New medical guide for seafarers

Meet Janne Strømsø

Nora Haldorsen GrønåsAuthor: Nora Haldorsen Grønås


Have you ever been in a medical emergency situation where you did not know what to do?Imagine being in the middle of the sea, with no connection and a colleague who is experiencing symptoms you do not understand the severity of. As a medical officer onboard, you know the basics of CPR and first aid, but your colleague is breathless, sweating and shivering. Is it a heart attack? Dehydration? Is it something else? Many seafarers face these challenges. What kind of first aid do you need to give?

The marine insurance company Gard has together with the Norwegian Centre for Maritime and Diving Medicine, at Haukeland University Hospital in Bergen, launched the Mariners Medico Guide app. This is a contribution to seafarers’ health, safety and security. NBAS was fortunate to get an interview with Kunal Pathak (Loss Prevention) and Paul Marskar (Claims) at Gard’s Singapore office.

The Mariners Medico Guide is a medical guide for seafarers, made to function without connectivity. The app updates itself every time the device has internet connection. This ensures that you get up-to-date medical guidance. 

-A lot of the medical books that they have onboard are from 2007, and have not been updated since, Paul explains. 

-We truly believe in the investment of seafarers

The app is scrutinized by over 50 medical specialists from across all major departments of Haukeland hospital. Through pictures, gifs and simple language, the message is consciously made to reach all users. Paul adds,

-A picture can say more than a thousand words, create assurance and help build confidence among medical officers onboard. 

Gard has no intention to profit from the app, and it is freely available to the entire global fleet. 

-We truly believe in the investment in seafarers. You can’t put a price on it, because then it defeats the purpose of the app, Paul explains.

In addition to the app being free of charge, you do not have to give away any personal information. Gard does not collect data from its users, and the IMO number of your vessel is the only information that is needed to gain access. 

They express Gard’s commitment to the sustainable development goals made by the UN, and especially the goal to support the wellbeing of the seafarers. They emphasize that the primary driving factor in the development of the app is preventing deaths, and improving the treatment of illness and injuries. Kunal states that if the app saves one life a year, it is worth the effort and investment from Gard. 

How does the app work?

Firstly, you observe the symptoms. Secondly, you check off the parts of the body it concerns. Lastly, you receive a quick assessment of what the problem might be. The assessment includes the severity of the case, how to examine the crewmember, potential illnesses and further choice of action. After receiving this information, it is easier to make a decision whether to call for immediate help ashore.  

Kunal further explains, 

-With for example a medical guide book, you need to know what you are looking for. When you are observing a person, you are only observing symptoms. The challenge is that it can be difficult to make an assessment using the existing tools. Therefore, we created a platform where it is possible to understand the severity of a condition by only knowing the symptoms. 

Not only is the app equipped with the most necessary information, but it also contains contact information to free telemedical assistance around the world. These doctors are familiar with the kind of injuries and illnesses that the seafarers can be exposed to, and what kind of treatment and recommendations they need. 

-It is important to emphasize that the app should not replace seeking medical assistance, but we want to help them handle difficult situations and understand the difference between what is serious and what is not, Paul points out. 

What was the inspiration behind the development of the Mariners Medico Guide app?

Kunal and Paul explain that ships often keep incidents to themselves, and downplay the severity of an injury or illness. Gard assists shipowners with handling medical emergencies, and receives and handles thousands of crew claims a year. They want to minimize this amount, but more importantly, they want to fill the existing gap in the seafarers knowledge connected to dealing with medical emergencies. 

Kunal is an ex-seafarer and has sailed for 12 years on different ships. 

-I have been in situations where it was necessary to give first aid to a person because of an illness. With today’s circumstances, it can be hard to remember what you learned three years ago in a first aid course. (…) Seafarers are not always ready to make an assessment with the current infrastructure and training levels.

They are hopeful that The Mariners Medico Guide will be a step forward in this process.

Paul adds:

-Seafarers should have the same level of access to medical support as land based employees.

The app has been approved by the Norwegian Maritime Authority as an equivalent national publication to the current approved medical guide, and it is recognized by the Marshall Islands flag, as a substitute for the current approved medical guide.

To learn more, visit the Gard stand at the Singapore Maritime Week in April at stand B2-L18. 

Read more about the Mariners Medico Guide app here!