Specifically, in the latest report, overall seafarer happiness dropped to 6.13/10 from 6.59 the previous quarter. The data comes from over 2000 respondents, with surveys completed in the final quarter of 2019.

Across all vessel types, three key issues rose from the survey responses over the three-month period:

  • Workload stress caused by changes in regulations;
  • A drop in satisfaction with access to welfare facilities ashore;
  • An increase in racism experienced while at sea.

Taking into consideration the then-impending global Sulphur cap, which took effect on 1 January 2020, it is not unexpected to see a rise in concern among seafarers over changes in workload and responsibilities resulting from the new regulations. There seem to be continuous claims of pressure surrounding inspections and audits, in addition to the demands of ‘day to day’ administration and paperwork

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In addition, responses related to shore leave indicate that seafarers are not able to reap the benefits of welfare facilities ashore, which affects their well-being. For this reason, there needs to be an industry-wide drive to ensure correct visas are acquired so that seafarers can enjoy the benefits of shore-based welfare facilities while in ports and terminals.

A significant finding is that there has been a fall in happiness regarding interaction with other crew this quarter, coming in at 6.67/10, down from 7.28. Namely, troubling accounts of racism were raised, with concerning reports that victims do not feel they have anywhere to formally complain or ask for support.

This is an area of concern which has been mirrored in earlier reports of sexism. The industry has a responsibility to recognise these concerns and respond to the calls for an independent complaint line or procedure to support seafarers

On the positive side, seafarers are happier with their ability to keep in contact with loved ones when at sea. The data presents that crews who have good quality, low-cost access to the internet and good communication with their families are far happier than those who do not. This is an encouraging indication of the benefits to seafarers from widespread improvements to connectivity at sea.

What is more, happiness levels among seafarers in the cruise sector continue to increase, with a general upward trend in views on opportunities for career development within the industry.

Commenting on the new report, Steven Jones, Founder of the Seafarers Happiness Index, said:

After our two previous reports, it is a very positive sign to see that the levels of happiness among seafarers in the Cruise sector continue to rise to 7/10, from 5.3 in the second quarter and 6.3 in the third quarter of 2019. It is also great to hear of the pride seafarers feel when providing for their families and communities. There is a sense of sacrifice, but where that translates into tangible positives for the families, seafarers are happier in their role

How happy generally when at sea? - 6.17 ↓ from 6.37

There was a small dip in overall happiness levels this quarter, which was perhaps to be expected as the lead up to the holiday season tends to take its toll emotionally for seafarers. The prospect of being away from home during key family times is something that was mentioned by respondents.

How happy with your work load? - 5.59 ↓ from 6.16

Continuous pressure about inspections and audits, in addition to the overload of checklists and paperwork, makes the job tough and harder than it needs to be. Technology was meant to be easing this burden, but there is little or no indication that this is the case.

How happy about the training you receive? - 6.38 ↓ from 6.91

There were many respondents who were extremely pleased that their companies supported them and they felt in-house and external training was a hugely positive experience, giving them the skill and knowledge to improve and advance their careers. Sadly, this was not a view or experience shared by all. One seafarer reported computer-based training (CBT) as a “waste of time”, and saw many courses as simply “a tickbox service for shipping companies”.

How happy about wages/salary? - 6.09 ↓ from 6.57

Whether stagnation, exchange fluctuations or rising costs and taxation at home, seafarers repeatedly stated that their wages seemed to be falling in real terms.

How happy about access to shore leave? - 5.59 ↓ from 6.16

Seafarers are not happy with the barriers they face when trying to have much-needed and deserved time away from the vessel. From the demands of work in port, to costs and immigration hurdles, through to the fact that they often feel too fatigued to even face leaving the ship, the problems are many. Despite new rules that ports are meant to abide by, it seems to be no easier to get ashore.

How happy about your ability to keep fit and healthy on board? 6.41 ↓ from 6.84

Time, space, encouragement and ability to keep fit and healthy are vital to making life better at sea. This comes across loud and clear in the Happiness Index responses. Crew are unequivocal about the benefits and importance of sports and exercise equipment, and of having the time to use it.

How happy about contact with family when at sea? 6.96 ↑ from 6.82

Rather surprisingly, the only question to show an upward trend in the data was that relating to connectivity, usually an area of dissatisfaction for seafarers. Seafarers see connectivity as a “necessity”. It was also suggested that when access improves, seafarers will be less likely to leave their careers at sea. Whether that is the case remains to be seen, but it seems that there is a simple answer to any downturn in recruitment and retention.

Conclusions

Overall, while this report shows a reduction in satisfaction towards the end of 2019, it must be recognised that the festive period is a difficult time for most seafarers who are away from family and this could have contributed to the decrease in happiness.

However, despite the dip, crews felt that they were seeing an improvement in the connectivity services. Furthermore, the pride felt by seafarers in providing for their families is beneficial to their health and well-being. Industry-wide changes are also driving important progress in seafarer satisfaction and the impact of further improvements in the industry cannot be underestimated.

Seafarers Happiness Index