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Seafarers happier with onboard connectivity but less satisfied overall, finds latest report

Seafarer happiness continues to fluctuate and while better connectivity at sea is providing seafarers with greater communication to home, increasing workload stress related to IMO 2020, limited access to welfare facilities ashore, and racism at sea are having detrimental effects on seafarer welfare today.

{mprestriction ids="1,2"} The Seafarers Happiness Index report, published by The Mission to Seafarers, measures the experiences of more than 2,000 seafarers across the global maritime industry today. The Index, undertaken in association with P&I insurer the Shipowners’ Club, asks seafarers to share their feelings on a scale from 0-10 across a range of areas including general happiness, workload, training, crew interaction, wages, shore leave, welfare facilities, the quality of food onboard, access to health & wellness facilities, and contact with family.

Overall happiness – 6.13/10

The Q4 2019 Index found that overall seafarer happiness fell in the last quarter, dropping from 6.59 to 6.13 out of 10 compared with the last quarter. According to the report, this was perhaps expected due to the arrival of the festive season, which can take its toll emotionally for seafarers and was highlighted by respondents.

Workload – 5.59/10

Seafarers’ happiness with their workload fell from 6.16 to 5.59 this quarter. This has historically been a problem for seafarers with heavy workload, poor management, lack of resources, inadequate support and the demands of external agencies all cited as difficulties the seafarers face. In the report, one seafarer’s quote is highlighted, “A lot of my workload is time consuming fulfilling the requirements of vetting and does not contribute to the vessels operation. It will never be looked at by anyone other than myself”. According the report, this was mirrored in many responses.

Contact with family – 6.96/10

Seafarers reported a general increase in satisfaction with communication to home, with a rise from 6.82 last quarter to 6.96 this quarter. While this is usually an area of dissatisfaction for seafarers, the latest Index found that, “communication facilities have greatly improved over time”, although there is still huge scope for improvement. One respondent said, “companies should realise that people are at peace when they are in regular touch with their families. A happy ship is a safe ship!”

The latest survey found that crew that have quality, low cost access to the internet and good communication with their families are much happier than those who do not. Crew are also increasingly demanding high-quality connectivity and are not willing to put up with a lack of it. According to the report, seafarers now see connectivity as a “necessity” and reportedly, when access improves, seafarers will be less likely to leave their careers at sea.

Training – 6.38/10

Seafarers were asked about how happy they were with the training they received. According to The Mission to Seafarers, those who respond are usually either very pleased with the training and the opportunities they receive, or they are very dissatisfied. This time round was no different. Many respondents felt pleased with the support from their companies and their ability to advance their careers, however, some were critical of the training being given with one seafarer citing it as, “a tickbox service for shipping companies”. The report found that while seafarers are very happy to learn, they do not want it to be boring or feel irrelevant, to eat into their rest time at sea or their leave at home, and they want it to mean something.

Onboard interaction with crew – 6.67

Typically, seafarers have reported a good social aspect onboard but comments from seafarers indicate that more focus from their companies on the upkeep of relationships onboard would improve results here. A drop in score this quarter was found to be related to the issue of racism and the lack of support in dealing with this problem.

This is an area of concern which has been mirrored in earlier reports of sexism. The report states that the industry, ‘has a responsibility to recognise these concerns and respond to the calls for an independent complaint line or procedure to support seafarers.’

Wages/salary – 6.09/10

The reports states that, ‘seafarers feel an immense sense of pride that they are able to provide for their families. They work tirelessly in very challenging conditions to ensure their families have all they need, from homes, to food and education.’ This means that wages can have a significant impact on overall happiness and unfortunately the score for this quarter has dropped from 6.57 last quarter.

Shore leave – 5.59/10

The happiness score for shore leave has dropped from 6.16 last quarter to 5.59.  Responses regarding shore leave show that seafarers are not being able to reap the benefits of welfare facilities ashore, which in turn hugely impacts their wellbeing. Seafarers have previously felt that ‘shore leave is dead’ which was a feeling reiterated during the research for this quarter. According to the report, there needs to be an industry-wide drive to ensure correct visas are acquired so that seafarers are able to enjoy the benefits of shore-based welfare facilities whilst in ports and terminals.

Onboard food – 6.23/10

Satisfaction with onboard food dropped from 6.77 to 6.23 this quarter. Crew spoke of a range of issues relating to the quality of food onboard, including low budgets and low quality food. The report states that, ‘seafarers also spoke of a starch and meat heavy diet. They claimed that they often felt lethargic after meals, and that the quality of the food did not usually match what they would eat or prepare back at home.’

Health and fitness onboard – 6.41/10

The figure relating to seafarers’ ability to keep themselves fit and healthy dropped from 6.84 to 6.41 this quarter. Seafarers encouraged to take part in physical activity were found to be the happiest while those did not have access to facilities or time to exercise were less happy.  

Onshore welfare facilities – 5.28/10

When asked about the access to onshore welfare facilities, seafarers reported a difficulty in being able to physically get onshore due to limited shore leave. This partly caused the Index figure to drop from 6.05 last quarter. Access seemed to be the main issue as once seafarers were able to get onshore, they were complimentary about the people and services there to help them.

“After our two previous reports, it is a very positive sign to see that the levels of happiness among seafarers in the Cruise sector continue to rise to 7/10, from 5.3 in the second quarter and 6.3 in the third quarter of 2019. It is also great to hear of the pride seafarers feel when providing for their families and communities. There is a sense of sacrifice, but where that translates into tangible positives for the families, seafarers are happier in their role,” said Steven Jones, founder of the Seafarers Happiness Index.

“We hope some of the insight we provide through the Happiness Index has contributed to this improvement in seafarers’ sentiments about life at sea, although there is no room for complacency. Indeed, we are concerned to hear instances of racism at sea being raised by respondents and encourage all ship owners and managers to ensure everything possible is being done to address this issue.”

Wallem Group will partner with The Mission to Seafarers in 2020. Frank Coles, chief executive officer, Wallem Group, said: “Wallem is focused on quality ship management and this means quality crew, and quality crew should be happy. Wallem has a priority on seafarers’ conditions and mental health. This survey is a great way to get a proper sample of actual seafarers’ views on life at sea and what can be improved. Hopefully we can then use this to improve the lives of all seafarers.” 

Download the report here


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