New report highlights growing risk of seafarer exodus

The latest Seafarers Happiness Index report from The Mission to Seafarers has been published for the third quarter of 2021, carrying an important message about the risks of an exodus from the industry. The report highlights happiness levels have increased overall to 6.59/10, from 5.99 in the previous reporting period, returning to the same levels seen pre-Covid in Q3 2019.

The survey suggests that Covid-19 related strains on seafarers are beginning to ease, and support measures for seafarer welfare have now had a chance to take effect, yet challenges with shore leave and ship-shore connectivity remain.

Shore leave and extended contracts have been a huge challenge since the start of the pandemic. 5% of seafarers responding said that they have been away at sea for over a year and a further 13% of respondents have served at sea for over nine months, with the remainder reporting less than nine months.

Many seafarers are not intending to return to sea once they eventually get home

The challenges of balancing home life with the uncertainties that the crew change crisis have led to many who were tentatively considering a move ashore accelerating their career change plans. The report emphasises that many seafarers are not intending to return to sea once they eventually get home.

The issue of retention in an already stressed workforce is a major concern. There is likely to be a growing shortfall in seafarers in the coming years, with seemingly little or no coherent mechanism to manage the problems coming over the horizon. The seafaring experience and expertise that is potentially going to be lost will be of alarm to managers and operators today.

Ship-to-shore connectivity is a long-held contentious issue. The crews who either have no access or feel that it is poor quality, slow, patchy and expensive, are not happy. Many respondents to the questionnaire see the issue of internet access as one of the most telling ways of assessing how a company feels about its crews. The issue of the cost of online access came up repeatedly this quarter.

The Revd Canon Andrew Wright, secretary general of The Mission to Seafarers, commented:“We urge every shipowner, operator and manager to study this report, listen to their crew and act on what is needed to address their needs, whether that is the longstanding issue of crew changes or, as we see in this latest survey, the costs and constraints on internet access, which can be a lifeline for homesick seafarers.”

John-Kaare Aune, CEO of Wallem Group, one of the report’s sponsors, said: “It is worrying to see how many seafarers are considering ending their career at sea due to extended periods onboard.”

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. Also I would like to address this issue here in the Philippines before going onboard you need to take two times negative rt pcr test. There are cases that initial swab test is negative then the company would isolate you in hotels then afterwards final swab test is positive I cannot imagine how can you get a positive result even though you are isolated?.
    Please could someone give policies or guidelines to help us seafarer. We are already now fully vaccinated.. This rt pcr test is hindering us.. if we tested positive the company would replace us.
    If only countries would ease restrictions to us seaferers that would allow us not to take the rt pcr test before entering their country because we are only transiting.
    Thank you.

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