War and Piracy Risks Add to Continuing Decline in Seafarer Happiness
Fears over escalating piracy and war risk threats are contributing to a continuing decline in seafarer happiness according to the most recent update of a quarterly welfare study. The welfare organization The Mission to Seafarers which oversees the survey says the results are “raising serious concerns over the conditions for all those working at sea.”
They note that this is the fourth consecutive quarter to show a decline in seafarer happiness. The survey measures the well-being of seafarers through ten key questions about their work and life, designed to gauge sentiment about their experiences on board. The latest report for the fourth quarter of 2023 shows an overall fall in seafarer happiness to 6.36 out of 10, following a consistent pattern from 7.1 in the first quarter to 6.77 and 6.6 in the next two quarters, and now a further decline, which the organizers terms as “considerable” over the year.
“Following the uptick in seafarer happiness in late 2022 after the lifting of COVID restrictions, it is very disappointing to see the downward trend in happiness over the course of 2023,” commented Revd Canon Andrew Wright, Secretary General of The Mission to Seafarers. “Seafarers often feel the world’s crises first and hardest,” he notes saying that the current escalating piracy and war risk threats are adding to the perennial concerns over an unsustainable workload, insufficient shore leave, limited rest hours, financial concerns, and the burden of separation from family.”
“The increase in international conflicts and heightened tensions inevitably manifested a degree of anxiety and uncertainty for those at sea,” said Yves Vandenborn, Head of Loss Prevention Asia-Pacific at NorthStandard which is one of the sponsors of the survey. “With a global workforce, the maritime industry must be conscious of how easily changes in international relationships have a bearing on the wellbeing of seafarers.”
The current decline they reported is driven by a decrease in sentiment across most areas of life on board covered by the survey. Seafarers, they said, show a wide range of reasons for the downward trend, but common causes for concern expressed by seafarers taking part in the survey include feeling overburdened, underappreciated, and disconnected, as well as concerns over a lack of shore leave and an inability to contact family. Financial concerns are displayed by comments over stagnating wages.
Thom Herbert, Senior Marine Surveyor and Crew Welfare Advocate at Idwal, the other sponsor for the survey, called the newest results “disappointing.” He comments, “We see a continuing negative trend throughout 2023, following some apparent improvements in 2022 as the world emerged from the pandemic.”
The one area that showed improvement in the results related to onboard connectivity. The shipping companies’ investments in satellite links and other forms of communication are having an impact, although seafarers also talked about the inconsistency in vessel connectivity.
The Mission for Seafarer points to issues that they believe the shipping companies can address including the lack of social interaction and a growing sense of isolation among crewmembers. They call for efforts to build a sense of togetherness and a team ethos onboard,
The organization continues to work with the shipping companies to tackle the issues that continue to affect the well-being of seafarers. They provide direct support to seafarers through ship visits and also have digital solutions to help address some of the concerns.