You are what you eat, the saying goes – and the drive for healthy eating is just as important at sea as it is ashore. The implementation of the Maritime Labour Convention (2016) has focused attention on the importance of a good standard of food for those onboard, and that includes paying attention to sufficient training of the catering team.
In fact, providing nutritious, enjoyable meals is about so much more than simply keeping seafarers’ weight in check. It’s about morale on board, and it’s about productivity and safety, too.
“Healthy living on board helps not only to prevent diseases and improve overall health, but it has also an impact on safety,” says Uta Steffen, Managing Director of JPC Shipmanagement (Cyprus) Ltd.
“It is established that seafarers who take good care of their body and follow a balanced diet are also able to cope better with stress of work on board. They make better decisions and subsequently have a lower risk of incidents. Mealtimes are an enjoyable social experience and the tastier the food is, the more it is appreciated. Everybody can feel a little bit down at times, but the mood can be lifted by good food in good company.”
As part of its longstanding focus on healthy lifestyles, JPC started working with Cyprus-based Marine Catering Training Consultancy (MCTC) in 2016. “As an employer of choice for competent seafarers, JPC has always promoted healthy living on board and we encourage and support our crews to keep their physical and mental health in balance,” says Ms Steffen. “A healthy, well-balanced diet, along with adequate rest and sleep, regular exercise and good hygiene is vital to the seafarers’ health and wellbeing.
“The happiness of our crew, and their wellbeing and mental health on board our ships, has always been important to us. Well-equipped recreational facilities are available and the importance of good internet and email connectivity has been acknowledged. In that respect, the technical developments of recent years are offering great opportunities.”
JPC Shipmanagement took the decision to cooperate with MCTC in order to train and support the catering teams in a more structured way, she explains. Among the services JPC has taken up are MCTC’s Safe Food Handling and Nutrition Course; the Cooks Upgrading Course; How to Effectively Run a Small Galley; 365 Healthy Days Workshops (held at MCTC’s Manila training centre to provide the partners and children of seafarers with education in cooking healthy and nutritious meals); Pre-Departure Briefing of Catering Staff in cooperation with MCTC Manila; and onboard visits.
Ms Steffen says that while the health of JPC’s crews had always been quite good, “in recent years we have seen the BMI rising, which is an indication that the nutrition on board and during leave needs to be addressed”.
It takes time to implement a different mindset, she points out: “Behavioural changes take a long time and the benefits might not become immediately measurable but, in the end, it will pay off!”
Importantly, JPC recognises that obesity is a danger not only when at sea. “While the ship – where seafarers not only work but spend all their time during a voyage – is the best place to start for health intervention, the message also needs to be conveyed to the families at home, in order to have a 360-degree approach and this is also something MCTC helps us with.”
The feedback and response received from JPC’s Masters and crew has been very positive, she adds, while cautioning: “It has to be clearly said that along with the catering team, the Master and officers must show their commitment as well, in order to take full benefit from the programme.”
Does JPC see more motivation within its crews, based on its work with MCTC?
Uta Steffen says: “For seafarers, the issue of food is significant, not only as a source of energy. The catering teams feel more appreciated and are proud of their work. The cooperation with MCTC assists them in their daily routines and motivates them to get out of their comfort zone, resulting in improved processes and quality of meals. In the end, everybody on board benefits from better catering.”