UK maritime pilots to receive access to dedicated wellness support

P2P pilots press

A ground-breaking partnership between Sailors’ Society and the United Kingdom Maritime Pilots’ Association (UKMPA) will see a first for all UK maritime pilots – access to their own dedicated mental health and wellbeing support.

The global maritime charity, that provides practical, emotional and spiritual welfare support 24/7 to today’s 1.9m seafarers, was approached by UKMPA with concerns around the mental health and wellbeing of the UK’s maritime pilots, who ensure safe transit in and out of ports and waterways during what is a high-risk point of a ship’s passage.

The result is a partnership that builds on Sailors’ Society’s acclaimed Wellness at Sea programme and provides a unique and holistic solution, supporting pilots’ mental health and wellness, building community and reducing accidents.

The UKMPA, which represents 500 members nationally, supported one of its members, Captain James Musgrove, in his endeavours to bring this unique scheme, which they are calling Campaign Safe Haven, to its members.

UKMPA Chair, Captain Hywel Pugh, said: “James’ ability and foresight has brought a well-needed support scheme into place; Campaign Safe Haven is there for our maritime professionals to reach out and find mental health and wellbeing support. It has been a much-needed resource for our members, and without James’ passion and support from Sailors’ Society, none of this would be possible. Our immense thanks go to Sailors’ Society, Trinity House and all that support this project.”

Pilotage is a 24/7 job; it can be a dangerous job and a lonely job. Maritime pilots are professional seafarers; most hold IMO masters’ qualifications and have served as captains or chief officers on merchant ships with large crews. But they now work alone and can suffer from isolation, poor mental health and even suicidal thoughts.

Sailors’ Society CEO, Sara Baade, said: “There is extraordinarily little visibility of the huge strains on pilots even though they ensure the safe movement of imports and exports benefitting the whole industry.

“They are at considerable risk of severe mental health issues, but as predominantly middle-aged men they are in the group that can find it hardest to reach out for help. Mental health is still considered by many a taboo and there is a fear that raising these issues could affect their jobs.

“So, we are delighted that UKMPA reached out to us and we are able to partner with them on this pioneering and much-needed programme. We are also very grateful to the Trinity House Maritime Charity for supporting this by awarding a grant from their DfT Maritime Safety Fund.

“This unique programme will provide strong mental health support and reduce pilots’ feelings of isolation and anxiety.”

Sailors’ Society has targeted specific support in the areas identified by UKMPA as crucial for pilots’ wellbeing – providing a dedicated helpline, peer support and coaching.

The confidential helpline will allow all pilots to talk through specific concerns and worries related to their role in a one-to-one call with trained staff. The bespoke Peer-to-Peer groups will allow pilots to connect with each other and provide a space to offer support and guidance, while the coaching sessions will allow for discussions and training around mental health and wellbeing.