by Douglas B. Stevenson, Director, Center for Seafarers’ Rights
The Danish maritime industry meets each year at the MSSM Conference devoted to maritime safety, health and environment. I participated in MSSM 2013 at Nyborg Strand, Denmark along with 300 seafarers and representatives from shipping companies, government, research organizations and maritime schools to consider topical issues connected to the maritime industry.
Conference sessions included seafarers’ diet, smoking, alcohol and exercise; seafarers’ welfare on ships and ashore; the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006; ship emissions at sea and in port; seafarers’ fatigue and stress; and many more interesting topics.
One of the Conference highlights was a demonstration of a new Swedish rescue concept that uses a jet ski to rescue persons in distress at sea and then transfer them to a mother ship via a floating base suspended from a crane on the ship.
Danish screenwriter and director Tobias Lindholm and Clipper Group Corporate Security Manager Gary Porter treated the conference participants with behind-the-scenes accounts of making the Danish film A Hijacking. Filmmakers based the critically acclaimed film on the real-life hijacking of the MV Rozen by Somali pirates in 2007.
I spoke at a session organized by Danish SeaHealth anthropologist and PhD Fellow Adrienne Mannov that focused on how seafarers perceive the threat of piracy. Adrienne highlighted her ongoing research on seafarers’ perceptions of piracy’s threats and how they address them. West Africa Security Expert Thomas Hansen gave an up-to-date analysis of West African piracy in the Gulf of Guinea and other vulnerable areas along the coast of West Africa. I described the advances made since 2007 by governments and the maritime industry in addressing the needs of seafarers affected by piracy. While acknowledging the many resources now available for seafarers affected by piracy and their families, I challenged the conference to find ways to reduce the stigmas against mental health care that prevent many seafarers from taking advantage of the resources available to them.
The MSSM 2013 gave me the opportunity to meet and learn from participants working in seafarers’ health and wellness programs. Such networking provided valuable information as SCI looks to initiate a seafarers’ wellness program at our International Seafarers’ Center in Port Newark.