After swinging back to pre-pandemic levels in Q3 last year, seafarer happiness levels declined during the final quarter, driven by the extra strain of spending months aboard without any shore time due to Covid restrictions, the latest Seafarers Happiness Index report shows.
The 32-page report described an increasingly demoralised workforce already facing heavy workloads and variable conditions aboard, feeling the pressure of the lack of shore time coupled with perceived low wages. The overall happiness average was 6.41 down from 6.59 sequentially, but still up from an all-time low of 5.99 in Q2 and since the beginning of the pandemic.
The detailed report, based on thousands of anonymised responses to 10 key questions, is compiled quarterly by the welfare charity Mission to Seafarers, with support from Standard Club and ship manager Wallem.
Seafarers responding to the survey highlighted the lack of recognition as key workers, despite so many initiatives in support of this status. The survey also found a growing area of concern regarding contracts of employment being changed without the seafarer’s consent or agreement. Another issue is that 7% of respondents have been on board for over 12 months.
Seafarers also raised concerns about the “draconian nature” of repeated testing and expressed concerns about the quality of quarantine provisions. Aside from specific complaints, the report showed that there is a growing feeling of frustration at sea and uncertainty surrounding trip duration. “Lack of shore leave and concerns over getting back to work once they are home, have all combined to create a growing sense of anger. They also make seafaring a less attractive career option, something which was stressed by multiple respondents.”
“We are sleepwalking to a manning crisis,” said Yves Vandenborn, director of loss prevention at Standard Club. “Resentment is brewing amongst this critical workforce due to the lack of shore leave, uncertainty of trip duration, draconian Covid testing and general lack of recognition.”
The survey found that the ability to keep fit and healthy, the provision of good internet connections, training and protected rest hours, correlate with seafarer happiness levels.
Standard Club warned that: “A serious seafarer recruitment and retention crisis is looming unless governments and ship managers take steps to allow more shore time and improve conditions onboard ships.”