You are here

Seas of Discontent: Seafarer ‘Happiness’ Continues to Decline

Seas of Discontent: Seafarer ‘Happiness’ Continues to Decline
Mike Schuler August 7, 2023

There was a notable decline in the “happiness” of the world’s seafarers in the second quarter as working and living conditions continue to lag below pre-pandemic standards, according to the Mission to Seafarers has published the latest Seafarers Happiness Index (SHI) report.

The latest survey on seafarer happiness, conducted in association with NorthStandard and Idwal and supported by Inmarsat, shows a decrease in overall happiness from 7.1 out of 10 in the first quarter of 2023, to 6.77 out of 10 in the second quarter.

In the latest quarter, seafarer happiness levels declined across all areas, with the most significant drops in general crew happiness, shore leave, and workload, showing an approximate 8% decrease.

Seafarer happiness levels have declined from 7.69/10 in Q4 2022, and have not increased over the course of the year.

Seafarers are struggling with the slow return of working and living conditions to pre-pandemic standards, including crew changes, time on board, wages, and shore leave. Respondents also reported unmanageable workloads, limited internet access, and inadequate gym facilities as key issues.

The COVID-19 pandemic helped exposed significant challenges for seafarers, including crew change delays, extended time on board, and declining wages, leading to worsened working conditions. Returning to pre-COVID conditions for seafarers has been difficult, causing frustration among those who work at sea.

The shortage of available drinking water is a major concern for seafarer happiness, as it was a common problem despite being covered by the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC). Rising global food prices have also negatively impacted seafarers, with low company meal budgets and expense cuts leading to insufficient food supplies for periods of up to 2-3 weeks.

Seafarers are also facing limited opportunities for shore leave, leading to negative impacts on mental health, job satisfaction, and welfare. Calls for standardised protocols and more shore leave opportunities persist to address this issue and provide seafarers with opportunities for rejuvenation and recreational activities ashore.

Seafarers report concerns about work-life balance, work and rest hour violations, and wages, with some being paid only once during their time on board. Stagnation of wages over 15 years highlights the need for fair and timely adjustments to wages that reflect the true value of seafarers’ contributions to the industry.

Overall, the Q2 2023 Seafarers Happiness Index report indicates that seafarers are experiencing challenges that are causing a decline in their satisfaction with work and life at sea, and addressing these issues is necessary to improve their wellbeing.

“It is extremely disappointing to read of contracts being altered or disregarded, leading to payment issues, salary cuts, rising taxes, and increased living costs, as well as such fundamental requirements such as good quality meals, access to shore leave and manageable workloads,” said Revd Canon Andrew Wright, Secretary General of The Mission to Seafarers. “All seafarers are fully entitled to expect fair compensation for their hard work, dedication and commitment to keeping international shipping moving. It is incumbent upon all of us to address these issues and make the improvements required to enhance seafarers’ working conditions, wellbeing and job satisfaction.”

“Struggles with working and living conditions, crew changes, time spent on board, wages, and shore leave are particularly disheartening,” added Thom Herbert, Idwal Senior Marine Surveyor and Crew Welfare Advocate. Issues like unmanageable workloads, limited internet access, and inadequate gym facilities further exacerbate hardship but we are particularly troubled to hear of a lack of available drinking water. All these findings underscore the urgent need for industry-wide efforts to improve the wellbeing of seafarers.