Coming Soon - International Medical Guide for Seafarers and Fishers

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Coming Soon - International Medical Guide for Seafarers and Fishers


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 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.

This flagship title features a foreword from Kitack Lim, Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

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. 

The International Medical Guide for Seafarers and Fishers has been designed to be used and kept: on board all ships, in onshore safety departments, in medical assistance centres and in training institutions who support seafarers and fishers.

Additional Information
Author International Chamber of Shipping
Publisher Marisec
Edition First Edition
Publication month 2023 - March
ISBN 978-1-913997-13-7
Shipping Weight g


Introduction: How to use this book


Section 1: Illnesses and medical problems

1 ABCDE: assess a sick patient

2 CPR and defibrillators

3 Choking

4 Breathing problems

5 Shock (circulatory collapse)

6 Major bleeding (haemorrhage)

7 Chest pain

8 Anaphylaxis and allergy

9 Seizures (fits) and convulsions

10 Headache

11 Loss of consciousness

12 Stroke (cerebrovascular accident)

13 Diabetes

14 Sepsis and infectious diseases

15 Acute abdominal pain

16 Heat-related illnesses

17 Drowning

18 Hypothermia and cold injuries

19 Poisoning

20 Acute eye problems

21 Acute ear, nose and throat (ENT) problems

22 Acute dental problems

23 Back pain

24 Joint pain

25 Urinary tract and male genital problems

26 Sexually transmitted infections

27 Gynaecological problems

28 Menstruation, pregnancy, miscarriage and childbirth

29 Common skin problems

30 Seasickness

31 Mental health issues

32 Alcohol, tobacco and drug misuse

Section 2: Injuries and trauma

33 ABCDE: assess an injured patient

34 Head, face and eye injuries

35 Neck and spinal injuries

36 Chest injuries

37 Abdominal injuries

38 Pelvic and hip injuries

39 Injuries to bones, joints, muscles and other soft tissues

40 Wounds and bleeding

41 Burns

42 Bites and stings

Section 3: Additional information

43 Assessing and managing pain

44 Practical procedures

45 Communicating with TMAS, and documentation

46 Moving a sick or injured patient

47 Medical assessment ashore

48 Medical evacuation

49 Continuing care

50 Care of others on board

51 Death on board

52 Officer responsible for medical care

53 Health risks on board

54 Anatomy and physiology

55 The International Health Regulations

Section 4: Assessment forms and charts

Fluid balance chart

Medical assessment form

Medication chart

Observation chart



The International Medical Guide for Seafarers and Fishers is a guide designed for non-medical professionals to help prepare them to handle medical emergencies when working at sea. This practical guide provides a useful complement to the International Medical Guide for Ships, produced by the International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the World Health Organization (WHO). 

Training and carriage requirements on medical guides are provided in relevant instruments of IMO and ILO, respectively. The importance of having access to medical care on board ships cannot be emphasised enough and medical guidelines are vital for ensuring proper knowledge and rapid response in medical emergencies. 

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and International Maritime Organization (IMO) enjoy a close working relationship. ICS contributes significantly to IMO’s work through active participation at IMO meetings and publishing guidance in support of international regulations is evidence of that.

This guide has been produced in collaboration with maritime medical professionals from leading organisations to address an industry need in a practical manner by means of an up-to-date medical guide to help improve the standards of medical care on board.

As a former seafarer, I know first-hand how important it is that good medical care is available should any seafarers fall unwell on board a ship. In all situations that require medical attention, it is vital that the appropriate treatments, medicines and equipment are accessible, combined with the knowledge to handle any medical emergencies that may arise.

In this guide, advice is presented in a user-friendly way so that the information is straightforward and easy to understand for those with limited medical training. The Medicine Chest section of the guide includes the latest and internationally available medicines and recommended contents for a ship’s medical bag, and portable action cards have been included for crew to carry and use in a medical situation.

Seafarer welfare is of the utmost importance. Although it is always the hope that no one will require urgent medical care, we must ensure that seafarers are equipped with resources to aid them in tackling medical emergencies should they arise. 

Kitack Lim


International Maritime Organization