Seafarer “Happiness” Hits New Low

File image courtesy Mission to Seafarers 

The Seafarer “Happiness” Index fell to its lowest level since the start of the Covid Pandemic, according to the Mission to Seafarers, who conducted the survey. Uncertainty over crew change and problems with shore leave drove the index down.

According to Mission to Seafarers, “the data fell in every category, and there were clear indications that the ongoing issues relating to crew travel, uncertainty over leave, and an almost complete and universal ban on shore leave are taking a negative toll on seafarers,” It noted “the latest results reveal a growing negativity across all aspects of life on board. There is now pessimism where once there was hope, and unless some key fundamentals are addressed and sorted, it is hard to see how the mood can be lifted.”

The Happiness index fell in every category – general happiness, workload, training, social life, shore leave, wages, food, health, family contact and welfare facility access.

In addition, after 18 months of adapting to the pandemic, the issue of shore leave for crew change – or even just walking around the port – remains a significant concern. One seafarer observed: “We are never allowed to leave the ship, and it is not possible to get away for even a couple of hours.”

On top of COVID-driven isolation and uncertainty, many seafarers also reported tensions with manning agencies and operators over wage levels, contract conditions, length of service on board, with fewer signs of goodwill than existed earlier. Mission to Seafarers discovered “many worrying responses” arising from manning agents misleading or threatening crew. Its report noted: “With the current level of dissatisfaction and stress, there could well be trouble ahead.”

Crewmembers’ workloads appear to be increasing, with many crewmembers reporting 11-12 hour days, up from the more usual 8-9 hours. Some seafarers reported that increased paperwork and record-keeping may be putting vessel safety at risk, with more time required for email communications and other administrative tasks.

According to Captain Yves Vandenborn, Director of Loss Prevention at the Standard P&I Club, “It is really worrying to see the sharp drop in the Happiness Index this quarter, with seafarers raising several major issues at the root of their displeasure. We call upon all key stakeholders to put action to word and take care of our seafarers. Shipowners and managers need to ensure that ships are properly manned and that seafarers’ mental, physical and social wellbeing are provided for. This pandemic is far from over, and even with vaccination rates rising worldwide, we are seeing an increase in positive cases on board. This is not the time to be letting our seafarers down.”

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