August will see the introduction of the new Maritime Labour Convention (MLC). Ratified by 35 ILO member states covering 68.8% of the world fleet’s gross tonnage, the MLC provides rules for the protection of the world’s 1.2 million seafarers. One of the regulations that will particularly concern shipowners is Standard A4.1(b), which states “Each member shall ensure that measures providing for health protection and medical care…for seafarers working on board a ship…are adopted which: ensure that seafarers are given health protection and medical care as comparable to that which is generally available to workers ashore, including prompt access to the necessary medicines, medical equipment and facilities for diagnosis and treatment…”
In response to the new MLC and in the wake of growing concern over seafarer fitness and rising incidence of sudden cardiac arrests (SCA) resulting in deaths onboard, Martek Marine is warning shipowners of the importance of carrying enough marine defibrillators, and ensuring crew know how they are used.
In February, the head of the Norwegian Maritime Directorate (NMD) said that seafarers were losing their health certification because of Body Mass Index (BMI) scores over 35 which make them “vulnerable to diabetes and heart conditions through lack of exercise and poor diet.”
In 2011, a study into obesity rates found that 71% of male, Danish seafarers were overweight and severe obesity was most common among officers aged 45-64. The survey also found that 53% of male cadets in Denmark were overweight. With obesity on the rise too in countries traditionally supplying maritime labour, such as India and the Philippines, deaths from SCA are sure to continue to rise. While a lack of fitness is prevalent in seafarers of all nations, Indian seafarers are particularly at risk. Researchers at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad, India, have found that one in 25 Indians carries a genetic heart defect which makes them seven times more likely to suffer heart failure than somebody who doesn’t carry the gene.
Defined by SCA UK as “an abrupt loss of pulse and consciousness caused by an unexpected failure in the heart’s ability to effectively pump blood to the brain and around the body”, a sudden cardiac arrest victim “first loses his or her pulse, then consciousness, and finally the ability to breathe. All of this happens quickly – within a few seconds.”
Sudden cardiac arrest kills more than 3 million people each year. In the United States, one person dies of an SCA every two minutes. The only proven way to treat SCA is by delivering an electric shock to the heart to restore a normal rhythm. Fatality rates are so high because it is so difficult to administer the necessary treatment in time, even ashore. Administering treatment at sea is considerably more difficult. This is why it is so important that marine defibrillators are accessible to crew and easy to understand and use quickly, even for somebody with no medical knowledge at all.
Men are three times more likely to die of SCA and the risk increases significantly after the age of 45. According to a BIMCO/ISF Manpower update in 2005, more than half of officers from OECD countries are over the age of 40 and more than 25% are over the age of 50, putting them at particular risk of SCA.
Martek’s Lifeforce defibrillator was found by an independent study at the University of Illinois Medical Center to have the highest success rate, at 92%, of five leading defibrillators when it came to a test subject being able to use them to administer an effective shock.
Lifeforce, type-approved by Germanischer Lloyd as the world’s only type-approved defibrillator, also comes with an eight-year warranty and a world-care support package, which means that parts will be sent out to anywhere in the world within four hours of Martek being contacted.
Founded in 2000, Martek Marine provides equipment and services designed to enable the shipping and offshore sector to meet the latest environmental and safety regulatory standards. The company provides world beating systems for BNWAS, engine emissions monitoring, gas detection, water level detection, and cargo tank monitoring. The company also supplies a specialist marine defibrillator. Martek provides an extensive system servicing and system spares service for customers.
Martek Marine is headquartered in the UK (Rotherham) and has regional offices in the USA and Singapore as well as a 44 office strong global network of sales and services offices. www.martek-marine.com