Seafarer happiness should be used as success indicator

Caption: The Mission to Seafarers has found crew happiness dipped in 2017. Credit: Dietmar Hasenpusch.

The Mission to Seafarers has urged international shipping to take seafarer happiness more seriously as a success indicator and key factor in growth. It stressed that isolation and poor working practices pose “serious threats to the reputation of the profession and the ability to recruit”.

The charity carries out an annual Seafarer Happiness Index survey, asking crew to rate their happiness out of ten on a number of factors affecting life and work on board, such as connecting with home, port facilities and shore leave. The Mission said that the last time the Index showed a decline in happiness was in 2016.

Answers from seafarers, nearly 60% of which are from South East Asia and the Indian Subcontinent, revealed that happiness among seafarers declined from 6.41 in 2016 to 6.25 in 2017. The lowest scored area was workload, with heavy workloads preventing crew from recreational activity such as exercise. Furthermore, heavy workloads in port were blamed for impacting the availability of shoreleave. Onshore facilities were another major source of unhappiness for crew.

Meanwhile, things that made crew most happy were reported to be friendships and on-board interactions. Seafarers that had access to modern standards of connectivity were also much happier, with those who had access to internet listing happiness scores of 8s, 9s and 10s in this category. However, without it, connectivity was a major source of discontent.

“Seafarer happiness is a key measure of progress and growth, as well as a tool to understand how we safeguard the future of the industry,” said Steven Jones, founder of the Seafarers Happiness Index. “Onboard a seafarer gives their entire work-life balance over to the schedule and facilities provided for them. Without respite from work and colleagues, problems and pressures build and fester. We must work to make life at sea happier.”

The survey also exposed worrying problems around compliance, with some companies cited as breaking labour laws, such as lashing of cargoes without pay as well as hours of rest not being followed and overtime agreements being reneged on. “These are serious indications that a significant number of shipping business are exploiting seafaers and in breach of laws to protect them and ensure safety onbord,” said the Mission to Seafarers.

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