DSG launches seafarer DEIB benchmarking to strengthen workplace culture at sea

Captured on 18-07-2023 by Mike Bell Photography.

Maritime charities the International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN), the Mission to Seafarers, and Sailors’ Society have endorsed Diversity Study Group’s (DSG) benchmarking initiative that tracks crew demographics and year-on-year trends in seafarer psychological and physical safety and wellbeing.

DSG will collaborate with maritime charities and participating ship operators — Anglo-Eastern Ship Management, Ardmore Shipping and Dorian LPG — to identify key impact points and utilise their DEI expertise to recommend sustainable solutions that will facilitate improved workplace culture and seafarer welfare.

Heidi Heseltine (pictured), Founder of Diversity Study Group, said: “Our Seafarer Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) Data-Gathering and Benchmarking initiative maps a key step forward for the maritime industry. Although crew health and welfare are often declared the purview of maritime charities, most ship operators and ship managers understand that psychological and physical safety are vital for safe operations onboard and competitive recruitment and retention strategies in the market.

“The data gathered by this initiative will allow participating ship operators to ensure onboard DEIB programmes are effective, and feedback from maritime charities can ensure that key challenges impacting crew physical and mental wellbeing — such as isolation, bullying, harassment, and more — are actively mitigated to create optimal workplace conditions.”

Maritime charities are intimately familiar with challenges faced by crew and the unique constraints of offering support while at sea. While DSG’s benchmarking initiative offers participating ship operators a means by which to nurture an effective working culture at sea — where everyone feels encouraged, has the opportunity to thrive, and the freedom to voice their concerns — it also allows for maritime charities to benefit from granular data on which DEIB programmes are proving the most effective.

Georgia Allen, Projects and Relationships Manager at ISWAN said: “Our industry is evolving rapidly, bringing challenges and opportunities in equal measure. The last few years have seen seafarers impacted by COVID-19, economic recession, and rising geopolitical turmoil. These events, along with the everyday challenges of working at sea, have taken a toll on seafarers’ health and wellbeing, and ISWAN has supported many seafarers who have contacted our helplines when they are struggling to cope.

“However, we have also witnessed significant improvements in connectivity, the prioritisation of crew physical health and wellbeing, and recognition of the value of soft skills onboard in recent times. Understanding how crew members from a variety of backgrounds, experiences and identities respond to the challenges they face, and the unique support different demographics need, will help drive the development of DEI-informed crew welfare.”

DSG’s new Seafarer DEIB Data-gathering and Benchmarking initiative will take place alongside their shore-side data-gathering and benchmarking initiative, which has been running successfully for 5 years. These dual benchmarking initiatives offer nuanced insights that understand the distinct ecosystems of ship-board and shore-side operations and the interplay between them.

Ben Bailey, Director of Programme at the Mission to Seafarers, said: “Change can be disconcerting for many, and it is vital that we focus on creating inclusive, resilient and respectful systems of communication across maritime’s wide range of stakeholders. There is already growing recognition of this across our industry, as updates to regulations like the MLC and the STCW address concerns like harassment and bullying, new training is being introduced to focus on leadership and soft skills at sea, and there is greater uptake of wellbeing and/or DEIB initiatives onboard. The success of these efforts rests on us working collaboratively to identify continued gaps in workplace culture, address its impacts, and create viable solutions that are nuanced and effective — now and in the future.”

Acting as an independent third party, DSG has designed and shared an anonymised online survey with seafarers from participating organisations. The information collected will be analysed in order to share relevant insights with participating members through a secure online business intelligence dashboard. This will allow organisations to measure the anonymised data specific to their onboard personnel against the aggregated industry responses available.

Sara Baade, CEO of Sailors’ Society, said: “Seafarers understand the value of good leadership, often because they are in the position of leading and advocating for themselves and other members of their crew. They are well aware of the benefits of positive workplace culture at sea and how this can offer a strong foundation from which to tackle key issues impacting themselves and their colleagues onboard. Ensuring that they are centred and recognised as a key stakeholder in any process seeking to improve their workplace conditions is vital to successful outcomes on any crew welfare initiative.”

Further information on the Diversity Study Group’s Seafarer Data-Gathering and Benchmarking Initiative is available at: https://diversitystudygroup.com/benchmarking/