Research sheds light on seafarer work and living conditions

Seafarers report a reduction in length of tours of duty and average hours worked in ports and at sea.

Seafarers have reported a reduction in length of tours of duty and average hours worked in ports and at sea in a report published by the Seafarers International Research Centre (SIRC).

SIRC harvested the input of seafarers from the United Kingdom, the Philippines, and China in 2011 and 2016 on key factors significantly effecting physical and mental wellbeing, as identified by previous SIRC research. Such factors include noise, vibration, light, cabin design, working hours, and employment stability.

A reduction in the length of tours of duty and in average hours worked in ports and at sea were among several key improvements reported. Survey data analysis verified that in 2011, 55% of respondents worked on tours of 6 months or more. However, in 2016 this had fallen dramatically to 34%. The number of reported hours worked at sea and in port dropped during the five-year period, with the mean number of hours worked per day falling from 10.276 in 2011 to 9.755 in 2016.

However, survey data revealed that 75% of seafarers are still employed on temporary contracts and the stress of financial instability remains an issue. Responses also highlighted that nationality had a significant effect on contract status, with Filipino seafarers the most likely to be employed on temporary contracts, followed by Indians, Chinese, and lastly UK seafarers – the only group where the predominant contract held was a permanent one.

Responses reflected that little progress has been made to improve living arrangements on board, which has a negative impact on the possibilities for mental restoration. In 2016, the majority of seafarers surveyed reported the absence of carpeted cabins or fridge access within cabins, about a third lacked access to comfortable chairs within messrooms, a fifth of seafarers lacked access to a drying room/machine, and a third lacked access to ironing facilities.

On board, cabin sharing is reportedly experienced by around 1 in 10 seafarers and is increasingly unwelcome; access to private bathroom facilities has not improved; cabin space and storage space remain inadequate for around one third of seafarers; access to natural light, an unrestricted view, and an ability to adjust temperature remain disappointingly unchanged over the period; and noise disturbance within cabins has not significantly reduced. However, connectivity has increased, with seafarers noting that free onboard internet access had risen.