Q1 2020 – Special COVID19 Focus

The fact that the Seafarers Happiness Index for Q1 2020 naturally featured so many comments about COVID-19 and the separate and distinct pressures and issues surrounding it. We felt it was important to bring these together in the report, to give them the spotlight they deserve.

Seafarers reported feeling that not enough is being done to ensure the safety of those on board. They reported feeling physically exhausted, mentally disturbed, homesick and anxious.

The trend for crew changes to be delayed or postponed have meant that many feel forced to serve beyond their contract period, and now even being asked to renew their contracts to avoid censure.

The majority of seafarers felt that their vessels were safe from the virus, and the fear of people coming aboard from ashore which is the problem. It was stated that in every port the officers and crew are exposed to infection, be it from health department/surveyor/ shore crew/ pilot / agent or anyone ashore.

Seafarers mentioned solutions such as policies which demand “zero contact” with no one from ashore coming onboard. However, the realities of shipping operations place demands on the crew which many written policies either overlook or do not anticipate. Where people do come onboard, it was noted that different nations have very diverse ideas on social distancing. There were also concerns about security issues when people wearing masks board the vessel.

The pandemic has highlighted the fact that port States do not see seafarers as a priority, and where there are health issues the focus has understandably been on local nationals. This means that seafarers feel cut adrift from the medical and emotional support they need.

There is sense of constant dread and almost paranoia creeping in. Seafarers are not only dealing with normal cargo operations but are also coping with precautions, sanitising and living under a constant pressure of infection. This ironically sees them feel even more vulnerable and susceptible to the virus.

Ships seem to be breeding grounds for infection. Seafarers spoke about concerns that the closed environment on board ships, with air conditioning often running, is likely to assist in spreading the virus. There are real concerns about the impact of the virus hitting onboard, as the lack of emergency response skills and equipment is a huge concern. Also, the fact that any infected vessel will not be allowed into port.

The issue of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is a problem. Whether from the ship perspective and the lack of it onboard. Or where people come onboard but are not properly or adequately protected.

Crews feel they are doing their best to serve the world under these stressful times, and they do so knowing that their lives are potentially at stake. There is a sense of pride in doing so, and this will hopefully be reflected as States deem seafarers as key workers.

Thank you to our sponsors The Wallem Group and The Shipowners Club: Access the full report here: SHI Q1 2020 Covid-19 FINAL 

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