Financial crisis threatens the work environment

Of course the situation is tough for shipping companies and they have difficult decisions to make. But in bad times they are a little too quick to close the door on investments for personnel, while that door should really be closed last of all. The employees at sea are their most important resource who must be cared for in all situations.
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We are worried about how the financial decline we are now seeing will affect shipping. Shipping companies must make savings and there is a great risk that this will take place at the expense of safety and the work environment. We have already seen examples of this. One company, to our knowledge, now bunkers fuel oil with a higher sulphur content (admittedly within the limits set, but even so it is worse for the environment) and many others will probably follow suit.
Onboard, too, it can be seen that the operations budget is getting tighter and cutbacks demanded. This means that improvements in the work environment onboard may be postponed to the future, the personnel situation may be negatively affected by more stress etc. There are many issues we are working with at SAN which we are very worried about, but we must hope that our worries are unfounded.
Of course the situation is tough for shipping companies and they have difficult decisions to make. But in bad times they are a little too quick to close the door on investments for personnel, while that door should really be closed last of all. The employees at sea are their most important resource who must be cared for in all situations.
According to a report from Lloyd’s List about 1500 ships will be taken out of commission worldwide in 2009 – which is almost equivalent to the entire Norwegian fleet. Even though the decommissioning of ships is a large problem for our seamen, the quantity of goods that must be transported by sea will probably not decrease in a global perspective.
I should think that it is better to decommission one or two ships and maintain standards on those that continue in service instead of using a strimmer and trying to cut down everywhere. Otherwise the pressure and stress on those working at sea will increase, and together with that the risk of accidents.
Tomas Sjöstedt
ombudsman, SFBF

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