The Mission to Seafarers today publishes the findings of its Q3 2022 Seafarers Happiness Index report, undertaken with the support of the Standard Club and Idwal. Seafarer happiness levels reached 7.3/10, up from 7.21 last quarter, which follows a sustained increase in seafarer satisfaction, after a record low of 5.85 recorded in Q1 of this year.
The results of the survey show seafarers are much happier with their access to shore leave and more certain about crew changes, with both factors contributing to the overall increase in satisfaction.
However, this is largely a return to normal after the past two years’ pandemic restrictions. While the data is largely positive, issues such as food provisions, wages, workload, stress and the reality of life at sea persist, showing that there is no room for complacency and still much work to be done.
Shore leave is most valued
The biggest jump in satisfaction scores this quarter was on access to shore leave, with happiness leaping up from 4.8 to 5.87. While there are still some restrictions in place in certain regions, the impact of COVID-19 on seafarers is largely waning. This means seafarers are far more certain they will be able to go home on time, which has fuelled much of the positivity. They can also now make more use of welfare centres, giving seafarers access to key facilities, provisions and entertainment when ashore. While there are still restrictions in place for some crews, notably in China, things are decidedly more hopeful.
Connectivity is vital
Connectivity is always highlighted as a key issue for crews, and seafarers were happier about contact with their family and loved ones while at sea in Q3. Good, cost-effective Wi-Fi access is vital to seafarers and has a huge positive impact on their mental health. Our respondents also made it clear that connectivity assists rather than impedes social cohesion on board, as seafarers are happier if they are able to contact loved ones. While positivity increased, there were a number of seafarers who are still faced with slow, expensive and poor-quality connections which is massively frustrating to them.
Basic needs not being met
While satisfaction has risen, the industry must not fall behind on meeting seafarers’ basic needs. The survey showed one key problem area is physical health and wellbeing. Food was an issue for many seafarers who complained about the provision of fresh, quality food on board. There were also complaints about the training standards of some catering crew, an issue which is likely to come to the fore after the tragic death of twelve seafarers from suspected food poisoning recently.
Another barrier to wellbeing was having the time and mental state to keep fit. Seafarers reported feeling tired and stressed due to a high workload, which impacted their ability to exercise – and that’s if their vessel had a gym, facilities or even the space to keep fit. There is clearly more to be done to overcome these basic, but essential issues that are vital to seafarer welfare and human rights.
The rise in seafarer happiness in Q3 shows there are signs of better things ahead for seafarers and industry efforts to make life at sea better are working. While we cannot be complacent and there are still areas for improvement, the gains made for seafarer welfare are certainly worth celebrating.
Ben Bailey, Director of Programme at The Mission to Seafarers, said:
“The impact of COVID-19 had a tremendous impact on seafarer happiness in the first two years of the pandemic and into early 2022. It is very pleasing to see those levels increase, as borne out by the fact that this quarter’s survey marks the second quarter in a row that seafarer happiness has risen.
It is so important for the industry to hear directly from seafarers on key issues of a life at sea; this insight shapes organisations’ understanding of which areas need more attention.
Optimism is slowly returning to life at sea, but we must remember that these gains can quickly be lost if we do not keep up the hard work. There are still vital issues that require immediate attention, and which must be overcome to ensure seafarers’ basic needs are not neglected – from food provisions to decent Wi-Fi access and workload problems. As the data shows, by working together, we can improve seafarer welfare and the quality of their lives at sea.”
Thom Herbert, Idwal Crew Welfare Advocate and Senior Marine Surveyor said:
“It’s pleasing to see that the Q3 report shows another general rise in seafarer happiness. It’s refreshing to see the shore leave score increase, albeit whilst still at a relatively low level. The increase seems to stem from a gradual returning, for some, to pre-Covid levels of shore leave, and appears to highlight all the benefits that getting off the ship, even for a few hours, can bring to someone whose place of work, rest and play is one and the same.
This also makes health and fitness onboard of paramount importance and it’s still disconcerting to see that numbers were slightly down here for this quarter. The anecdotal references in the report show the disparity in the interpretation of the MLC guidelines on provision of sports and exercise equipment on board and this is also borne out in our own vessel inspections where we observe the types of fitness equipment available to crew, if at all. We fully support the call that the smallest investments can make a huge difference to people who spend all their time on a ship, and health and fitness of crew should be the central driver to providing such equipment on board.”
Yves Vandenborn, Director of Loss Prevention at Standard Club added:
“The Seafarers Happiness Index Quarter 3 2022 results reflect a continued level of seafarer satisfaction from the last quarter. This is a very encouraging affirmation of all the wellbeing initiatives and investments made by companies during the pandemic, proving that the efforts made to improve life at sea for seafarers have not gone to naught.
However, while optimism is sustained, the report shows that there continues to be a lot of room for improvement, especially when it comes to meeting basic needs such as nutritional food on board and provision of time and facilities onboard for seafarers to keep fit. Only by addressing these deep-rooted issues can we maintain seafarer happiness at this level and avoid the yo-yo sentiments experienced during the pandemic.”