The Medical Chest on Ships – a Perennial Topic – An interview with Silke Schatzl, the MMS Pharmacist and Advisor

Do you see a need or chance to supplement the mandatory stock of medicines on ships?

The ship’s medical equipment is intended for the initial treatment of serious illnesses or medical emergencies of the crew. For example, the various flag regulations prescribe painkillers, antibiotics and cardiovascular preparations. Remedies for minor ailments such as the flu, sore throat, cough, or hemorrhoids are not usually prescribed; here there are some gaps in several official lists of medical equipment.

Why are these ailments ignored?

The regulation sets the minimum standard that must be present on board, but does not limit it. It is at the discretion of the shipping company to stock additional items.

Should the Captain or the Shipping company order additional items?

Additional medications are beneficial and support the well-being and therefore the working capacity of crew members.

To prevent each officer from ordering different remedies and to limit the scope of this additional supplementation to a reasonable level, we recommend a specific selection of effective medications to fill the existing gap in the official prescription.

Could you provide any other recommendations?

Some prescriptions are more than 15 years old and are based on the state of medical knowledge from 20 years ago. In the meantime, many new ingredients have been developed, especially modern antibiotics and effective drugs for heart disease or high blood pressure.

Here, we suggest replacing the old-fashioned drug with a modern one that is more effective and has fewer side effects, taking into account drug safety and availability internationally in our recommendations.

How can the officer in charge keep track of the drug inventory?

The system we use provides remote tracking of amounts, expiry dates up to initiation of orders. This allows all parties involved – ship, shipping company, MMS and supplier – to maintain stock and have always full transparency

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