More funds for research on seafarer’s health

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The Swedish Transport Agency’s budget for maritime research has doubled. Maritime safety and social sustainability is one of four high-priority areas of research and one project is currently underway on mental ill-health among seafarers.

In April last year, the government decided that the Swedish Transport Agency should expand its horizons and broaden its research on shipping. The budget increased from SEK 55 million up to SEK 100 million and there are now between 45 and 50 research projects being funded by the Swedish Transport Agency.

“We have had much less funding for research on shipping compared with the other modes of transport,” says Rein Jüriado, chairman of the Swedish Transport Agency’s research and innovation portfolio for the maritime sector. “The reason is that it is not part of our remit to plan shipping in the same way as we do with road and rail, but now the government wants us to do more research on shipping.”

The Transport Agency has identified four high-priority areas in which to carry out maritime research: digitalisation and automation, climate and environment, efficient maritime transport systems and infrastructure, and maritime safety and social sustainability.

Social sustainability

“We have put maritime safety and social sustainability into the same research area because we believe they belong together. If social interaction does not work, either ashore or at sea, it will affect maritime safety and increase risks. This is definitely an area we want to know more about,” says Rein Jüriado.

One of the Transport Agency’s maritime projects is about mental ill-health among seafarers. It is being run by Gabriella Eriksson and Joakim Dahlman, both researchers and employees at the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute (VTI). In a large register study that includes all active seafarers who are registered with the Transport Agency, they are investigating the occurrence of different diagnoses for employees on board, mainly in the area of mental ill-health.

“I carried out a large register study in 2015 among fishermen and coastal maritime traffic, and mental ill-health came out as the second most common reason for seeking medical care – which we had not expected,” says Joakim Dahlman. “Now we want to do a similar survey among all employees on board to see if we get the same results.”

The first measurement has already been carried out and data from it is being analysed at the moment. Another measurement will be carried out in about one year’s time. The purpose of the double measurements is to investigate whether the introduction of the regulation on organisational and social ill-health has had any effect in the shipping sector.

“Now you might not expect to see any big differences in just one year, but we can maybe see some trends,” says Gabriella Eriksson.

In addition to register extracts, online surveys and interviews are also carried out.

Interviews with unions and owners

“We plan to interview shipping company managers and trade unions to find out how they are working to implement the new regulation. We also want to know what risk factors there may be on board that are linked to the regulation,” says Gabriella Eriksson.

The study will carry on until the end of next year.

Linda Sundgren

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