Quarantining like criminals in a prison camp: Seafarers Happiness Index

The latest Seafarers Happiness Index report, published yesterday by The Mission to Seafarers, reveals both the ongoing struggles of the heroes working at sea and how small investments can make a tangible difference to the lives of seafarers.

The survey, undertaken with the support of the Shipowners’ Club and Wallem Group, reports on the experiences of seafarers between October and December 2020. The report highlights the continued struggle with crew changeovers and workload. However, it also reveals that the simple steps taken by some shipowners can make a huge difference to the day to day lives of seafarers, improving mental health on board and renewing passion for their work.

On quarantine: ‘We were made to queue up and felt like criminals, then taken to a facility more like a prison camp than a hotel’

Many seafarers have reported that shipowners have started to make changes which have improved the quality of life onboard. Free data or free calls, more investment in food and new gym equipment have been appreciated according to the survey respondents. With the lack of shore leave and limited wifi as major concerns earlier in 2020, this report appears to show that shipping companies are making an effort to improve the circumstances onboard, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Q4 report shows that there are still huge challenges with crew changes, not only in the limitations of leaving or joining a ship, but also the treatment and facilities provided during quarantine. Seafarers highlighted that they are subjected to degrading and frustrating treatment, making it clear that the entire process needs to be reviewed and improved.

“We were made to queue up and felt like criminals, then taken to a facility more like a prison camp than a hotel”, commented one respondent.

The impact of the crew change crisis is being acutely felt, and some senior officers said this was the worst situation they have known in decades in the industry. The effect on morale and on the mental health of crew was evident, with calls for broader industry progress, particularly as the pandemic continues.

The publication of the latest Seafarers Happiness Index yesterday coincided with the launch of the Neptune Declaration on Seafarer Wellbeing and Crew Change, which has seen 300 companies and organisations come together to resolve the crew change crisis.

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.


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