The iceberg of interpersonal relationship onboard ship

MARPRO's blog of the week by Abhineet Sharma.


Interpersonal relationships with seafarers are a vital aspect among the crews onboard a ship. But before we go deeper let us discuss what an interpersonal relationship is all about.

An Interpersonal relationship is an association or connection between 2 or more people. Connection or association with fellow seafarers at sea is vital, teamwork is the key to every successful voyage.

On the sea, every seafarer has a specific role to play. Each of these roles is connected, in the sense that they all work together. To be part of a ship’s crew, a seafarer needs to learn how to socialize or associate with other seafarers onboard.

Why interpersonal relationship

Over the past few years, Maritime safety has been impacted by communication problems due to language barriers. Relationships breakdown when there is poor or non-existent communication and success and happiness are in doubt.

People on the vessel must communicate well to ensure their safety as well as the safety of the crew and vessel.


Interpersonal communication aboard ships aims to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of communication among sailors to perform safe tricks.

There are many advantages of interpersonal relationships onboard a ship; not only does it increase the level of cooperation within the ship’s crew but it also creates an avenue for getting jobs done swiftly with ease.

What is interpersonal relationship of ship’s crew like?

Is it perfect or do you think it needs improvement? Working onboard a ship often involves considerable mental and physical demands which are not readily comparable to those experienced within onshore professions.

  • Seafarers have a relatively unique role in that they are in the workplace during both working and Non working hours with only their colleagues for company, making them an extremely isolated working group.
  • As they spend so much time with their colleagues, it is important that these relationships are positive and that there is cohesion amongst teams.

However, research suggests there are frequently conflicts between different ranks and departments which, coupled with long periods away from home and families can lead to loneliness and homesickness.

  • Seafarers are also typically isolated in a physical environment which is not optimal for mental health: Being onboard a ship can involve prolonged exposure to poor physical conditions such as high-pitched noises, vibration, col spells, high temperatures and unstable moisture conditions.
  • Additionally, seafarers typically work long hours doing physically demanding work with inadequate rest hours; the most recent Seafarers Happiness Index report revealed that many seafarers feel pressured to work excessive hours.

Seafarers typically work on a “Watch System” which can reduce their amount and quality of sleep leading to fatigue which can be further exacerbated by the different time zones during long voyages.

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Other risk factors for fatigue include

  • Disrupted Circadian rhythms caused by shift work.
  • Long Shifts
  • Irregular Work Hours
  • A rotating watch system rather than steady watch cycle.
  • Night Shifts
  • Irregular Sleep quantity
  • High Job Demands and pressures
  • Exposure to physical environment factors such as ship engine noise and vibration.

How to improve?

How a seafarer can improve his/her interpersonal relationship with other seafarers and how a crew leader or Captain can improve the interpersonal relationship of the ship’s crew.

1/8 Get onboard together

The easiest and most strategic way of socializing or getting acquainted is through social gatherings.

Organizing little parties onboard for seafarers is important. It loosens them up and gives them the opportunity to mingle.

2/8 Being open-minded

Being Serious at all times is good, but sometimes you have to loosen up. Being uptight all the time can scare potential Crew members aways.

When onboard, try to be open minded and mix up with others; no man is an island. Being a loner onboard a ship is really risky. Seafarers need to watch each other.

3/8 Onboard meetings

Morning meetings play a vital role in the social life of the mariners onboard but they also help enhance their performance.

After assigning the various duties for the day to them, the seafarers should be given the opportunity to discuss and share their opinions. By doing this, the communication level between the crew improves greatly and leaves room for more improvement.

4/8 Joint onboard activities

As a Seafarer, try your possible best to mingle with your fellow mariners. How can you achieve this ? The best way and opportunity to mingle or get acquainted with your fellow crew members is by participating in the onboard activities.

Feeling or acting too big onboard is almost unacceptable. No one is more important than the other; every crew member plays an important role.

When there is an onboard activity, Join the other crew members to have fun. This helps in improving your interpersonal relationship with others.

5/8 Onboard training

Training conducted onboard ships have proven to be helpful in running a smooth and safe voyage.

This training improves seafarers skills which boosts their adequacy and confidence when faced with difficult challenges or hazards.

Training is more effective when they are interactive. It gives everyone the opportunity to ask and answer helpful questions and also improves interpersonal relationships.

 6/8 Have a good attitude

Nobody likes to interact with a rude person. When having conversations with your fellow seafarers, try to be polite. To improve your level of connection with other crew members, you need to practice being polite. Otherwise, you will end up having no one to associate with. This is not only risky, considering the fact that you need other seafarers to always look out for you; It can also be depressing.

7/8 Interval Breaks

Working without breaks causes more harm than good. Breaks should be given at intervals to improve the working ability of the seafarers on board. These breaks give the crew the opportunity to work out their strained muscles. Working onboard is not an easy task, and it is often stressful. It also gives the crew the opportunity to mix up and socialize.

 8/8 Onboard Workouts Sessions

Onboard workouts are very vital and in fact necessary. Workouts / Exercises are essential for safety measures onboard. Workouts are the key to maintaining good health, whether on land or sea.

As earlier mentioned working onboard is not easy and is often times very tasking. To ease up some of those strained muscles, Seafarers need to exercise a bit. It doesn’t have to be intense. A little workout can loosen strained muscles.

Organizing general workout / exercise sections can improve the interpersonal relationship of a ship’s crew. It gives them the chance to mingle.

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    MARPRO’s blog of the week is shared by courtesy of Abhineet Sharma. Connect with him here.

    For more articles about seafarers, click here.

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