At least 11% of Seafarer Deaths Due to Suicide – Study

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International Insurer, Gard has released data on seafarer-related claims, in recent years including the prevalence of injury and illness, causes of claims, and the most common illnesses.

Among the information in Gard’s 2024 Crew Claims Report, the insurer said that 11% of the over 400 deaths reported on its insured vessels over the years 2019-2023 were due to suicide.

“This is a worryingly high number and we believe that the actual number could in fact be much higher due to underreporting,” said Gard.

The company’s list of the ten most common crew illnesses also showed mental disorder as the seventh most common ailment over the same time period.

“In Gard, we have registered an annual average of 47 cases of mental health disorders, 18 cases of suicides and 16 cases of missing persons since 2020. The number of mental health-related cases unfortunately grew significantly during the pandemic, probably as a direct consequence of the mental strain and prolonged isolation many seafarers experienced at the time,” the report said.

Illness accounted for 74% of seafarer deaths, while injuries accounted for 15%, according to the data. Gard said its findings on deaths caused by illness correlated with WHO data, which shows 74% of all deaths globally are caused by non-communicable diseases and that the most common causes are cardiovascular disease, cancers, chronic respiratory disease, and Type 2 Diabetes.

COVID-19 was the most common type of illness on Gard’s insured vessels over the 2019-2023 period, according to the insurer’s groupings, followed by abdominal pain, back pain, heart, appendicitis, infection, mental disorder, kidney stones, eye, and hernia.

Illness claims have dropped in frequency since the highs of the pandemic, but it is too early to identify a clear claims trend, said Gard.

For injuries, claim frequency has trended upward since 2020. “The increase in frequency of injury claims is a clear trend since 2020 and deserves the attention of both vessel operators and seafarers,” the report said.

Fingers were the most common body part to be injured, followed by the back, hand, knee, leg and arm. Slips, trips and falls were the most common cause of injuries followed by being struck by an obect wire or line (commonly during mooring); lifting, pulling and pushing; caught in machinery; and falls from height.

“ As an industry, there is considerable work to be done to achieve the ideal state where seafarers are safe and shielded from these risks. At Gard, we emphasize that the health, safety, and well-being of seafarers should be a top priority, and we strive to contribute positively towards this goal through our insights and initiatives,” said Gard.