Survey: Decarbonization Adds to Seafarers' Workload, Fatigue, and Stress

seafarers on deck
Survey says decarbonization efforts are impact seafarers' well-being (file photo)

Published Jun 25, 2024 4:25 PM by The Maritime Executive


One of the themes being highlighted on this the Day of the Seafarer as declared by the International Maritime Organization are the challenges and contributions of the profession. The charitable organization ISWAN (International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network) is highlighting that the drive to decarbonization is having an overlooked yet substantial impact on the workload, fatigue, and stress levels at sea.

As governments impose regulations and companies explore ways to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, seafarers seem to be forgotten in the larger scheme of things reports the charity. Believing that there has been comparatively little focus on the impact that the rapid pace of change is having on seafarers’ well-being and job satisfaction, ISWAN undertook a survey sponsored by The Shipowners’ Club. It includes responses from 400 seafarers of 29 nationalities as well as 55 responses from shore-based staff. 

Slightly over half of the respondents, 53.8 percent, reported that the changes brought about by decarbonization were having a negative impact on their workload. Further, 44 percent of seafarers highlighted an increase in levels of stress, while 40 percent reported increased levels of fatigue. 

The survey also revealed that a third of seafarers (32.8 percent) also have increased their fears about potential criminalization. They highlighted the complexity of current reporting regimes saying it is leading to greater risks of an inadvertent error.

Engineers are bearing the brunt of the negative impacts on their wellbeing. Over a third (34.4 percent) of engineer respondents are reporting a negative impact on their mental health, while a quarter (25.3 percent) of deck officers also cited mental health concerns. For the engineers, the workload and stress levels associated with requirements to switch frequently between different fuel types is taking a toll on their mental wellbeing. Engineers without a fixed trading pattern are reporting the worst impact.

“Only too often, seafarers tell us that they feel their well-being is overlooked in favor of commercial imperatives or regulatory requirements,” said Simon Grainge, ISWAN Chief Executive. “By engaging with their concerns about decarbonization, maritime employers have the opportunity to empower seafarers to be proponents and drivers of the journey towards zero carbon, rather than this becoming another factor that risks driving them out of the sector.”

ISWAN contends that while seafarers and shore-based staff are willing to be active contributors to the zero-carbon transition, they need to be proactively included in the efforts. For this reason, the charity put forth recommendations for maritime companies that guarantee the well-being of seafarers is elevated from the periphery to the frontline.

The recommendations include acknowledging and addressing the impact of decarbonization on workloads and factoring it into crew sizes, recognizing the psychological impacts of rapid change and technostress, and incorporating them into health and wellbeing training. They recommend fostering a culture of both physical and psychological safety for seafarers.