The global coronavirus outbreak is a truly challenging and unprecedented situation, and one that continues to affect our families, our communities, our business and, in particular, our seafarers.
Our seafarers are playing a significant role in ensuring the global economy continues to function, but that leading role comes at a cost to seafarers with crew changes postponed, meaning, many have no choice but to continue working for extended periods of weeks or months.
With the potential negative impact on the mental and physical wellbeing of our seafarers, and in line with our value of ‘We care’, the HSEQ team have launched an initiative where senior leaders, including Graham Westgarth, a number of the Executive Team (ET), Ship Management Managing Directors and General Managers, hold engagement calls with our fleet.
As part of the initiative, each senior leader will call at least three vessels per week, to date, more than 220 calls to vessels have been made in the first three weeks since its launch.
One of the calls was made by Graham Westgarth to the crew of the Star Swift, and Captain Igor Arslanov said: “The whole crew took part in the call and it was very warmly received by the crew as evidence that V.Group was thinking about the crew’s problems and it was an opportunity to ask Graham plenty of questions.
“Graham begun by asking about the mood of the crew and the situation onboard, before he discussed the steps that V.Group is taking to eliminate the problem with crew changes.
“We need calls like this in the future, even when we return to a normal situation, as the crew understand that this is a ‘straight line’ to the top of the company and will help get our most important questions answered more quickly.”
Captain Nadeem Khan of the Sonangol Girassol, said: “All ship staff appreciated the call from Matt Dunlop and agreed that V.Group is trying hard to recognise us as key workers so we can move around again. They are also trying their best to supply us the medical equipment required against Covid-19 and food supply despite the shortage in the markets.
“It was a great opportunity to discuss the current situation, how it is affecting us, our families and our onboard routine. We appreciate these calls during these hard time as its reflects the efforts V.Group are doing to help us.”
“Thanks a lot for the moral support from the top of V.Group. All crewmembers well understood the situation with Covid-19 in the world and in their countries and has applied all efforts to keep the vessel in good safety condition. So many thanks to V.Ships Greece office for their very good support and kind cooperation in all respects of our life”, said Captain Igor Moiseyenkov of the Kure.
“We understand that the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic is causing a high level of stress and anxiety with our seafarers and we wanted to start this programme of senior leadership engagement calls with our entire fleet. It is an opportunity for our senior leaders to hear directly from our seafarers, for them to express any concerns they have, and to tell our leaders how we can better support them during these challenging times”, said Matt Dunlop
Group Director HSEQ & Technical.
As Matt explains the calls are “built around getting to know the crew not the vessel”, by asking questions on a range of topics from life onboard, does the crew have sufficient PPE, does the crew have enough information and support from V.Group, and is there anything senior management can do to improve the vessel’s safety performance.
“It is clear from the conversations I had with a number of vessels that our colleagues onboard are really appreciative of these calls and that they see them as an opportunity for their voices to be heard at the highest level.
“Given the extraordinary times we are in, it was pleasing to hear that morale and teamwork on the vessels generally remains good and that they are well supported by our offices. Obviously, the main area of concern is when we might see the current Covid-19 situation change, with particular reference to crew changes.
“Such calls are a great opportunity to reinforce the message that our seafarers are a top priority for us and that we are working hard to find viable solutions through industry bodies, legislators, agents, port authorities and others in the maritime industry”, said Graham Westgarth.
Information from each of the calls is collated by HSEQ and circulated to the ET and Ship Management MDs for follow up and to help shape future calls.
“We are living in unprecedented times where the way we live and the way we work is being severely challenged. Times such as these demand visible and felt leadership from us all. Senior leadership engagements with our colleagues on board is vital and deepens the impact we can all make as safety leaders”, added Matt.