The latest Seafarers Happiness Index report, published today by the Mission to Seafarers, reveals the lowest levels of seafarer satisfaction for eight years, with the index’s measure of overall happiness decreasing from 6.41 to 5.85 and levels dropping across all categories.
The survey, undertaken with the support of the Standard Club and Idwal, reports on first quarter 2022 and shows that a turbulent start to 2022 on many fronts has severely impacted seafarer happiness. From the COVID-19 Omicron variant to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine and concerns over contractual issues, seafarers have faced a challenging few months, as morale on board has severely declined.
CONTINUED COVID-19 CRISIS
Two years on from the outbreak of COVID-19, seafarers are still feeling the effects. New variants of the virus continue to impact different countries. Seafarers face a maze of different regulations, ongoing port restrictions, and in many cases limited or no shore leave. Even when seafarers do get ashore, many facilities are closed due to national restrictions, leaving them without support or basic services.
INTERNATIONAL CONFLICT IMPACTS CAMARADERIE
Seafarers responding to the survey also were impacted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Many were concerned about their families and worried by tensions on board. On some ships, Russian and Ukrainian crew members are actively working together to try and ensure that relationships did not suffer, but as the war continues and misinformation spreads, tensions appear to be rising. Crew members from a host of nations including Ukraine, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria, expressed concerns about tensions on board, which has implications not only for social cohesion on board, but safety too.
CREWS CONCERNED BY CONTRACT ISSUES
The survey highlighted that seafarers continue to face problems surrounding their employment rights, contractual issues and calls to be recognized as key workers. The issue of contract extensions was frequently mentioned when asking seafarers about their general happiness at sea and is impacting the mental health of crews that are effectively being forced to remain on board. Many are desperate to return home, especially as connectivity to speak to loved ones remains a huge challenge for seafarers.
FOCUS ON WELFARE AND WELLBEING
Although the survey raises a wide array of issues that should be the cause of great concern for all ship owners, operators and managers, a number of seafarers also took the opportunity to share examples of steps taken to improve welfare and morale onboard. There was positive feedback from seafarers who spoke about some of the efforts made to make life at sea more comfortable and enjoyable, despite other concerns. This included examples of vessels having funds allocated for wellbeing events and activities, such as weekly crew gatherings, quizzes, karaoke, sports, TikTok video making, movie nights, and barbecues.