Survey: Seafarers Concerned About Sulfur Cap Prosecutions

Credit: The Mission to Seafarers
Credit: The Mission to Seafarers

Published Nov 4, 2019 4:29 PM by The Maritime Executive

A new report from The Mission to Seafarers shows seafarers are concerned about the implementation of the sulfur cap next year. 

The Seafarers Happiness Index is a gauge for measuring the feelings of seafarers across the global maritime industry. It is conducted every quarter, and this time over 2,500 seafarers participated. 

Anecdotal evidence from seafarers identified a number of ongoing concerns. The impending IMO 2020 sulfur cap appears to be a source of stress for many seafarers. The report indicates that there is a widespread fear of blame for non-compliance, suggesting that some seafarers don’t feel prepared for the cap. Many participants reported concerns that discrepancies in data, in addition to tougher inspection regimes, could result in seafarers facing prosecution by authorities.

While there has been much attention given to the financial impact of IMO 2020 on shipowners, this evidence shines a light on the day-to-day pressures on those serving at sea and the need for governments and shipowners to prepare seafarers for the change, says The Mission to Seafarers. The report indicates that companies investing in training have happier crews – highlighting the importance of seafarers feeling confident in their own abilities and with the responsibilities placed upon them by new regulations.

Indian Seafarers Not Happy

In the latest report overall seafarer happiness has risen from 6.27 to 6.59 out of 10. The majority of seafarer respondents (45 percent) were from the Indian Subcontinent, with South East Asia the next biggest representation (24 percent), a natural reflection of the global manpower picture. Indian seafarers scored a below general average score of 6.16 out of 10, a drop from the last report, and South-East Asian seafarers 6.39.

The happiness score of Eastern Europeans (nine percent of respondents) dropped to 5.84 out of 10. Western Europeans (nine percent of respondents) saw a happiness drop to 6.58. The happiest seafarers with an average of eight out of 10 were from Oceania (two percent of respondents). 

A Potential Talent-Bleed

Salaries played a significant role in helping seafarers to feel stable in their careers. Whilst youngest seafarers appear to be the happiest – reflecting enthusiasm about seeing new parts of the world, with a very high 7.9 out of 10 – many reported that low wages were making them question their future careers. This is concerning for the future of the maritime industry, says The Mission to Seafarers with the potential for a talent-bleed if seafarers are lost to other industries.

Happiness amongst those aged over 45 showed a marked turnaround in this quarter, reaching 7 out of 10. While a number of seafarers declared their pride in working at sea, budget cuts were a common concern with no seafarers feeling “wealthy” in their home nations. This indicates that although life at sea is a cheerful one, the practicality of wages may not support the career choice in the long-term.

Connecting with Home

The issue of connectivity and contact with family was the only downward trend recorded. Those who have access to the internet, Wi-Fi and calls are “very, very happy.” But, there are many who do not. As one respondent stated, “Sailing for 22 years now and unfortunately, life at sea doesn't get any better. There is wider and wider gap in communication possibilities between shore and ships, regarding mails and internet is feels like shipping industry still stands in 1990.” This was a thread which ran through many of the responses.

Cruise and Ferry Crew Concerns Ease

After findings from the second quarter of the year showed happiness amongst seafarers onboard cruise and ferry vessels to be 15 percent lower than other vessels, happiness levels in this sector increased one full point to 6.3 out of 10. 

Steven Jones, Founder of the Seafarers Happiness Index, commented: “The Mission to Seafarers has been contacted by several cruise ship operators following the release of the last report. It is a very positive sign to see the results from the index being taken seriously by the industry. Hopefully, some of the insight we provided has contributed to this improvement in seafarers’ sentiments about life at sea, although there is no room for complacency on any of the barometers of happiness used by the index.”

The Index is supported by P&I insurer the Shipowners’ Club. 

The report is available here.