Building positive relationships with others is important for our wellbeing. For crew working away from home for long periods, it can be difficult to remain in close contact with family and friends, so the opportunity to connect with other crew members can be a major benefit. However, factors like long working hours and small crews mean there can be barriers to socialising with crewmates.
The Social Interaction Matters (SIM) Project by the International Seafarers' Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) aims to help companies improve social interaction on board for the benefit of crew wellbeing.
The first phase of the SIM Project began in April and May 2020 with a large survey of seafarers and other maritime stakeholders as well as 10 in-depth telephone interviews. These examined the relevant drivers and barriers to the promotion of social interaction and specific activities which seafarers around the world identified as helping to engage people.
In November 2020, Phase Two ‘The SIM Trials’ began. ISWAN partnered with a number of shipping companies to investigate the impact (or lack thereof) of social engagement initiatives on crew living and working on board their vessels.
A total of 21 vessels from 10 different companies participated in the trials, which began by selecting a Shipboard and Shoreside Ambassador to represent each vessel. The Shipboard Ambassadors each completed daily and weekly logs to record the details of life on board, and to describe any social activities that had taken place and the impact of these on overall crew mood. Each crew member was also encouraged to complete a weekly online survey which asked confidential questions about their individual wellbeing and mood.
After the Phase Two trials ended, ISWAN conducted exit interviews with each of the SIM Ambassadors, and held an ‘Ambassadors’ Round Table’ so those from different companies could share their insights and experiences from the trials and beyond.
For the SIM Project’s final phase, on 21 June 2022 ISWAN released a report detailing the findings from phase two of the project and providing actionable guidance and recommendations for shipping and ship management companies, seafarers and other maritime stakeholders.
Looking to the future, ISWAN plans to explore key themes that have emerged from this research, such as the link between fatigue, safety, social interaction and wellbeing. ISWAN also plans to continue the development of SIM as a long-term project for seafarer wellbeing, starting with a controlled evaluation of the effectiveness of the project’s guidance and recommendations, which is hoped to lead to the project's establishment as a continuing resource for the sector.