Q1 2021: Wages Are Stagnating

6.50 up from 6.48

Satisfaction with wage levels seems to have been on the rise and has increased across a year of Index reports. It appears that when other big issues are going on, wages come as some comfort and there is gratitude just to be earning.

Unfortunately, we did hear from some seafarers struggling to get wages owed to them, though they did indicate that with the support of unions and welfare organisations, that they were hopeful of receiving what is owed.

It was interesting to note the impact on seafarer self-worth prompted by the Suez Canal blockage, the media focus on global trade, and the role of seafarers and shipping. This fired up respondents to question the levels of risk and reward. Why they asked, when shipping company earnings have surged, had seafarer wages remained stagnant? One said, “One would expect when prices for anything related to ships went to the roof, but salaries for seafarers stayed the same as 20 years ago. Isn’t that strange?”

There were also points made about the importance of seafarers, and how this is not adequately reflected. “And now we have a single giant container vessel disrupted the Suez and shipping for days. Ask yourself how much a helmsman on that container vessel earn per month? Less than USD1700. And on the navigation bridge, junior deck officer’s salary has not changed in a long time”.

While for now, most respondents seemed to be broadly pleased just to be paid, there were enough comments about wage stagnation to suggest a growing sense of frustration and annoyance. Repeated comments claimed that seafarer wages have remained roughly the same for an extended period while costs have risen drastically. This appears to be a problem and one which may bubble to the surface once the industry settles down post-COVID.

Even those who felt positive about wage levels found some cause for concern. “The salary is good, but not good enough for the time I missed home. Not to mention the work-related stress and pressure. I always have a thought to retire early and just be satisfied with the land-based work pay……Seafarers salary should be increased more, that it will be more enticing. As of now, I am considering working ashore”. This was a sentiment that echoed throughout the returns.

Other vocal criticisms emerged where seafarers felt nationalistic issues at play. With claims that low-cost labour was undermining the market, and concerns about, “a destructive cycle and race to the bottom with salaries”.

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