The latest Seafarers’ Happiness Index (SHI), produced by the Mission to Seafarers, has revealed a decline in overall happiness levels during the first three months of the year. The survey, which captures seafarers’ sentiments worldwide across a wide range of welfare issues, shows a fall from 7.69 to 7.1 out of 10, compared to Q4 2022.
The SHI report covers ten key questions that provide insights into the challenges and opportunities facing seafarers. The Q1 2023 survey, which was undertaken with the support of NorthStandard and Idwal, identifies a return to growing frustrations among respondents, following a period of rising happiness.
Q1 2023 data shows a decline in seafarers’ satisfaction against all questions, with the exception of connectivity. However, despite the rise in satisfaction, seafarers still reported connectivity issues at sea across different companies, as well as concerns about data allowances, internet speed, and connectivity limitations.
Shore leave and a desire to access welfare services ashore once more came to the fore as key areas for concern. Seafarers also reported growing frustration with owners who attempt to make seafarers sign on for longer periods than desired, as well as with the delays experienced in sign-off procedures.
In addition, the challenges of coping with extended periods on board have reportedly been made harder due to inadequate food provisions, bureaucratic and unnecessary paperwork demands, ineffective shipboard leadership, and a sense of social isolation adding to the stress of life onboard.
The SHI report also identified several other challenges facing seafarers, including a growing wellness gap between companies that provide health and well-being programs and those that do not, access to dental care in some ports but not others, and limited access to mental health support, medical advisory services, and physical well-being consultations. Seafarers also expressed concerns about salaries, the cost of living, and potential obstacles to career advancement.
Thom Herbert, Idwal senior marine surveyor and crew welfare advocate, commented: “The dip in the SHI in the first quarter of 2023 is a worrying sign after the steady increase last year and we will watch Q2’s results with interest to see whether this is the start of a downward trend.
“It’s very frustrating to hear about ongoing issues with lack of shore leave and sign-off procedures being delayed. Moving out of the pandemic does not make lack of shore leave any less of an issue and we need to keep a spotlight on this to ensure it improves. I was particularly interested to hear about the challenges related to onboard meals, food budgets and quality, etc. As a former seafarer, I know how important good nutrition and good food is to keep you healthy and motivated. Good meal times together can also go a long way to help the onboard culture and camaraderie. Getting food right for people is basic and we should be doing better.”