In Conclusion: Thoughts on Q4 2020

Thank you to all those seafarers who took the time to share their thoughts with us. We are extremely grateful. They told us the things which really frustrate and concern them, the things that make a positive difference, and offered some opportunities for improvement.

SMALL RISE, CONCERNS REMAIN

The average happiness levels rose once more this time around, but by a very small amount. However, given the negative backdrop of world events, this was again something of a surprise. The average SHI results showed happiness levels of seafarers at 6.37/10 up from 6.35 in Q3.

The drivers of this slight rise in satisfaction appear to be the fact that some owners have been doing more than talking about the needs of their crews, they have been responding to them. That is not always about being able to achieve the impossible or even the difficult.

SMALL STEPS TO HAPPINESS

We all know that it is proving incredibly challenging to get seafarers home, or out to ships. No, the positives come in small steps – it is the happiness which comes when owners invest in better or cheaper connectivity for their fleet it is the increase in feeding rates meaning better food and more choice, or it is the provision of new gym or entertainment equipment.

These areas saw climbs in happiness because seafarers felt valued, appreciated and understood. Time and time again the responses were about the gratitude when employers do the small things which make a difference.

Yes, of course, seafarers want the whole crew change debacle sorting, but they do understand that often the ship owners are not able to do that. They can, however, make life more enjoyable at sea, and it was great to see the impact where that was happening.

EASING WOES

It was good to see that some companies have sought to ease their woes by spending to make improvements. While shipping companies are right to bemoan and rail against the current international system which is trapping their employees, they can at least do something to make life better! New ideas, investment and encouragement can do so much to ease the burdens in this awful time.

There were expressions of thanks too, to the ship visitors. The people who, even though they cannot get onboard, and cannot welcome crew to their centres, they still managed to get care packages and support to the ships. In these dark times, the efforts of welfare organisations and volunteers have been a real shining light.

GET US HOME

There were problems as well, and seafarers opened up about a number of potential issues which are very much a cause for concern. The impact of the problems of getting seafarers home are being acutely felt, and some senior officers said this was the worst situation they have known in decades in the industry. The effect on morale is being felt, and it is having a hugely detrimental effect on the mental health and wellbeing at sea.

Workload is still high, and seemingly increasing, Seafarers reported incessant work, and of being exhausted, and at breaking point. This is very concerning, and there are real fears on the impact of safety too. Accidents are likely to happen with such tired, fatigued and stressed seafarers.

It was very sad to read the impact of the current situation on shipboard life. Seafarers reported that boredom is really beginning to take hold, they are sick of their food, fed up with each other and just want to get home. With nothing to look forward too, it is perhaps unsurprising that so many seafarers wrote to share their negative views.

Unsurprisingly shoreleave is continually on the decline, and seafarers no longer even seem to want to or expect to get time ashore. Though sadly it seems that the time alongside is not one of any relaxation or let-up in pressure. Now with the rise of remote inspections, seafarers bemoaned the fact that they are now having to wander around the vessel with mobile phones to shoot video or take photos. Once more it seems that the promise of technology means more work for crews, not less.

On the subject of technology, many seafarers had experienced a ramping up in cyber security awareness and training. While that is positive and needed with new IMO rules having entered into force, sadly many seafarers reported that the training was not likely to deliver, as the equipment on board was not always seemingly fit for purpose.

A key aspect of any seafarers life is money, and the issue of wages came to the fore once more. While there was a sense of relief for those who were still getting paid, and a growing sense of worry for those who aren’t. There was also a rising sentiment that the money being paid is not worth the sacrifice in freedom. Being trapped at sea, not knowing when contracts will end or when reliefs will arrive is having a major impact on the view of seafarers, and it seems the normal pay packets are no substitute for the end of a voyage and the chance to go home.

THANK YOU AND TELL US MORE

We always need more data, and to hear the stories of more seafarers…and for those who have already done so, to share again. So please visit www.happyatsea.org to find out more, and to complete the survey. We also want these reports to be spread as far and wide across shipping as possible, so please do share these findings.

We must also thank the companies which have approached us about setting up bespoke happiness surveys for their own fleets as they see the value in benchmarking their performance against the wider population of seafarers.

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