When a seafarer or fisher becomes sick or is injured at sea, it is up to one of their fellow crew members – known on merchant ships as the ‘person responsible for medical care’ – to provide medical relief until professional medical services can be reached. This person will have had limited medical training on shore, as required under the STCW Convention, but is not a fully-trained doctor. When confronted with a medical emergency far from land, the medical officer relies on Telemedical Assistance Services (TMAS), the medicines available in the on board medicine chest and the on board medical guide for support.
The ICS International Medical Guide for Seafarers and Fishers has been written and reviewed by an international group of maritime medical practitioners and experts with many years’ experience of working with seafarers and fishers and who understand what crew members need to know and when they need to know it.
This medical guide includes:
- Comprehensive guidance on the most common injuries, illnesses and health issues experienced on board ships and fishing vessels;
- User-friendly layout with coloured text boxes and features to highlight the most important guidance;
- Photo-realistic visual aids;
- A chapter on mental health issues and specific mental health disorders, providing guidance on recognising symptoms, assessing and treating a mental health issue on board;
- An up-to-date medicine chest section with medicines that are currently and globally available;
- Assessment forms and charts to aid early assessment; and
- Ten ‘Action Cards’ for the highest-risk illnesses and injuries, which are removable and can be separately kept in the medical bag for use in emergencies.
Carriage of a medical guide on board is mandatory under the International Labour Organization’s Maritime Labour Convention (ILO MLC) and the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Seafarer Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) Convention. The fishing industry requires proper medical care to be provided on board under the ILO Work in Fishing Convention, and medical training for those providing first aid care under the IMO STW-F 1995 Convention.
It is recommended that a copy of the guide is kept on board all ships and also in onshore safety departments, medical assistance centres and training institutions who support seafarers and fishers.