Building strength

Report / from SHIP & SHORE 1’2018

Uplifting Movement makes us feel better. Zeaborn Ship Management has now put this simple principle into practice on board. In essence it is a fitness programme for the entire crew.


Concentration. Upright squats, back straight – thirty seconds can be quite a long time. Beads of sweat slowly appear on Nestor Desamparo’s brow. Trainer Rouven Buske nods in acknowledgement. “Yeah, just like that!” Rouven has jointly developed a training programme to improve the crew members’ fitness on board the vessels managed by Zeaborn. Company health management ashore has played an important role in creating a motivated and healthy crew for some time now. “It also reflects our appreciation,” says Ronald Schnitter, Senior Vice President Fleet Personnel at Zeaborn Crew Management. “We therefore want to provide a comparable service for our seafarers.” Rouven’s employer, Move UP, has now adapted the idea for use at sea. Today the trainer is showing Motorman Nestor a few exercises in the gym of container vessel “E.R. Pusan”. Rouven: “For us it is important that the exercises are performed exactly as instructed. Only then will they produce the desired effect.” In addition to the fitness programme, Move UP has produced three training videos for Zeaborn Crew Management. Crew members can load them onto their smartphones, tablets or laptops, and at all times have their personal trainer with them on board. Whether captain or cook, anyone can independently perform the exercises, either in the gym or in their own cabin – but also, of course, ashore when the assignment at sea ends.

Strengthening the crew

Movement is often in short supply on ships. The gym on D Deck can, of course, also be reached via a lift. But not if Rouven is on board. “Come on, we’ll walk,” the 31-year-old shouts out from the stairwell. On the way Rouven greets some crew members he recognises from his recent trip during which he analysed the situation on board. Whether standing for long periods on the bridge or using heavy tools in the machine room – for four days the fitness consultant gained an impression of the crew’s every move. “I wanted to see and do everything. Only then do we know where we need to get to work. Many processes are performed sitting down or standing up and are monotonous.”

It is the back, in particular, that suffers the most. Nestor’s workplace is also characterised by heat and noise. Stress, which applies in many workplaces, effectively places the body on alert and allows for quick reactions. However, stress also necessitates physical activity so that it does not lead to illness, and the positive effect of sports on the body and soul were proven scientifically long ago.

Exercise also has a wide-ranging effect – it creates physical fitness, makes the stresses and strains of daily routines appear less demanding, enables people to sleep better and helps ward off depression. “We explained this correlation to the crews, and that is why we started this programme,” says Ronald Schnitter. “It was clear that we had to strengthen the crew for physical and mental strains.” The comprehensive training programme promotes good health and counteracts everyday strains sustained while performing the work on board. And more than that: at the latest in an emergency on board, fitness can even be essential for survival. For example in the event of evacuation, poor fitness, immobility or even obesity pose real risks for all parties involved.

Nestor completed his watch in the machine room just before the training session with Rouven. Both are now already going through their paces. “These are exactly the points that I really notice after work,” says Nestor. The exercises are called plank, superman or lunges, which above all strengthen the back, torso and shoulders. In addition to the training there are tips on how to prevent tension. “Lifting heavy items, or loosening bolts, places a strain on the bones and joints,” says Rouven, “in that respect you need good protection via the muscles.”


Movement and active relaxing

On to the push-ups. Nestor focuses on the movements before immediately trying them himself. Success first time, but on occasion Rouven needs to correct a few things.

Short break. “Normally, I only use this one in the gym,” says Nestor pointing to the punch bag hanging from the ceiling alongside other fitness equipment in the room. “At home in the Philippines basketball is my absolute passion, and it’s great to return home fit thanks to the fitness exercises.”

Each programme lasts about 20 minutes. The warm-up is followed by eleven minutes of so-called High Intensity Interval Training. Eight exercises that pack a punch.

The training ends with a cool-down phase. Active relaxing is just as much a part of the concept. Breathing exercises, yoga and meditation provide relief from partly strenuous or monotonous tasks. “We aim to provide an integral health programme,” says Rouven and puts real meaning into the phrase that is so often empty and meaningless. Full of purpose he runs out of the gym, past the lift, towards the staircase. “Let’s do the whole thing now. Ready?”

The training videos are available at:


“Suddenly more energy”

Master Josip Velič thought it was a bad joke when initially told to do yoga. Now he is convinced of the positive effects.

Cobra, warrior or sun salutation – names of yoga exercises that elicit a smile. Yoga, isn’t that something for esotericists and bored housewives? Well, anyone standing in front of Josip Velič, 1.90 metres tall, strong and sporting a fully grown beard, will quickly realise that sometimes we need to change the way we look at things. Josip Velič had to do the self-same thing. “I first came into contact with yoga at the Fleet Officer Meeting in Odessa in 2017,” says the Master, who has been with the company since 2001. He heard Heiko Nies, Managing Director of Zeaborn Crew Management, say something about yoga. “But I thought it was a joke until that very moment when I entered the hall and saw all the mats on the floor,” says Velič. He didn’t believe yoga could actually be part of the Fleet Officer Meeting, and had his reservations about it: “I thought yoga was part of a philosophy and that only nutcases practised it.” But at the same time he was curious and started the exercises. Not only in Odessa, he continued on board.


Velič felt muscles that he never knew he had and realised that the exercises were difficult but nevertheless developed strength. “Suddenly you have more energy. You don’t need to rest in the afternoon, you don’t feel tired, you don’t feel stressed – although the job is as demanding as ever. And also there is the satisfaction of feeling better,” says the man from Split in Croatia. For him, the new body awareness also led to a more deliberate approach to daily meals. What’s more, he no longer has back pain. Incorporating the exercises in his weekly routine doesn’t pose a problem for him. Velič: “I do yoga as part of stretching to start my personal workout. Then I go on the bike, do some weights next and end with yoga for stretching out.” He concludes: “For me, it’s excellent. I feel better, I improve myself and I feel healthier – thanks to that initial spark in Odessa.”

Vicious circle

General Practitioner Jan-Gerd Hagelstein on the risks posed by obesity and the need to adopt countermeasures.

ship & shore: Seafaring can be mo - notonous. The three meals each day are hugely significant, and the cook is effectively the most important man on board. What are the consequences?
Dr. med. Jan-Gerd Hagelstein:
Seafarers’ most frequent health problems include obesity, i.e. corpulence, and the resulting secondary diseases which, among others, lead to cardiovascular system problems. The causes can often be attributed to eating and drinking habits, and a lack of exercise.

Why does that pose such a risk?
On the one hand obesity poses a risk in that the spinal column, in particular, as well as the knee and hip joints, suffer from premature wear and tear. That is painful and further restricts the will to engage in activities involving exercise. Diabetes mellitus is another aspect of that risk.
Initially it doesn’t hurt but in an extreme case it can, above all due to peripheral neuropathy, i.e. the destruction of nerve tissue, lead to blindness and circulatory disorders. Obesity is conducive to high blood pressure and lipid metabolism disorders that can damage blood vessels, i.e. veins, and the heart as a result of narrowing of the arteries – arteriosclerosis. A vicious circle with the risk of death as a result of a stroke or heart attack.


Maritime inclination

Dr. med. Jan-Gerd Hagelstein is the Medical Superintendent of the Sailors’ Outpatient Section of the Groß-Sand Hospital in Hamburg. Before studying medicine he completed an apprenticeship as a shipping clerk. He served in the navy, and works in an honorary capacity at the Hamburg-Harburg Seamen’s Mission (Duckdalben).

What action can be taken?
The first step involves realising that one has a problem. Part of being eligible in Germany to work at sea is a maximum BMI – short for body mass index – of 40 kilograms per square metre. However, obesity starts at a BMI of 25. Obesity that requires treatment applies from a BMI of 30 – that’s 97.2 kilograms in the case of a man who is 1.80 metres tall.
Activity of about 2.5 hours each week is required whether at the gym, on the home trainer or playing table tennis. Clever crew members avoid the lift and take the stairs between decks as training.

And what about nutrition?
Individuals should act responsibly in relation to their body. Everybody knows that four fried eggs, bacon and half a dozen sausages for breakfast over a period of months are not healthy. A balanced diet includes fruit, salad, vegetables as well as oatmeal or muesli and rice. The high level of sugar in many meals and drinks is a problem. Lemonade drinks and juices have up to 100 grams of sugar per litre – rendering them luxury foods. Thirst can be quenched with two to three litres of water each day.

SHIP & SHORE 1'2018

New strength.

Strong business: ZEABORN, the big new entity. Strong people: ways to achieve greater physical and mental power
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SHIP & SHORE 1'2018 New strength. Strong business: ZEABORN, the big new entity. Strong people: ways to achieve greater physical and mental power