In today’s maritime industry, ensuring the safety and well-being of crew members working in and around high-risk areas is not just a moral obligation—it’s a business imperative. Yet, far too often, ship owners and managers neglect to provide their crew members with the essential information, training, and equipment needed to navigate these challenging environments safely. This neglect not only jeopardises the lives and livelihoods of crew members but also poses significant risks to the overall success and reputation of maritime operations.

It is irresponsible for ship owners and managers to overlook the importance of supporting their crew members with the correct information, training, and equipment while operating in high-risk areas. By neglecting to invest in these critical resources, they expose their crew members to unnecessary danger and increase the likelihood of accidents, injuries, and even loss of life.

Training and equipping crew members with the necessary skills and resources can significantly reduce risk, stress, and anxiety in high-risk environments. Receiving the correct training empowers crew members to identify potential hazards, respond effectively to emergencies, and mitigate risks before they escalate. Regular drills should be carried out for actions on incidents from piracy attacks, and should include retreating to a designated citadel, and procedures whilst locked down in the citadel. The Bridge team also need to carry out drills that should include approach of suspicious vessel, attack and when to retreat to the citadel. Bridge cards and aides memoire should be made available to the bridge team and include information for what agency to communicate with in the event of a piracy incident, what information should be given to the agency and what procedures are being carried out. This training should become part of the ships routine, so that all crew are fully prepared for operating in a high risk environment.

Equipping them with essential safety gear and equipment ensures that they have the tools they need to protect themselves and others in hazardous situations. For operations in potential high risk areas, the bridge team need correct PPE to continue to operate at less risk. A minimum PPE requirement of body armour and ballistic plates and ballistic Kevlar helmets should be made available to crew members that would remain and operate in the bridge in a piracy situation. This essential PPE will reduce the risk of injury or death from small arms fire and shrapnel.

Providing comprehensive support to crew members demonstrates a commitment to their well-being and fosters a culture of safety and trust within the maritime community. Investing in crew training and equipment is not just a cost-saving measure—it’s an investment in the human capital that drives the success of maritime operations.

It’s unfair for ship owners and managers to shirk their responsibility to spend the relatively modest amount required to train and equip crew members properly. The human cost of neglecting crew safety is immeasurable, and the consequences of such negligence can have far-reaching impacts on individuals, families, and entire communities.

In shipping, where the bottom line often takes precedence, it’s all too easy to forget the human cost of accidents and incidents at sea. But by prioritising crew safety and well-being, ship owners and managers can help eliminate unnecessary risks and ensure that every crew member returns home safely at the end of their voyage.

Let’s not forget that behind every vessel and every cargo, there are human lives at stake. It’s time for ship owners and managers to recognise their responsibility and take meaningful action to support the safety and security of their most valuable asset—their crew members. Together, we can build a safer and more sustainable future for maritime operations worldwide.

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