A Motley Crew: are seafarers an asset or a liability?


The maritime workforce is now recruited and deployed worldwide. Most are on short term contracts of employment and the majority come from the lower wage crewing countries. I will initially review the implications of current patterns of ownership and employment on attitudes to and approaches adopted for managing the health and wellbeing of seafarers, looking back at their historical roots and what these can tell us about the behaviour of the main interest groups in the maritime industry.  I will then speculate on the extent to which these same mind-sets are relevant to other aspects of maritime employment-related practices, using examples including the flagging of cruise ships, humanitarian responses to piracy or natural disasters and human factors and ship safety.


Tim Carter has held several posts in maritime health. He is currently a professor at the Norwegian Centre for Maritime Medicine, University of Bergen; was until recently the Chief Medical Adviser to the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency, and has been a special adviser to ILO and IMO, assisting with the revision of international guidelines on seafarer medical examinations.

Prior to this he worked in the UK Department for Transport on road safety and published a handbook for health professionals on assessment of fitness to drive.

Earlier in his career he trained as an occupational physician and worked first in the petrochemical industry and then as Medical Director of the UK Health and Safety Executive. He has also worked as a consultant with industry, governments and international agencies.

In addition to his work on present day health problems in seafarers he is an active researcher on the history of occupational disease prevention and maritime health. His most recent publication is 'Merchant Seamen's Health 1860-1960: Medicine, Technology, Ship owners and the State in Britain'.