Overwhelmed on a shipping vessel


On-board a 17-man shipping vessel originating in Eastern Europe, en route to Japan, one of 16 mariners unexpectedly died. The vessel, which was carrying general cargo, interrupted its 4-week journey at a port in China to deal with the fatality.


6 mariners had witnessed the mariner’s death; it was the First Officer who had attempted resuscitation but the attempt was to no avail. 

Following the tragedy, the First Officer progressively began to blame himself, and expressed his feelings of guilt and self-blame to the Captain. It was then, that the Captain realised he had assumed the role of counselling support for the entirety of his crew, a role he found very stressful and upsetting. For the most part, the crew was shocked and grieved; this was a mariner who had worked in the same crew for the past 5 years.


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Since the day of the tragedy, International SOS had been in communication with both the Captain and his First Officer. They relayed how emotionally overwhelming the incident had now become.  

Concerned by their difficulties in coping, we discussed options with their Company Representative and agreed to implement an intervention plan to provide on-site support. 



Our counsellor met separately with both the Captain and First Officer, so that they could both express how they truly felt without thinking others were passing judgment.  

They were able to talk through and understand how they were feeling, and received emotional reassurance for their self-blame and guilt. 
We further explored and reviewed positive coping and self-care strategies that would work specifically for each patient.

Our counsellor also discussed communication strategies when they were to meet the family of the deceased, and gave them access to an Emotional Assistance hotline for additional support should they want to speak to anyone further. 



The vessel was able to continue on to its final destination, with both Captain and First Officer able to cope with their tragic loss.