The International Superyacht Society (ISS) is the representative organisation of the Large yacht industry with a mission to;  “Promote Excellence and Ensure Sustainability in the Global Yachting Industry”.  Within the ISS are committees established to work towards this mission.

The Captain’s Committee is a collective of current seafaring Captains from varying backgrounds and locations that work together to represent the concerns of yacht crew and Captains.  Major projects include, the support for ISWAN and the launch of the yacht crew helpline and the publishing of issues of wide industry concern.

In this second article from the ISS Captains, we confront an issue that cannot be ignored. This concern transcends generational gaps, gender distinctions, and cultural boundaries. The mental health of seafarers emerges as a universal threat and risk affecting the entire crew. It is manifests in seemingly innocuous behavioral changes and can have devastating consequences.

The Problem

Crewing on a yacht is characterized by a unique set of features which sets it apart from other occupations. This includes;

  1. Living in an environment that must be ‘perfect’ at all times,
  2. a lack of empathy from support network (i.e. misdirected envy with no understanding of environment),
  3. demanding physical working conditions, and
  4. long hours of work creating high levels of stress and fatigue.

It can also be a ‘lonely life’. Not only are yacht crew away from family and friends for very long periods of time for some at a young age, many seafarers live isolated lives while onboard. An increasing degree of automation onboard ships has led to smaller crews and crew members may have very different cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

As the Captains did in their first article, we look to other industry sectors for guidance.  The commercial marine sector are aware and concerned for Seafarers’ Mental Health,  so much so that Cardiff University were supported to conducted a study into cause and effect (published Gard 26 Nov 2019).  In the commercial maritime sector, there was some shock that 55% of companies had not introduced policies or practices to address Seafarer’s Mental Health.  The ISS Captains read this as 45% positively responded, it would be frightening to conduct the survey in the yachting sphere

“The study concludes that “it is appropriate for industry stakeholders to be concerned about seafarers’ mental health and wellbeing and that such worries may be somewhat overdue”. In fact, 55% of employer respondents stated that their companies had not introduced any policies or practices aimed at addressing issues of seafarers’ mental health in the last 10 years. Going forward, there needs to be much more emphasis placed on proactive measures aimed at improving the conditions of work and life onboard for seafarers and less placed on reactive and self-help strategies for employers and seafarers.”

The Shortcomings

The Captains in their shared and lived experience do not know of a cohesive policy that recognizes or provides support strategies for crew experiencing mental health problems. With many yacht medical policies excluding cover for any form of mental health or stress injury it is almost structurally denied as being a medical issue.

With this being so the seafarer must make the decision whether to stay and try and ‘work through it’ or lose their income.  Would we do the same with a broken limb?

The Professionals

Centre for Corporate Health or Medaire

The Solution

As with every article the ISS Captains present we acknowledge,  simple solutions would be in place and there is no single ‘silver bullet’.  Nevertheless,  we say there is a way to go

The End

For the love of yachting the ISS Captains ask that we all become stakeholders in supporting our Captains and crew in this most critical aspect of their safety and performance.


Your Fleet Captains