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Wage stagnation biggest frustration of seafarers – survey

Wage stagnation biggest frustration of seafarers – survey
Yashika F. Torib February 14, 2024

WAGE stagnation is one of the most significant frustrations facing seafarers, a survey conducted by the Mission to Seafarers showed.

The sentiment that salaries are not keeping pace with inflation has caused a decline in overall satisfaction levels among seamen based on the Seafarers Happiness Index (SHI). It is down to 6.36/10 from 6.6 in the third quarter of 2023.

The Seafarers Happiness Index is a quarterly survey to gauge the sentiment of seafarers at sea. PHOTO BY DUNCAN TORRES

The Seafarers Happiness Index is a quarterly survey to gauge the sentiment of seafarers at sea. PHOTO BY DUNCAN TORRES

"They claimed that sometimes the stagnation in wage levels spans over a decade, whilst the workload and responsibilities continue to increase. This situation has led to a perceived imbalance, where the compensation doesn't match the effort and dedication put into the job," the survey revealed.

Seafarers who took the survey commented that "wages are not keeping pace with inflation. There were complaints about unpaid working hours and lack of wage rises, suggesting that some companies are not properly compensating crews."

Others raised issues about "delayed salaries, especially in certain companies or regions, whilst hidden costs from manning agents were also flagged as a concern. Too many seafarers feel they are not even paid their full allotment. Unexpected fees or charges owing to 'exchange rates' can creep into salaries, further eroding earnings."

The survey also detailed how some seafarers believe their pay does not adequately reflect the risks and responsibilities they shoulder while working on board, leaving them feeling undervalued and underpaid.

This issue was raised in relation to security concerns for merchant ships transiting the Red Sea. As one seafarer said, "No one ashore would work for such low pay and have their lives put at risk every day."

The feedback reveals a desire for fair compensation that aligns with the demanding nature of their work, ensuring that their efforts and contributions are duly recognized and adequately remunerated.

These sentiments balance a mix of contentment and pride at providing for their families at home through concerns about stagnation and desires for better compensation.

Some seafarers expressed satisfaction with their current salaries, considering it fair and sufficient to support their families or maintain a decent living standard.

SHI is a quarterly survey to gauge the sentiment of seafarers. It asks seafarers worldwide 10 key questions about various aspects of their life and work at sea, including connectivity, shore leave, wages, food, health, training, interaction, workload, welfare and general matters.

Feedback and data gained from seafarers are translated into "meaningful solutions for the long-term improvement of seafarer welfare."

The fall in overall happiness reflects a decrease in sentiment across most question areas compared to Q3 2023, with connectivity being the only notable aspect that showed improvement.

Other areas of concern that affected seafarer satisfaction are lack of shore leave, lack of rest hours, excessive workload from too much paperwork and inspections, indifference from shore staff, lack of transparency with contracts and manning agents, and the risk of sailing on certain regions.

"The broader tone from the responses conveys frustration, overwork, and feeling undervalued by shore staff. Lack of basic respect and concern for crews appears to be a common grievance. The general sentiment is one of feeling unappreciated and exploited, which understandably translates to markedly lower happiness rankings. This is a pattern we are unfortunately becoming accustomed to," the Mission to Seafarers said