MARINE pilots in the UK will have access to a dedicated mental health and wellbeing support service in what is said to be a first for the pilotage community.

The concept was developed under a partnership between the Sailors’ Society and the United Kingdom Maritime Pilots’ Association (UKMPA). 

Global maritime charity Sailors’ Society, which provides support to 1.9 million seafarers, was approached by UKMPA with concerns around the mental health and wellbeing of the UK’s marine pilots. 

The resulting partnership will build on the Sailors’ Society’s Wellness at Sea program. It aims to provide a holistic solution, supporting pilots’ mental health and wellness, building community, and reducing accidents. 

The UKMPA, which represents 500 members nationally, supported one of its members, Captain James Musgrove, in his endeavours to bring this unique scheme, which they are calling Campaign Safe Haven, to its members. 

UKMPA chairman Captain Hywel Pugh praised Mr Musgrove’s foresight.  

“Campaign Safe Haven is there for our maritime professionals to reach out and find mental health and wellbeing support. It has been a much-needed resource for our members, and without James’ passion and support from Sailors’ Society, none of this would be possible,” Captain Pugh said. 

“Our immense thanks go to Sailors’ Society, Trinity House and all that support this project.” 

Sailors’ Society said pilotage can be a dangerous and lonely job. Most pilots hold IMO masters’ qualifications and have served as captains or chief officers on merchant ships with large crews, but they now work alone and can suffer from isolation, poor mental health, and even suicidal thoughts. 

Sailors’ Society CEO Sara Baade said: “there is extraordinarily little visibility of the huge strains on pilots even though they ensure the safe movement of imports and exports benefitting the whole industry. 

“They are at considerable risk of severe mental health issues, but as predominantly middle-aged men they are in the group that can find it hardest to reach out for help. Mental health is still considered by many a taboo and there is a fear that raising these issues could affect their jobs.” 

A confidential helpline will allow all pilots to talk through specific concerns and worries related to their role in a one-to-one call with trained staff.  

The bespoke peer-to-peer groups will allow pilots to connect with each other and provide a space to offer support and guidance, while the coaching sessions will allow for discussions and training around mental health and wellbeing.