The international maritime community is going gaga over wellness training. One UK-based seafarers’ charity even wants to make it mandatory for seafarers. That idea is pinheaded but not really surprising. The shipping industry has a weakness for buzzwords which tends to create a kind of maniacal obsession. Remember the phrase “invisible seafarers” concocted by the International Maritime Organization and mouthed by every maritime Tom, Dick and Harry?

In the case of wellness training, the maritime press is just as guilty as the charities of pushing the catchphrase without giving it much serious thought. Do the advocates of wellness training really have the well-being of seafarers in mind? Or are they just hitching on to the bandwagon to suit their own interests?

It’s a fair question to ask. The fact is that the “wellness” tide has been sweeping the whole world for the past several years at least. In the United States, the origins of the phenomenon can be traced back to the late 1950s, when Dr Halbert L. Dunn introduced the concept of “high-level wellness”. Why is the maritime community blabbering about wellness only now? Why not three or five years earlier?

Proponents of wellness training for seafarers say depression at sea is a common problem. They cite studies that purportedly show a rise in the number of suicides involving depressed mariners. Maybe so, but why are they raising the issue only now? Did depression amongst seafarers suddenly pop up from nowhere?

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