Seafarers Happiness Index: Though Happiness Increased To Pre-Pandemic Levels, Risk of Seafarer Exodus Grows

The latest edition of the Seafarers Happiness Index report has been published for the third quarter (Q3) of 2021, by The Mission to Seafarers in association with Wallem Group and the Standard Club. The report indicates that the happiness levels of seafarers have increased from 5.99/10 in the previous report, to 6.59/10, thus returning to the same levels, as seen during the pre-COVID era in the third quarter of 2019.

Seafarers Happiness Index: Though Happiness Increased To Pre-Pandemic Levels, Risk of Seafarer Exodus Grows

This suggests that the COVID-19 induced strains on seafarers around the world has began to ease, paving way for the support measures for seafarer welfare to exercise its effects. The challenges with shore leave and connectivity onboard however, has remained.

Let The Seafarers Out!

The voice of seafarers in the survey indicates the willingness to bid adieu to the maritime industry, if they are not granted proper shore leaves and the contracts fail to live up to its promises.

Also Read: Seafarer Vaccination Rates Improving, While Crew Change Crisis Goes On

Since the onset of the ongoing pandemic, shore leaves and extended contracts have proved to be a major challenge for the entire seafaring fraternity. 5% of the seafarers who have been a part of the survey have said that they have been away from home, at the high seas for over a year, while another 13% of seafarers said that they have been at the sea for over 9 months. They rest reported of serving onboard for less than 9 months, till now.

Many seafarers, who were planning to tentatively settle onshore, have only accelerated their career change plans. All thanks to the challenges of balancing life at home with the uncertainties that the crew change crisis has induced. A major number of seafarers are not intending to return to the sea, once they get back home, suggests the report.

There is already a growing shortfall of seafarers in the coming years, which makes matters even worse, as the issue of retention in an already stressed workforce is a major concern. With the current efforts of retaining the seafaring workforce, which is seemingly negligible, the seafaring experience and expertise could be potentially lost forever.

Connectivity Is A Costly Affair!

The ship-to-shore connectivity has always been a major issue for every stakeholder of the shipping industry. Quite obviously, the crews who either have no access or feel that it is poor quality, slow, patchy and expensive, are not happy. Many respondents of the survey has seen the issue of internet access onboard as one of the most telling ways of assessing how a company feels about its crews.

Related Read: Just 15.3% Seafarers Vaccinated Globally: Neptune Indicator

“Our internet on board costs US $25 for 100MB” said a seafarer, as the issue of the cost of online access repeatedly came up in this quarter. The size of internet allocation too, is a cause of concern. One seafarer stated that their company provided them with just 250 Mega Bytes (MB) of internet to use for one whole month. Which falls short even for a single video call to their family.

The report raises stark concerns over the affordability and rationing of internet access on board, which is a priority for the majority of seafarers from a welfare perspective. Ship-owners and managers are encouraged to look again at the steps to improve this ongoing issue.

“The issues relating to COVID-19 continue to impact seafarers, and are likely to for some time to come. That said, the data suggests that crew sentiment has stabilised, which is, at face value, good to see. However, it is too soon to say whether this is a start of positive change, or if seafarers are simply more resilient to the situation they are experiencing because of the pandemic – in other words, whether the strains they have been placed under for the past 21 months are a ‘new normal’”, commented The Revd Canon Andrew Wright, the Secretary General of The Mission to Seafarers.

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The CEO of Wallem Group, John-Kaare Aune added, “Seafarers have been through so much over the past two years. They have been key to world trade at a time of unparalleled risk and disruption, they have kept the lights and heat on, they have kept shop shelves stocked and they have allowed the world to edge towards recovery. We owe them all a huge debt of gratitude and enormous respect and recognition. We urge every shipowner, operator and manager to study this report, listen to their crew and act on what is needed to address their needs, whether that is the longstanding issue of crew changes or, as we see in this latest survey, the costs and constraints on internet access, which can be a lifeline for homesick seafarers.”

“We are pleased to see that the happiness level of the crew has increased in this latest report, but at the same time it is worrying to see how many seafarers are considering ending their career at sea due to extended periods on board. In order to keep the world’s supply chain going we as an industry must continue to have a sharp focus on getting back to normal crew change cycles, and most importantly the various countries around the world must treat seafarers as the key workers that they are and ease travel and crew change restrictions in their jurisdictions,” said Captain Yves Vandenborn, the Director of Loss Prevention at the Standard Club.

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