The results of the EU project are now available: Data on the health status of seafarers as well as digital tools related to seafarers' health, which can be used by shipping companies and other interested parties.
The ZfAM scientists have collected data on the health status and working conditions of the seafarers as part of work package 3 (WP 3). The researchers accompanied three merchant ships on their voyages each for about two weeks in order to acquire a realistic view of the situation on board.
During the scientists’ stay on the merchant ships, the seafarers were given the chance to participate in a variety of medical investigations, such as measuring heart rate and blood pressure, monitoring activity, and conducting responsiveness and fatigue tests, blood analysis and polysomnography (examination of sleep with a medical device).
A number of surveys and observations were also undertaken, with a particular focus on ability to work, sleep quality, nutrition, health-related behaviour and workplace ergonomics. The data collected were crucial in preparing subsequent activities in the project.
The modules were combined in a central tool and help the officers in charge manage medical reports and patient information. The solution also helps to administer medications on board using a medical logbook within the pharmacy module, and to keep a fully comprehensive pharmacy inventory. Crew members are now able to access the platform independently, to view records of their own cases of illness and treatment with all the attached information.
The system is available as a cloud and web-based solution which can be accessed at any time and from any device, as well as an offline application installed on computers on board the vessels. This way, seafarers always have all the information at hand, even if there is no internet connection available.
At the start of the project, the plan was to implement the e-learning module within the existing software from Hanseaticsoft ("Cloud Fleet Manager"). However, incompatibilities meant that e-learning needed to be separated from the Cloud Fleet Manager.
Work package 4 (WP 4) therefore became more extensive than expected. The scientific team of the ZfAM developed an e-learning platform for the seafarers as a Moodle platform, called "crewhealthy", containing several health-related subcategories.
The structure was designed and carried out with the help of an external service company which specialised in Moodle. It is one of the most important project modules because it can be used in an entertaining way. Equally, seafarers can find all kinds of health information on the e-learning platform, and it can easily be adjusted to new challenges or findings. Some of the contents are tailored specifically to different occupational groups, such as galley personnel or nautical officers.
In the first quarter of 2020, it was expected that 1-2 scientists would spend about 7-10 days on each of the four planned research vessels for the intervention phase. An elaborate (framework) voyage planning specified how and when the crew members – and, especially, the most important functionaries for the project (captain, health officer and cook) – were to be addressed and involved. In preparation, target group-oriented and topic-related presentations, brochures and information material had been developed, which could not be used due to the pandemic.
The initially planned boarding to the first ship had to be cancelled at short notice in March 2020 due to the pandemic. Various attempts were made to check possible further trips and itineraries in the course of 2020, but were unsuccessful due to the pand
Therefore, the project team continually discussed options for an alternative design of the onboard intervention and finally started to develop it. A remotely operated installation of the e-learning platform "crewhealthy" was pushed forward more intensively by ZfAM. The two shipping companies Döhle and Roth also considered this as a valuable alternative. The different implementation steps required for a remote solution were therefore designed with the IT experts of the two shipping companies.
Sportgeräte, Spiegel und Sportmatten wurden von den Reedereien angeschafft und teilweise schon 2020 an Bord geliefert. Es war ursprünglich geplant, dass diese erst aufgebaut werden, wenn die Forschenden des ZfAM ebenfalls vor Ort sind, bzw. sobald die Intervention beginnt. Dies wurde angesichts der andauernden Pandemiesituation für die Schiffe, die bereits beliefert worden waren, gelockert, um eine Abmilderung der schwierigen Situation an Bord zu unterstützen.
Im März und Juni 2021 konnten jeweils zwei Wissenschaftler des ZfAM, unter Einhaltung der damals geltenden Hygienestandards, ein im Hamburger Hafen liegendes Interventionsschiff der Reederei Döhle besuchen, um dort physisch eine Synology zu installieren, auf der die E-Learning Plattform eingerichtet ist. Dabei traten unerwartete technische Schwierigkeiten auf.
Im August und September 2021 fanden drei Bordbesuche von jeweils zwei Wissenschaftlern des ZfAM auf einem kleinen Containerschiff der Reederei Döhle statt. Die E-Learning-Plattform konnte über einen NAS-Server erreichbar gemacht werden. Der Zugriff über das an Bord per W-LAN erreichbare Crewnetzwerk ist möglich und "crewhealthy" von W-LAN-fähigen Endgeräten ansteuerbar. Durch einen Wechsel der IP-Adresse der Seite ist auch ein Zugriff über das administrative Netz möglich, welches nun remote (also von außen durch das ZfAM) erreicht werden kann.
The e-healthy ship project, with its extensive work packages relating to the creation and research of digital health management on merchant ships, is an important innovation project for a viable solution for the health care of crew members on the high seas.
urveys of the seafarers' subjective need for health services were conducted at several times, the actual state of health was researched and the benefits of a digital health management system were tested and presented. In the process, the researchers encountered several challenges that significantly shortened the intervention phase of the project. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic starting in 2020, it was not possible for the project team to visit the intervention ships in person and accompany the start of the intervention on board for several days. This required new approaches, which generated technical difficulties. The implementation of the software from remote turned out to be much more complex than previously assumed. The findings show that a simple solution for the installation of health software, such as that of e-healthy ship, does not yet exist and should be a development goal in the future.
For follow-up projects, this means that, above all, the compatibility of such a programme with the software of the merchant ships should be ensured. However, such a task is highly complex because the ships often have different technical requirements to which the electronic health management must be compatible.