2021 The Yo Yo Year

2021 has seen seafarer happiness yo-yo through the year. A trend that almost perfectly mirrors the rising waves of COVID infections. Where there has been an opening up of movement, the optimism saw sentiment rise. While in times of rising infections and movement bans, the rates have fallen. Which highlights the real-world impacts of decision making on seafarers.

At the start of the year, we saw an ever so slight upward trajectory from the data. While the margins of improvement were fine, it seemed there was some optimism that the worst of 2020 was behind us and issues like seafarer vaccination, shoreleave and freedom of movement could be sorted.

While crews were still caught up on COVID impacts and vaccine concerns, the rising numbers were good to see. Though lingering fears, worries and doubts about the crew change situation remained.

Sadly, but perhaps unsurprisingly given the problems facing crews, tensions onboard were running high. At the start of the year, there were many more seafarers than normal talking of bullying, harassment, and tension on their ships.  We heard worrying reports about xenophobia and even racism. Oppression, victimisation and intimidation were mentioned as a real cause for concern.

The downward trend should serve as a reminder that the maritime world is not dealing well with COVID, because nations are not supporting the industry. Which means seafarers are suffering. From small scale injustices and frustrations to life and career-changing realisations. Seafaring may never recover unless life at sea is improved, and unless seafarers are recognised and respected as key/essential workers.

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