Crew Welfare: Helping seafarers to keep moving onboard

A Hamburg-based shipmanagement company has been recognised for helping its crew members to stay fit and healthy onboard.

Following success with a health programme for its shoreside staff, Zeaborn Ship Management decided to roll out one for seafarers, ‘move on Board’, last year.

Zeaborn Ship Management, which emerged from the consolidation of Rickmers Shipmanagement, acquired by the German Zeaborn Group in September 2017, and E.R. Schiffahrt, acquired in February 2018, says it is committed to sustainable health management.

“In our view, there is a rising awareness in the shipping industry that the fitness and wellbeing of seafarers onboard is crucial,” said Heiko Nies, Managing Director, Zeaborn Crew Management.

In 2014, Zeaborn launched a comprehensive programme to promote the health of employees  ashore including health days with lectures, workshops on nutrition; exercise and yoga sessions during lunch breaks on a weekly basis; health consultations by a company doctor on a monthly basis and employer-sponsored membership to a fitness studio chain.

Last year, Zeaborn Ship Management launched a holistic health programme for its seafarers with a focus on physical fitness and mental wellbeing as well as healthy nutrition. It includes nutrition guides for a healthy diet and training for chefs; reviews of fitness facilities onboard and, where possible, inclusion of equipment; and the development of three online training videos in cooperation with health management provider move Up.

It has been so well-received that Zeaborn and move Up were awarded the Occupational Health Management award at the Human Resources Excellence Awards.  The annual awards, presented in November, are run by trade magazine Human Resources Manager and Quadriga Media Berlin, and during a live pitch to judges, Zeaborn Ship Management and move Up pitted their nomination against three other projects.

The tailor-made training programme includes workout training from move Up trainer Rouven Buske, who was given an insight into the daily routine of the seafarers by spending four days onboard a vessel. He saw how crew might be standing for long periods on the bridge or using heavy tools in the machine room.

“I wanted to see and do everything,” he said. “Only then do we know where we need to get to work. Many processes are performed sitting down or standing up and are monotonous.”

Crew members can load the training programmes onto their smartphones, tablets or laptops, so at all times they have a personal trainer onboard with them.

Anyone can perform the exercises independently whether in the gym or in their cabin and also ashore when they finish their assignment.

“Our workforce at sea comprises roughly 3,000 highly-skilled seafarers and our health programme ‘move on BOARD’ is available for everyone via mobile devices. Due to this fact in particular, the training programme is not limited to the vessels, but can also be carried out anywhere outside the company such as at home or on vacation,” said Mr Nies.

Research has shown that even modest exercises can have a big impact on physical wellbeing and all exercises in the ‘move on BOARD’ programme are designed to actively counter strains arising from daily work routines onboard.

The back is said to be the part of the body that suffers most due to conditions and work onboard while issues affecting health also include heat and noise and stress.

Indeed, one of Zeaborn Ship Management’s Masters who has been with the company since 2001, was introduced to yoga during a Fleet Officer meeting in Odessa, Ukraine in 2017.

He heard Heiko Nies, Managing Director of Zeaborn Crew Management, say something about yoga and thought he was joking until he entered the hall and saw yoga mats laid out on the floor. Curious, he started the exercises and continued practising when he went back onboard, developing strength, feeling less tired and stressed. He also says he no longer has back pain and now incorporates yoga into his weekly fitness routine, as well as going on the exercise bike and doing some weights.

Most frequent health problems onboard experienced by seafarers are said to be obesity and the resulting secondary diseases which, among others, can lead to cardiovascular system problems. It can also affect the spine and joints, and put the person at risk of diabetes.

Each training video of the ‘move on Board’ health programme lasts about 20 minutes and the warm-up is followed by 11 minutes of so-called High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) involving eight exercises. The training ends with a cool-down section.

Because training is individual, no general fitness goals are defined but the seafarers can use sport apps to keep track of their fitness and Zeaborn supports sporting activities, for example, by equipping all crew with sporting bracelets for smartphones.

Zeaborn Ship Management says its overall quest to improve the health of its employees is part of the overarching focus topic ‘safety on board’ which is on the agenda of the Container Ship Safety Forum (CSSF).  Launched in 2014, the CSSF is a global business-to-business network that improves safety performance and management practices in the container shipping industry and Zeaborn Ship Management’s predecessor E.R. Schiffahrt is one of the founding members.

“Zeaborn Ship Management is committed to sustainable health management. The safety and health of our seafarers is one of our top priorities,” said Mr Nies. “We are convinced that physical fitness and mental balance of the crews are essential for safe ship operations. We are therefore very pleased that the award confirms our approach.”