Regular health checks should be accessible for seafarers while out at sea, says Boers Crew Services


Leading crew change specialist Boers Crew Services says the industry should be collaborating more to ensure the health of seafarers is treated as a priority, with initiatives in place such as access to blood tests while they are out at sea.

Dutch company Boers Crew Services launched its new Preventative Medical Examinations initiative last September alongside its range of crew change services, including accommodation, transport, medical appointments, and visa applications. The initiative gives companies the opportunity to provide maritime professionals access to blood tests while they are out at sea to both identify and keep track of any health issues.

The company says initiatives like this will help reduce sick leave taken by maritime professionals out at sea, increase morale and productivity and boost crew retention, as well as maximise cost efficiencies for shipping operators.

Boers says it believes shipping companies are not going far enough in making sure the health and wellbeing of their crews are being made a priority. Currently seafarers are required to carry out a Pre-Employment Medical Examination prior to embarking on their careers at sea.

Joint CEO at Boers, Hans Boers said: “We are still seeing that some companies are not placing enough importance on the health and wellbeing of seafarers. Their physical health is as important as their mental health and the two really do go hand in hand. I think the IMO could also go further with their guidelines and ensuring maritime professionals do not sacrifice their health when they choose a career at sea. It would be a positive move to see regular health checks become a mandatory requirement.”

Crew members can choose from one of four options to carry out the test. They can do the blood test themselves while out at sea; a medic can go onto the vessel and carry it out for them; they can alternatively do the test at a hotel while onshore, or a medic can carry out the test for them on land.

They will follow in the future with a full health check on land before the seafarer sets off on their voyage.

The blood tests can pick up issues like vitamin deficiencies, such as high cholesterol, high levels of sugar, and they thyroid issues, as well as more serous diseases.

Results can be accessed privately and securely by the crew member through an app and they will never be shared with employers unless permission is granted. The app can also provide an overview of an entire crew’s health, giving employers the chance to see if a large number of crew suffer with high cholesterol, for example.

The company that offers the blood test to the maritime industry through Boers also provides the initiative in other industries and has seen how the tests can pick up potentially life-threatening conditions. It cited an example of one company that employed 5,000 people, and 5% were found to be suffering with a serious disease.