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Stress At Sea

Posted by on in Maritime Blog
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This blog I have written as an article, what I have read in the “Alert”, the magazine published by the Nautical Institute. It is written originally by Maria Pittordis, Partner, Hill Taylor Dickinson, a maritime consulting firm, concerning the claims arising due to stress related medical conditions in the sea

“Over the last 18 years, I have dealt with thousands of claims involving injured crew on ships of all types. Recently, I have seen a particular increase in claims of psychiatric origin.  For example, The chief officer who injures his leg with a rope during a mooring operation now has a phobia of ropes and suffers from anxiety attacks when standing on the deck of a ship.  Physically he is fine, but he failed his medical on psychiatric grounds. He is medically discharged and he brings a claim for compensation. 

Another wave of claims has been where physical symptoms can only be explained by a psychological element. It is the AB’s depression that makes him think he still has a bad back 2 years after the accident – known as the adjustment disorder. Claims for Post Traumatic Stress for witnessing an accident or a near miss are also on the increase, albeit many of them have not been taken seriously by owners, employers or insurers who appear to be of the opinion that seafarers “should be made of sterner stuff.”  Yet, these cases have cost the industry a considerable amount.

Stress at work is probably the most neglected area of injury, both on land and at sea. These are not generally cases resulting from an accident (although they may cause one) but cases where work related stress causes illness, both physical and/or psychological.  How many Doctors during a medical examination ask a seafarer about his working conditions/environment, hours and workload?

How many seafarers complain of harassment by officers or of discrimination on the grounds of race, sex, religion etc? How many complain about bullying or intimidation?  If the answer is none then we need to ask whether it is because policies and procedures are not in place to educate, prevent or complain. 

The marine industry needs to address the issues of stress at work; apart from lost man-hours and potential tribunal actions, these are the personal injury claims of the future!  Employers can be liable in negligence and/or breach of contract for the stress caused to their employees not just by the working conditions or the work itself, but also by the actions of their officers and crew.  They, therefore, need to have education and preventive policies in place, as part of their grievance and disciplinary procedures.”




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