Year: 2020 Source: International Maritime Health. (2020). 71(1), 12-19. doi: 10.5603/IMH.2020.0006. SIEC No: 20200275

Background: Little has been reported about mortality among crews in passenger shipping. The aim of the study was to determine the detailed causes and circumstances of deaths from unnatural causes among crews employed in United Kingdom (UK) and Bermudan registered passenger shipping, their trends, how they relate to the type of passenger ship and crew rank and to discuss preventative measures.

Materials and methods: A longitudinal study from 1976 to 2018, based on reviews of marine accident investigation reports, death inquiry files, cruise shipping websites and online searches.

Results: One hundred and forty crew fatalities in UK (127) and Bermudan (13) passenger ships were identified: from accidents and drowning (91), suicides and disappearances at sea (38), homicide, other and unexplained causes (11). Over the 43-year study period, a reduction in mortality (per 1000 ship-years) from accidents and drowning was identified (mean annual reduction: 4.3%; 95% confidence interval: 2.1-6.5%) but no significant reduction for suicides and disappearances at sea (annual reduction: 1.2% confidence interval: -1.3% to +3.7%). Most suicides and disappearances (70%) were among customer service Staff and, of 19 employed on large cruise ships, most (79%) were non-Europeans.

Conclusions: The number of suicides and probable suicides is a cause for concern, especially among customer service staff on cruise ships. These findings indicate the need for interventions to reduce suicide risks. Further studies are needed to improve the targeting of interventions. These will need both to analyse the circumstances of individual deaths and derive suicide rates according to rank, department and nationality, based on reliable population denominators.