Q1 2021: Shoreleave is Dead

5.25 down from 5.53

Shoreleave was once a fundamental staple of what it was to be a seafarer. Popular culture was once shaped by crews ashore in far-flung lands. The lure of signing up and seeing the world meant that going to sea and getting ashore was an incredibly important part of seafaring.

It seems we have reached a tipping point, where even asking seafarers their thoughts on shoreleave has opened us up to criticism and a range of negative responses.

“Why do you even ask anymore?” ran one response, which echoed others. “Shoreleave is not even part of my life any more”, “I can’t get ashore and would not want to if I could”, “Even before COVID shoreleave just doesn’t happen”, ran many more. While among the more hard-hitting responses there was cynicism too, “You are ignorant to think this is part of the lifestyle of seafaring…It’s laughable really. It hasn’t changed in me being at sea for 15 years and it won’t.”

The responses on shoreleave have repeatedly fallen away over the past year, and each report feels we are talking of the negative views surrounding even the concept of getting ashore.

Like some tantalising glimpse of a past world, it seems there is a lingering memory of what it once was to get time off the ship, to go and explore, to see new sights and to buy things that no one else back home had. That is no longer the case, and it seems that shoreleave is becoming something of an anachronism. Sadly.

The desire to get ashore has dropped over the past few years of the Seafarers Happiness Index, with many crew saying the costs, hassles and knock-on effects of time off the ship are not worth it. It had become the norm for seafarers to simply try to get through their trips and look forward to getting home rather than the benefits of shore calls. This has been drastically exacerbated by COVID-19.

A year with no prospect of shoreleave has seemingly hit the very prospect of getting ashore hard. Time and time again the responses were about many months onboard without getting off, with no prospect of either and of how the very idea of trying to get time off the vessel was increasingly a folly.

It seems obvious that in a pandemic that shoreleave will be virtually nonexistent. The question, then is whether it can ever make a come back and in what form? Even before COVID-19 security demands, costs, frequent inspections and ramped demands in port all made the likelihood of getting shore unlikely.

“There are simply not enough people to get the work done, and we cannot cope if people are off ashore” was the honest reflection of one senior officer. The reality of work demand means that there is less spare capacity when it comes to getting everything done.

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