Common Health Issues of the Seafaring Community


Seafaring is considered to be one of the most strenuous of occupations. The seafaring community encounter a multitude of issues and challenges due to the critical nature of their job. In recent years, the spotlight has fallen on specific health issues among seafarers which have become a growing concern.

We examine some of the more common health issues that affect the seafaring community.

HAVS or Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome Hand

Transmitted vibration or HAVS is one of the most common health hazards that's found among the seafarers.

Operating power tools, for example, needle guns, hand-held grinders and chipping machines generally cause this syndrome.

Prolonged exposure to power tools such as these may result in HAVS that can lead to a permanent disability if it's not treated properly and quickly. Some symptoms of HAVS include numbness, tingling of fingers, blanching, and acute pain in the wrist and arm and can be distressing for the individuals concerned.

CVD or Cardio Vascular Disease

Compared to the general population, CVD is commonly found among the seafaring community. The primary reason behind CVD is the hectic and often stressful workload of the seafarers.

Other influencing factors include poor diet, stress, and lack of exercise.

MSD or Musculoskeletal Disorder

Seafarers are reported to suffer from various disorders that are mostly related to the skeleton and muscular structure of their body. Their long working hours and round the clock schedules are the fundamental causes of MSD. If not treated properly, the musculoskeletal disorder may turn into a disability.


Officers and crew members have a continuous exposure to various toxic substances, such as beryllium, lead, and cadmium.

Overexposure to these harmful substances leads to different types of cancers, for example, renal cancer, lungs cancer, lymphoma, and leukaemia.

Compared to the general public, the seafaring community is more susceptible to these deadly diseases.

Pandemic & Epidemic Diseases

Seafarers can often be worldwide travellers visiting numerous international ports. Whilst this can be exciting, it can also leave the seafarer exposed to dangerous epidemic and pandemic diseases. A recent, and high profile example is the Zika virus but other examples include malaria, cholera, tuberculosis, and yellow fever.

Not only are such illnesses distressing for the individual, if they become carriers who take such viruses home with them, the potential for spreading the problem to family and friends is high.

Mental Health Issues

(Hypertension, Stress, and Fatigue) Seafarers also suffer from various mental health-related issues that can seriously impact their psychological health.

Excessive stress, loneliness, smoking, fatigue, lack of physical activity, and consumption of alcohol are the primary causes of their mental health issues.


These are just 6 common health issues that are observed among the seafarers.

Each of these health problems may lead to potentially disastrous consequences if they are not treated in a timely manner. But, why do such health issues occur? Well, the underlying reasons behind such health problems are bad quality of sleep, extended work, lack of rest, long working hours, heat, vibration, noise, restricted movement, social exclusion, climate change, dehydration, and other factors.

To overcome these situations, the following five measures can be undertaken.

• Work pressure needs to be balanced.

• The master & crew should be informed about various epidemic and pandemic diseases before docking.

• Quality of life for seafarers needs to be improved.

• Seafarers should be trained about the common health issues for an increased self-awareness. • Seafarers should be encouraged to regularly visit a physician or medical supervisor so that a disease doesn't turn to a permanent disability.

We will examine these measures in more detail in our next blog.

Remember Mayfair, We care


1. M. Oldenburg, H. Jensen, U. Latza, X. Baur, "Seafaring stressors aboard merchant and passenger ships", Int J Public Health, vol. 54, pp. 96-105, 2009.

2. A. Sliškovi?, Z. Penezi?, "Occupational stressors risks and health in the seafaring population", Review of Psychology, vol. 22, no. 1–2, pp. 29-39,