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Seafarers Happiness Index suffers its longest decline

Seafarers Happiness Index suffers its longest decline
Sam Chambers November 2, 2023

Further concern over seafarer welfare has been raised by the results of the latest Seafarers Happiness Index, which reveals a further drop in seafarer happiness and marks the longest sustained decline since the index was founded. This report covers Q3 2023 and is the third successive report to show a decline, sparking fears over the impact on all those working at sea.

The Seafarers Happiness Index is a quarterly survey conducted by The Mission to Seafarers. It measures the wellbeing of seafarers through 10 key questions about their work and life, designed to gauge sentiment about their experiences on board.

The Q3 report shows an overall fall in seafarer happiness to just 6.6 out of 10. This compares to 6.77 in Q2 2023 and 7.1 in Q1 2023.

The results showed a decline in most areas covered by the survey, including wages, workload and onboard connectivity, which saw the most significant fall in happiness levels. The only areas to buck the trend of a decline in happiness for this quarter were shore leave, training and food, where the report showed marginal improvements.

Concerns emerged around salary inadequacy in this quarter’s feedback, especially for senior roles. The survey also heard reports of how catering budget constraints can force nutritional compromises, underscoring the need for well-provisioned ships and skilled catering crews. Maintaining onboard gyms and exercise equipment was also seen as an issue.

Happiness levels will not recover to acceptable levels unless we address the systemic challenges that undermine welfare

Connectivity and communications represented a double-edged sword in this quarter’s feedback, enabling contact with loved ones, but potentially facilitating micromanagement from ashore. To address this, there were calls for guidelines to promote a healthy work-life balance through technology.

The issue of overwhelming workloads again came to the fore. This was felt to be driven by expanding regulations and administrative tasks. There appears to be a growing sense of unmanageable responsibilities among seafarers, which is causing a huge amount of stress.

The report highlighted how prejudices and misunderstandings can impede social cohesion on board. There are cultural issues at play and pressures from home that are not always fully explored, including some troubling insights into gender disparities and barriers to diversity and inclusion. This included reports of a lack of acceptance, discomfort and exclusion for female seafarers. To address these issues, it is essential that more is done to foster open communication and overcome biases.

The report is not without some positive feedback on life at sea. From a more encouraging perspective, respondents spoke of the benefits that a seafaring life can offer, including a steady income and adventure, whilst recognising that it also demands substantial sacrifice.

The Revd Canon Andrew Wright, secretary-general of The Mission to Seafarers, said: “It seems clear that happiness levels will not recover to acceptable levels unless we can address the systemic challenges that continue to undermine the welfare of our seafarers, such as limited shore leave, unsustainable workloads, insufficient connectivity, and stagnant wages.”