Overall Seafarer Happiness has risen this quarter to 6.59 from 6.27/10. Once more we must thank all those seafarers who took the time to share their thoughts with us, and we are extremely grateful. We also hope that finally, we can see some positives across industry, and this snapshot begins to show climbs in the happiness and satisfaction data. Obviously, that can all change next time round – but for the first time, it feels like some of the improvements we have been communicating may be gaining traction. This is down to crews talking to us, and we then translating that into opportunities for the industry to improve. So, thank you to those who contribute, and those ashore who are then taking the lessons and applying them.
Despite the positive numbers, there are also naturally concerns which are raised by crew when they write in more depth and explore the issue facing them. There were a number of stand out issues in this quarter’s returns.
With the turbulent political situation globally, there were seafarers concerned with the risks of getting caught in sanctions disputes. Whether it was vessels of a certain flag or cargoes from nations which are subject to barriers, it is the seafarers who face real concerns about what happens to them if they are caught in the crosshairs of global disputes.
Such concerns were also mirrored in the concerns about the incoming low sulphur fuel rules (IMO2020). With reports of tough inspections and penalties, seafarers are beginning to sense that once more it may be them which have to run the gauntlet of disputes.
There are several key concerns which often feature in the Seafarers Happiness Index, and while the data showed some progress, there were once more concerns about shore leave. The demands on crew while in port are taking their toll on the wellbeing of seafarers, and there are calls for things to be improved.
When it comes to workload, it is not just that there is so much to be done which is the issue. There are increasing pressures to “perform perfectly”. Respondents said that with data and statistics playing such a key role in any company’s evaluation by shareholders or clients, then even the slightest blip in performance can cause real problems. So, crew are concerned about the pressure to perform, but that often they are burdened forms of top down management which just mean more for them to do, as bureaucracy, and “nonsense requests” emerge from offices ashore.
There were positives when it came to training, and many spoke of enhanced employment opportunities and career progression. Though, pressure of cost and time were repeatedly mentioned as serious concerns.
Another big climber in the happiness index was the interaction with crew – in fact 7.28 is one of the highest figures in the five years the report has been running. Again, another seemingly high-water mark of positivity. There was talk of positive interaction onboard, especially when it came to older seafarers being willing and able to share experiences and to teach others. There was also a big focus on the importance of having regular social events to build camaraderie and to boost morale.
Food is an important part of this morale aspect, and happiness, in this regard, seems to constantly rest on three key issues – the skill of the cook, the budget allocated, and the quality of the food which comes onboard. Time and time again, the issue of the cook was key. It was good to see a rise in the happiness of catering staff this time round, perhaps reflecting the status they hold onboard.
It was also hugely positive to see a significant jump in the satisfaction of seafarers when it comes to welfare provisions ashore. The Mission to Seafarers and other welfare organisations work so hard to ensure the best for crews, and it is very rewarding to hear when things go well. Though we always accept the need for improvement and hope that we are responding well to any concerns voiced by seafarers.
In a historic Seafarers Happiness Index of almost across the board positive numbers, alas there was one area which did not match the positivity elsewhere. That was the issue of connectivity and contact with family. Which was the only downward trend recorded. Those who have access to the internet, Wi-Fi and calls are “very, very happy”. Sadly, still there are simply too many who do not. Cost, quality and access remain key, and all too often seafarers are simply not getting the service they want or need.
Another issue of importance this time round was that of wage disparity. Despite the issue of wages being an overall climber in the Happiness Index unfortunately junior officers feel their salaries are too low, and that they felt unsure of still going to sea by the time their ranks and wages rose.
This should be hugely concerning to the industry, as without a pipeline of experienced junior officers to climb the ranks we could well be facing a real shortfall of manpower, skills and knowledge to come. If one combines the concerns about criminalisation, shore leave, the lack of enjoyment and the fact that many seemingly feel they can get better reward by not going to sea, then we seem to be storing major human resource problems in the near future.
We always need more data, and to hear the stories of more seafarers…and for those who have already done so, to share again. We are building new online capabilities and applications to process the data, and to make sure the voices at sea are heard. So please visit www.happyatsea.org to find out more, and to complete the survey. We also want to get these reports spread far and wide across shipping, so please do pass this on. We must also thank the companies which have approached us about setting up bespoke happiness surveys for their own fleets, and those who see the value in benchmarking their own performance against the wider population of seafarers.
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