The Mission to Seafarers has found that seafarers are becoming less happy and has urged international shipping to take the issue more seriously.
Seafarer happiness, it said, is a success indicator and key factor in corporate growth, while crew isolation and poor working practices pose “serious threats to the reputation of the profession and the ability to recruit”.
The charity carries out an annual Seafarer Happiness Index survey, asking crew to rate their happiness out of 10 on factors affecting life and work on board, such as connecting with home, port facilities, and shore leave. The mission said the last time the index showed a decline in happiness was in 2016.
Answers from seafarers, nearly 60% of whom were from southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent, showed a decline in happiness from 6.41 in 2016 to 6.25 in 2017.
The area that scored lowest was workload, which, when heavy, prevented crew from engaging in recreational activity. Furthermore, heavy workloads in port were blamed for reducing the chance to take shore leave. Onshore facilities were another major source of unhappiness for crew.
Things that made crew most happy were reported to be friendships and onboard interactions. Individuals with access to modern standards of connectivity were much happier, with those with internet access giving happiness scores of 8s, 9s, and 10s. However, without it, connectivity was a major source of discontent.
“Seafarer happiness is a key measure of progress and growth, as well as a tool to understand how we safeguard the future of the industry,” said Steven Jones, founder of the Seafarers Happiness Index. “On board, seafarers give their entire work-life balance over to the schedule and facilities provided for them. Without respite from work and colleagues, problems and pressures build. We must work to make life at sea happier.”
The survey exposed some worrying problems with compliance. Some companies were cited as breaking labour laws, such as requiring the lashing of cargoes without pay, not following the required hours of rest, and reneging on overtime agreements. “These are serious indications that a significant number of shipping business are exploiting seafarers,” said the Mission to Seafarers.