Medical consulting services are now offered by MHG – better known in the cruise industry for its insurance programs. “We are providing medical consulting services to luxury and expedition lines that do not have their own in-house medical departments,” explained Andrew Dudzinski, chairman and CEO. “We help them with their onboard medical centers regarding equipment, medications and services for compliance with industry-accepted guidelines and standards.”
“We are available 24/7,” Dudzinski added, “and that goes for assistance with medical emergencies and evacuations as well. We can provide remote or on-site assistance.” MHG can help oversee ships’ medical supplies and advise on policies and procedures to minimize the risk of outbreaks or exposure to diseases endemic to scheduled ports of call.
The company can also recruit accredited medical providers and review pre-employment medical examinations for crew as well as health histories of passengers on longer voyages. The medical team at MHG includes William Heymann, MD, FACEP, as medical director; Crystol Lasley, RN, BSN, as manager of medical services; and Peter Hult as president.
MHG was established in 1991 by Dudzinski and John Haagensen, president, on the principle that marine employers and employees should provide and enjoy the same sort of insurance benefit programs typical for those who work ashore.
The first big break came when MHG signed with Disney Cruise Line in 1997 to provide benefits to their shipboard employees. The relationship with Disney has continued until this day. Dudzinski explained that MHG worked with Disney for 18 months prior to the first ship launch, advising on and developing the benefit packages and subsequently installing them. MHG now works with 18 cruise line clients.
Benefits Help Recruit and Retain
Dudzinski explained that by offering benefit packages, cruise lines have also been able to recruit different nationalities for deck and engine positions, for example. He said it was previously difficult to hire more than one nationality, because the benefits were part of their respective national social systems. But by offering international benefits, cruise lines can employ from any country, he said, adding that “ships with a mix of nationalities are happier ships.
“Look where we are today. The maturing of the industry, and competitive pressures to recruit and retain personnel, along with increased regulations, has encouraged cruise lines to introduce a range of benefits.
“We have become a full service insurance broker and adviser – both internationally and domestically – covering more crew than ever and continuing to develop relevant benefit programs for shipboard and shoreside employees, in addition to business insurance.” Dudzinski said that despite tougher times and the recession, none of the cruise lines have reduced their benefit packages. Instead, they have expanded their offerings to cover more employees.
“Competition for diminishing resources, that is, seafarers, continues with every new ship that is introduced, so there is pressure on the lines to provide more than salaries,” he added.
Range of Services
Dudzinski also said that he likes to think that MHG will also be able to play a key role in helping cruise lines comply with the upcoming Maritime Labor Convention, which is expected to be ratified by the end of this year or early next year. “The challenge,” he said, “is what compliance really means and how it will impact the companies. When ratified, implementation will come a year later. I expect there will be a ‘soft’ implementation to ensure that practical aspects can be worked out. Call it a bedding in period.”
Another new program involves personal and business liability coverage for concessionaires and service companies working onboard as well as shoreside.
With its head office in Florida, MHG also has offices on the Isle of Man and in Hamburg and 25 staff members.
Going forward, Dudzinski said he sees the company continuing to grow its core business of maritime benefits, but he also expects to develop more domestic benefit programs. “There are a lot of opportunities related to our core business,” he continued. “But it is important that we stay focused on our maritime business and continue to improve our services and product offerings.”