Home International Maritime Q4 2023: Seafarers Attribute Overworking Aboard Ships As Bane To Drop In...

Q4 2023: Seafarers Attribute Overworking Aboard Ships As Bane To Drop In Happiness Index

Seafarer' aboard vessels working tirelessly

The latest Seafarers’ Happiness Index for Q4 2023 recorded a fourth successive quarterly drop in seafarer happiness.

The report from Mission to Seafarers charted a decline in happiness through 2023, starting at 7.1 in the first quarter, down to 6.77 in Q2, then 6.6 in Q3 and 6.36 in the latest Q4 report.

The factors weighing on the index numbers were varied, but included seafarers feeling overworked and underappreciated, social isolation, a lack of shore leave, and stagnating wages.


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The report noted that towards the end of its reporting period, concerns were raised by survey respondents about the security situation in the Red Sea and its effect on trip length and general certainty.

The full impact on seafarers is likely to be reflected in the Q1 2024 report, the authors said.

Across the 10 questions asked by the Seafarers Happiness Index, happiness was lower across seven, higher on two and remained the same on one.

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A minor increase was recorded for connectivity, which rose to 7.0 from 6.81 in Q3 2023, although issues were reported with limited, slow, and unreliable connections and high costs for data. Connectivity remained a key factor in seafarers choosing a vessel or company.

Access to shore leave was the other increase in the report, edging up to 6.14 from 6.06. Limiting factors for shore leave include COVID-era policies that have not been updated, port restrictions, short vessel stays and lack of transport from terminals.

“As we have heard before, there are also allegations that some unscrupulous ship agents are taking advantage of seafarers, which is a huge concern, and something which needs to be addressed,” said the report.

The sharpest drops in happiness were recorded for social interaction and training. Opinion on training quality was split, with some seeing access to training as an empowering career benefit and others complaining of a lack of time to complete training, inexperienced training staff, and some exercises feeling like tick-box tasks rather than a means of gaining knowledge and understanding. The training index fell from 7.1 in Q3 2023 to 6.5 in Q4.

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“There seems to be a mix of opinions regarding the volume of training provided, with some seafarers feeling overwhelmed by excessive or what they feel is “unnecessary training”, whilst others expressed the need for more advanced and practical training, especially in automation, new fuels and electronics,” said the report.

Crew interaction dropped to 6.97 from 7.42. Regular rosters of crew was noted as having a positive impact on morale as seafarers get to know each other and build respect, and incentivising investment in training. One the negative side, crew members observed others spending time alone in their cabins on gadgets or using the internet instead of socialising in common areas.

The Revd Canon Andrew Wright, Secretary General of The Mission to Seafarers, said:
“Following the uptick in seafarer happiness in late 2022 after the lifting of COVID restrictions, it is very disappointing to see the downward trend in happiness over the course of 2023. If there was ever any complacency about the circumstances facing seafarers around the globe, these results surely dispel that. We know that some ship owners and managers are doing fantastic work to invest in the wellbeing of their crew, but sadly the overall picture remains concerning.

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“From perennial concerns over an unsustainable workload, insufficient shore leave, limited rest hours, financial concerns and the burden of separation from family, we now see rising concerns over the security risks facing seafarers, whether in the Red Sea or in high-risk piracy waters. Seafarers often feel the world’s crises first and hardest, as we have seen in recent years.”