Seafarers’ welfare and job satisfaction levels have reached an all-time low according to the latest data from the Seafarers Happiness Index.
The survey-based index is designed to gauge seafarers’ happiness across ten key areas, ranging from workloads to the quality of food on board.
Seafarers’ satisfaction has reportedly dropped across every category, from 6.41 in the fourth quarter of 2021 to 5.85 in the first quarter of 2022.
It is the lowest number recorded since not only the beginning of the pandemic, but in the eight years since the Seafarers Happiness Index began reporting.
According to the most recent report, the decrease is attributed to a perfect storm created by the pandemic, a war and commercial decisions impacting the workforce.
The report shared insight into how the Russia-Ukraine conflict is impacting relationships on board, particularly in crews where one or both of these nations are represented.
One survey participant reportedly said life at sea was becoming “increasingly depressing each day”, without visible evidence of concern for crew welfare.
“Hectic work schedules, no social life, with so much technological advancement getting a basic internet connection is still a luxury for most seafarers when it’s almost a basic necessity these days,” the participant said.
“The workload is getting increasingly high with minimum crews on board, rest hours are only complied with on paper, yet none of the authorities pay heed.
“Shipping has become a floating jail, where you’re just expected to work endlessly like robots without questioning the work scenario. If money was not a concern, I don’t see a single seafarer willing to come back to sea.”
Common themes in participants’ responses included the lack of internet, toxic relationships and tensions between crew nationalities.
There were also reports of deterioration of living standards, and as usual, a lack of shore leave and uncertainty around contract extensions.
“Not having Wi-Fi is the biggest challenge on board and the voyages we take are long voyages which means we only talk to our loved ones after two months,” one participant said.
“Due to COVID-19 restrictions of different port of calls nowadays, seafarers have no access to shore leave which makes us very unhappy. We cannot unwind or release work pressures within the ships” another said.
Separate from the survey, the Seafarers Happiness Index also received feedback from maritime professionals and executives working ashore.
They reportedly expressed solidarity with seafarers, but also concerns about the atmosphere inside shipping companies, and stress and fatigue among operators and managers ashore.
Despite the negative nature of the responses, the report also highlighted some positive feedback from seafarers who indicated they were pleased with their working conditions and how their companies had handled a challenging period.
For instance, responses from crewmembers on vessels with reliable, cost-effective internet suggested seafarers with adequate connectivity and communication with loved ones are happier.
“There is much to be learned from these companies and ships – and there is a clear correlation between good connectivity, high quality food, time for rest, recuperation and recreation, and the happiness levels of those on board,” the report said.