Issues around wages, workload and connectivity are continuing to weigh heavily on the seafaring community, raising serious concerns for the industry.
According to the latest happiness index, the level of happiness was down to 6.6/10 from 6.77 in Quarter 2. Shore leave, training and food were the only areas bucking the negative trend.
“We saw a mixed set of responses, featuring the highs and lows of life at sea. From a positive perspective, we heard that the seafaring life still holds an alluring promise of adventure and steady income, yet it also demands substantial sacrifice. This Q3 2023 report explores seafarer sentiment on the key issues impacting their happiness and well-being. Connectivity and communications were seen to represent a double-edged sword in this quarter’s feedback, enabling constant contact with loved ones but also potentially facilitating micromanagement from ashore. There were calls to develop guidelines to promote a healthy work-life balance through technology,” according to the Mission to Seafarers which undertook the survey.
Shore leave offers respite and bonding opportunities for crews, but barriers to it persist. The industry has been urged to recognise shore leave’s importance and facilitate time away from ship. There were calls in this quarter’s feedback for ports to improve their response to seafarers in this regard. Concerns emerged around salary inadequacy, especially for senior roles. Another gripe was catering budget constraints which can force nutritional compromises, underscoring the need for well-provisioned ships and skilled catering crews.
Maintaining onboard gyms and exercise equipment was also flagged as a concern.
Once again the issue of gender disparity and barriers to diversity came into play. “Fostering open communication and overcoming biases is essential. Male seafarers expressed the tensions they felt with family back home when working with female colleagues. Female seafarers in turn face challenges, including feeling stressed due to negative perceptions of their presence. There were reports of a lack of acceptance and inclusivity for women on board, leading to discomfort and exclusion. Yet again the issue of overwhelming workloads came to the fore. This was felt to be driven by expanding regulations and administrative tasks, and these take a toll on mental health,” the report pointed out.
Based on average response data over the past five quarters, there has now been a consistent downward trend in the Index. While overall seafarer happiness improved towards the end of 2022, it dropped from 7.12 in Q1 2023 to 6.77 in Q2 2023 and is now down to 6.6 in Q3 2023. The report adds that these results imply that seafarer satisfaction and happiness have been steadily worsening in 2023. This represents the longest sustained decline in seafarers’ happiness since the Seafarers’ Happiness Index was founded.
The trend is regarded as an area of serious concern for the industry.
Key recommendations centre on facilitating shore leave and engaging with ports globally, addressing remuneration concerns, promoting diversity and inclusion, managing workloads, and leveraging technology to enhance work-life balance.