Seafarer health must be made a priority to tackle the rising tide of obesity among seafarers warns the International Maritime Medical Association (IMMA), which represents health professionals from throughout the shipping industry.

“The ocean is a very dangerous place and only truly fit Able Bodied Seamen should be allowed on board,” warns Michael van Hall, IMMA President.

Concern is growing at the rise of obesity levels among crew. The Norwegian Centre for Maritime Medicine recently revealed that it withdrew the health certificates of more than 500 overweight seafarers last year. Mr van Hall commented: “It seems that the general epidemic of obesity in Western Countries has hit the maritime sector too. It is the job of the ship owner or manager to make sure that sailors are fed a nutritious, non-fattening diet and have good exercise programmes available on board.”

Mr van Hall recalled: “I have heard of instances in American screening clinics where a fire extinguisher (weighing 53 lbs) has been put in the hands of an extra heavy sailor before medical staff have asked him to rapidly climb two staircases. This brings fitness into sharp focus because in an emergency fire fighting is everybody’s job on board.

“Weight issues and physical fitness are matters of extreme importance in the maritime world and we must act now to ensure that seafarers are given every support to maintain a healthy weight,” he urged.