Seafarer Happiness Index Hits New Low

File image courtesy Mission to Seafarers

Published Jul 29, 2021 9:54 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Mission to Seafarers' survey-based Seafarer Happiness Index dropped significantly in the second quarter, with uncertainty over crew change and shore leave driving the index to its lowest level since the start of the pandemic. 

"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," Mission to Seafarers found. "Sadly, 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 index fell in every category - general happiness, workload, training, social life, shore leave, wages, food, health, family contact and welfare facility access. After 18 months of adapting to the pandemic, the question of shore access for crew change - or even just a walk around the port - still remains at the top of the list of concerns. "We are never allowed to leave the ship, and it is not possible to get away for even a couple of hours," one seafarer responded. 

Against the backdrop of COVID-driven isolation and uncertainty, many seafarers reported tensions with manning agencies and operators over wage levels, contract conditions and length of service on board, with fewer signs of goodwill than seen previously. Mission to Seafarers also noted "many worrying responses" involving manning agents misleading or threatening crew. "With the current level of dissatisfaction and stress, there could well be trouble ahead," the report warned. 

Workloads appear to be on the rise, with many seafarers reporting 11-12 hour days instead of the 8-9 hours seen more commonly before the pandemic. Some respondents reported that the volume of their paperwork is putting the safety of their vessels at risk because so much time is spent on administrative tasks, like answering emails from the home office.

“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," said Captain Yves Vandenborn, Director of Loss Prevention at the Standard Club. "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."