The Sad State of Seafarers: A Global Crisis

Seafarers are the backbone of the global economy, transporting about 90% of the world’s trade by volume. They work in incredibly dangerous and challenging conditions, often away from their families and friends for months to years at a time. They face risks such as piracy, accidents, and extreme weather. They also must cope with the aftereffects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which stranded many of them aboard ships beyond their contracts, unable to return home or get medical care.

How happy are seafarers in these circumstances? One way to measure this is through the Seafarers Happiness Index (SHI), a quarterly survey conducted by The Mission to Seafarers, a global maritime charity. The SHI asks seafarers 10 key questions about their work and life, covering topics such as mental health, social interaction, shore leave, wages, and food. The survey results are then published online, providing a snapshot of the well-being of seafarers around the world.

The latest SHI report for the second quarter of 2023 revealed a notable decline in overall happiness among seafarers. The average score across the 10 questions was 5.99/10, down from 6.46 in the first quarter of 2023. The data fell in every category, clearly indicating 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.

The report also highlighted some of the challenges and frustrations that seafarers face daily. For example:

  • Stress and pressure: Seafarers reported feeling constant stress and pressure from their work demands, which have increased due to the effects of the pandemic. Some said that they must work longer hours, deal with more paperwork, and cope with more stringent medical hygiene requirements. Others said that they feel unsafe or unsupported by their management and/or authorities.
  • Loneliness and isolation: Persistent feelings of loneliness and isolation were reported, especially during holidays or special occasions. Some said that they have limited to no access to communication or internet service, making it difficult to stay in touch with loved ones. Some said that they have no social life or activities on board, affecting their mood and general morale.
  • Fatigue and exhaustion: Many reported feeling tired and exhausted from their prolonged stay aboard. Some said that they have difficulty sleeping or resting due to noise, vibration, or discomfort, and have health problems or injuries that are not properly treated or addressed.
  • Depression and anxiety: Seafarers reported feeling depressed and anxious about their future and career prospects, with some saying that they have no idea when they will be able to go home or get a new contract. Others said that they worry about their financial situation, or their family’s well-being.

These findings show that seafarers are facing a serious mental health crisis that needs urgent attention and action from all stakeholders in the maritime industry. The Mission to Seafarers has been providing various services and support to assist seafarers with their mental health and well-being, such as a 24-hour helpline, psychological counselling, training courses, and spiritual guidance. However, more needs to be done to address the root cause of the problem and ensure that seafarers are recognized as key workers who deserve respect, dignity, and care.

Some of the actions that have been proposed by the maritime community include:

  • Facilitating crew changes: Governments should implement protocols to allow safe and efficient crew changes, including waiving visa requirements, providing flights and transportation, and ensuring quarantine facilities.
  • Providing medical care: Governments should ensure that seafarers have access to adequate medical care while aboard and ashore, including testing and vaccination for COVID-19.
  • Improving communication: Ship owners and operators should provide seafarers with reliable and affordable communication devices and internet services, allowing their employees to stay connected with their families and friends.
  • Enhancing welfare: Ship owners and operators should improve the living and working conditions aboard, such as providing quality food, recreational facilities, and adequate personal protective equipment.
  • Supporting mental health: All seafarers should be provided with mental health awareness and education programs, as well as professional psychological support when needed.

By taking these actions, we can help improve the happiness and well-being of seafarers who work tirelessly to keep our global supply chains running. We also can show our appreciation and gratitude for their vital contribution to our society, because seafarers deserve nothing less than our respect and care.

We at the Herd Law Firm are proud to fight for maritime workers and passengers in all types of personal injury claims, and never waver in our commitment to help these maritime workers and their families when they are injured.


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If you or someone that you know has contracted COVID-19 while on board a cruise ship, you may be entitled to compensation. If so, call the law offices of the Herd Law Firm, PLLC for a risk-free evaluation of your potential case.

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