In autumn 1997 a pilot project was started in Finland to develop methods for promoting the health of sailors. Four Finnish shipping companies, (4 cargo ships and 2 passenger-cruise ferries), with altogether 730 sailors participated in the project. Special attention was paid to individuals with health problems and those who generally did not take care of their own health or fitness. Three-quarters of the respondents saw their health as good and one fifth as fair. Thirty-four persons responded that their working capacity was poor. 154 sailors were selected into further physical fitness evaluations. The main task of the project team was to activate sailors to take care of their own health and well-being. The health-promoting activities were directed especially at those persons who needed it. Information lectures concerning healthier eating habits and meals were given. Anti-smoking and anti-alcohol drinking information was given. On board one cruise ferry a project was started on how to react as early as possible to alcohol abuse among seafarers. Courses on shore for sailors were arranged to improve their physical fitness and to increase their resting benefit between working periods at sea. The intervention time was one year. Information about smoking and alcohol led to reduced alcohol consumption. The sailors had started to exercise more often both on board ship and on shore. Those who had increased their physical exercise during free time more often found their own health and working ability to have improved than those who had not changed their exercise habits. It appeared that health intervention projects are really needed especially by older sailors. The results also showed that positive effects could be achieved in the fitness of sailors. Better fitness was good for their health and also increased the work safety.