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Perceptions of Well-Being, Resilience and Stress Amongst a Sample of Merchant Seafarers and Superintendents

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Significant changes in the seafaring industry have increased occupational demands at sea, challenging the psychosocial well-being of seafarers. The primary aim of this study was to explore perceptions and experiences of well-being, resilience and stress amongst a sample of merchant seafarers and superintendents. Exploring perceptions of well-being, resilience and stress amongst this sample is required to inform organisational policies in the interest of improving working and living conditions for maritime workers. Semi-structured interviews (n = 11) and one focus group (n = 13) were conducted with superintendents, officers and ratings/crew of a large shipping company to explore their perceptions of well-being, resilience and stress. Analysis was conducted using descriptive and interpretive qualitative methods. Findings were interwoven by two critical themes. The first, recent changes, was expressed by participants in relation to fewer opportunities to relieve stress in recent years due to reduced socialisation and shore leave. The second, organisational justice, was indicated by participants regarding the importance of a just work environment. Although depression and other forms of psychosocial distress may be experienced individually, their causes are multifaceted and cannot be addressed only at the level of individual functioning. We must address causes of perceived injustice at the organisational and industry levels, alongside supporting the capacity of individuals to cope with challenging situations. A working environment that is experienced as supportive and just is therefore crucial for individually focused psychosocial interventions to be optimally applied.

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  1. The term Shell in this article refers to Shell International Trading and Shipping Company Limited (STASCo).


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We are very grateful to Ms. Henriette Cox, Dr. Rudiger Stilz, Dr. Teri Lillington and Dr. Alistair Fraser for facilitating this research.


We wish to extend our gratitude to the participants of this study, and to Shell International B.V. for financially supporting this research.

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Correspondence to Joanne McVeigh.

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One of the authors (JM) received a Ph.D. scholarship from Shell International B.V. to conduct this research. The other authors (MM, CC, and BK) received no financial benefit for the research reported in this paper.

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McVeigh, J., MacLachlan, M., Coyle, C. et al. Perceptions of Well-Being, Resilience and Stress Amongst a Sample of Merchant Seafarers and Superintendents. Maritime Studies 18, 139–158 (2019).

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