Seafarers Happiness Index slightly up in 2020 Q4 but “losing faith”

Executive summary of Seafarers happiness index 2020 Q4

The average SHI results revealed happiness levels of seafarers for the final Quarter of 2020 at 6.37/10, a marginal climb up from 6.35 in Quarter 3.

The general happiness level dropped in an open question by happyatsea.org , but across an average of all the questions asked, we saw a very small rise.

To see an increase in such a worrying and problematic time as a pandemic is surprising, though it could suggest that positives are being found in the actions of some ship
owners.

Small scale solutions and investments are being made to such issues as connectivity, food and activities onboard.

Across the latest data and responses, it appeared that the realities and impact of COVID are waxing and waning.

Seafarers see some signs of hope, but it seems these are all too quickly being dashed.

It was saddening to read seafarers stating that their experiences at sea are currently
the worst in decades.

The “mess” of crew changes is impacting the industry and is being acutely felt at a
personal level by seafarers and their families.

Some respondents reported feeling misunderstood, or that people ashore no longer appreciated the pressures of the job anymore.

Sadly, there appeared to be a real sense of resignation and antipathy across the written responses received.

The issue of workload was once again particularly concerning.

We heard that seafarers are losing faith in the rules and some claims that hours of work and rest are being fabricated to maintain compliance.

To be faced with increased workloads during extended contracts is surely a recipe for real problems ahead.

Speaking under the cover of anonymity, we heard from seafarers who feel scared for
their jobs if they cannot complete tasks on time or if they speak out.

Another key issue was training and the push to get seafarers prepared for cyber rules which were set to arrive at the start of the year.

Seafarers claimed the rush to train was not matched by investment elsewhere, and whilst the cyber awareness skills and training were good in theory, they were undermined by insecure systems and/or equipment.

Where there are usually positive reports about relationships onboard, this time there was a growing sense of cynicism and tiredness.

Stress, uncertainty and pressures of work were affecting relationships and interactions
negatively, and there was a sense that the atmosphere onboard was being tainted as crews focused on just getting through and going home.

We usually hear a range of views in relation to wages, some reporting that the money is good, others bemoaning their lot.

This time the divide was between those who were simply relieved to be getting paid, versus those who felt that they were not being paid enough to compensate for having their freedoms eroded.

On to the positives, it was heartening to hear that some employers have stepped up and begun to make tangible differences to day-to-day experiences onboard.

Whilst ship owners may not be able to get people home, they can take steps to improve the quality of life on ship.

We received glowing reports from those seafarers whose employers had spent money to ensure better or cheaper internet access, companies who had raised the feeding rate, and those who had provided ships with new exercise or entertainment equipment.

This made a big difference, and those seafarers who spoke of such efforts were far happier overall.

Small gestures mean a lot, especially in difficult circumstances.

The companies which find the budget for new equipment, or who are able to improve the facilities onboard, gain a huge amount of respect from crew.

Unfortunately, we also heard negative reports about the treatment of seafarers who are travelling to countries to join ship.

Where crew enter a period of pre-sign on quarantine, there were a number of complaints about the treatment afforded to them, the sense of being singled out and forced to endure substandard accommodation and facilities. Seafarers spoke of being forced to queue like “criminals”, and of being subjected to degrading, frightening and frustrating treatment.

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