K.). I shipped out deep sea for six years and was awarded the Merchant Marine Expeditionary Medal for Gulf War I. The electrician on that voyage had a nervous breakdown and had to be flown home after calling the head office of the shipping line to threaten to murder everyone there if they didn’t fly him home. Apparently he was worried about mines even though we unloaded at Jidda and never entered the Persian Gulf where there were some mines. Most people were not bothered even though our cargo was mostly bombs. This same ship was also chased by pirates years later off the coast of Somalia.

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