Seafarer Happiness Continues to Rebound While Welfare Issues Persist

Seafarer happiness
Seafarer happiness is rebounding with decline of COVID-19-related restrictions (photo courtesy of Iswan)

Published Nov 4, 2022 12:30 PM by The Maritime Executive

Seafarers’ happiness and job satisfaction are continuing to rebound from a record low seen at the beginning of the year as COVID-19 related issues impacting their lives continue to recede. The Mission to Seafarers publishes the findings of its Q3 2022 Seafarers Happiness Index report, undertaken with the support of the Standard Club and Idwal, citing the progress while also cautioning that the more persistent issues relating to working conditions and crew welfare persist.

Seafarer happiness levels reached 7.3 on a scale of 10, up from 7.21 last quarter, according to the report released today. It is part of a sustained increase in seafarer satisfaction, after a record low of 5.85 recorded in Q1 of this year. 

“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,” said Ben Bailey, Director of Programme at The Mission to Seafarers. “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.”

The organizations attribute much of the rebounds to factors including access to shore leave and more certain about crew changes. 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 such as China, the impact of COVID-19 on seafarers is largely waning. They report far more certain that they will be able to go home on time, which contributes to their happiness with the job. They can also now make more use of welfare centers, giving seafarers access to key facilities, provisions and entertainment when ashore. 

However, the organizers of the survey cautioned that this is largely a return to normal after the past two years of 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 the Mission to Seafarers says that there is no room for complacency and still much work to be done.
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. Respondents to the survey also made it clear that connectivity assists rather than impedes social cohesion on board, as seafarers are happier if they can make contact with friends and family members at home. There were a number of seafarers who reported they are still faced with slow, expensive, and poor-quality connections, which is massively frustrating to them.
The survey showed one key problem area is physical health and well-being. 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.
Another barrier to well-being 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.