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Keeping seafarers safe in extreme working conditions


Revd Andrew Wright talks about ‘The Missions to Seafarers’ new partnership with a protective clothing brand to highlight the importance of effective cold-weather clothing for seafarers dealing with tough environmental conditions. The weather is one factor beyond operators’ control, therefore, it is important seafarers always to wear the appropriate clothing onboard, Revd Wright argues.

The difficult conditions facing seafarers in their working lives are well-known in the shipping industry. We are used to seeing stories in the maritime media about cultural isolation, tiredness and mental health. These issues rightly deserve attention, however there are other factors that affect seafarers in their day-to-day working lives, one of which is the weather and the dramatic impact it can have on quality of life at sea.

Extreme weather conditions at sea are nothing new. Many crews find themselves travelling through the freezing North Sea during winter, with icicles forming on railings and freezing conditions on board. Even for crews used to cold weather, the conditions can be testing, let alone for those who have never seen ice or snow before, which is the case for many seafarers in the current global fleet. At the other end of the spectrum, vessels continue to sail through the Gulf and the equatorial region in the height of summer, leading to long exposure to the sun and sweltering temperatures.

At the Mission to Seafarers, our chaplains work day in and day out on the ground in ports and on vessels to provide support, provisions, and a listening ear to the industry’s workers. Our chaplains based in ports in the North of the UK have heard stories of seafarers being provided with just one set of cold-weather work clothes, which invariably get wet during a voyage. It is then difficult or impossible for these clothes to dry overnight, forcing seafarers to face cold weather conditions in damp clothing. On other occasions, seafarers haven’t been provided with any cold weather clothing at all, or have a limited amount to share between the crew.

There are similar stories heard at the other end of the temperature spectrum, with seafarers unable to keep their work clothing clean and odour-free in extreme heat, or not being provided with light, breathable clothing suitable for the temperatures experienced in the Gulf during the height of summer. The impact both of these extremes has on the health and productivity of crews can be significant.

While owners and operators can take steps to ensure adequate resting hours, good communication facilities and pleasant living quarters, the weather is one factor that is beyond their control. Yet, they can take steps to properly equip the seafarers for the weather they may face, whichever extreme it may reach. It’s essential that owners and operators consider the range of temperatures a vessel may experience in a voyage and prepare for every eventuality. Viewing weather-appropriate clothing as more akin to essential personal protective equipment (PPE) will lead to a healthier, happier and more productive crew across the board. It demonstrates that they are valued, that their employers respect their duty of care, and alleviates any anxiety that routes or weather forecasts may otherwise cause.

In order to raise awareness of this issue, The Mission to Seafarers has formed a partnership with Armadillo Merino, who design and manufacture the world’s most advanced next-to-skin protective clothing. The company specialises in skin side clothing which is safer and more comfortable to wear . The garments are flame resistant to 600c, melt-proof and super soft against the skin. The fabric resists odours and helps to insulate when insulation is most needed, in hot or cold environments. Worn by astronauts, firefighters, mountaineers and soldiers across the globe, it provides a flexibility and safety explicitly designed to counter adverse weather and maintain the health and safety of the wearer. 

Until 31 December 2018, all purchases of Armadillo Merino clothing made through the Armadillo Merino website using the code M2S20 will lead to a 15% donation for The Mission to Seafarers, allowing us to continue our work on the ground.


By the Revd Andrew Wright, The Mission to Seafarers


The views presented hereabove are only those of the author and not necessarily those of  SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion  purposes only.

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