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Seafarer optimism is showing a slight uptick globally in the second quarter of the regular Seafarers Happiness Index, but the report says this recovery is delicate and could easily be lost if the industry sees more crew change issues.
After reaching a record low in the first quarter of 2022, the Q2 Seafarers Happiness Index report published by The Mission to Seafarer shows that seafarer happiness levels are starting to recover. Overall happiness has increased from 5.85 to 7.21/10, with levels rising across all categories.
The latest survey, undertaken with the support of the Standard Club and Idwal, shows that the influx of industry solutions to tackle seafarer wellbeing may have finally begun to lift morale. With more vaccinations, more frequent crew changes, wage rises and new amendments to the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC), there has been a knock-on effect for seafarer optimism.
The Seafarers Happiness Index results also have a lot of resonance with the Nautilus International Social Conditions Report – a decades-long research project to measure how Union members are being treated in the maritime workplace.
Published on the back of the Covid-19 pandemic, the life onboard section of the latest Nautilus survey clearly showed that improved pay and improved connectivity for mental health and wellbeing are key priorities for seafarers, alongside concerns over fatigue due to the under reporting of hours of work and rest – a problem also flagged a concern by the Seafarers' Happiness Index.
However, while the latest Happiness Index data does suggest improvements, now is not the time for complacency.
An easing of the Covid-19 crisis
The Q2 Seafarers Happiness Index highlights that Covid restrictions are now easing, and more Seafarer Centres at ports are open and able to support seafarers with the provisions they need when ashore. The biggest contributing factor to an improvement of mood has been that the most fundamental aspect of seafaring now appears more certain – knowing when you are going home. The data from Q2 reflects that the industry is getting better at making crew changes more regularly, with 41% of seafarers onboard for between just 1 and 3 months.
Renewed focus on seafarer wellbeing
There has been a marked increase in a range of areas that contribute to overall improved seafarer wellbeing. This includes a focus on social events onboard that boost morale with increased backing and the support of leadership; there was also a jump in seafarer satisfaction with food on board.
MLC optimism on connectivity
Improved rights for seafarers to internet connectivity under the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) – which Nautilus successfully championed during MLC amendment negotiations – has also been met with cautious optimism by seafarers. Although, there is also a wariness of the implications of cost and quality of service for improved communications to family and friends.
In spite of the rise of optimism… We cannot ignore the negatives and we cannot ignore the creeping concerns about "grin washing", where crews have facilities onboard but the reality is of too little time to take advantage
No room for complacency
This latest data shows there are signs of better things ahead for seafarers. However, any recovery can easily be lost, indicates the report. It is important that the industry continues the work to improve crew wellbeing and does not rest on its laurels.
Secretary general of The Mission to Seafarers The Revd Canon Andrew Wright said: 'It is great to see seafarer happiness increase after such low satisfaction in the last Seafarers Happiness Index report. As always, there is much to be learned from hearing directly from seafarers on how they feel about life at sea – the positives and negatives. By listening, we can better understand, empathise and make the necessary changes to improve seafarers' lives and experiences.
'There are still areas that can be improved upon, which is why it's so critical for organisations to continue taking meaningful steps to boost seafarer happiness and crew welfare. With increased investment and thoughtful leadership, we can work together and find solutions that continue to improve the quality of life at sea for seafarers.'
Idwal crew welfare advocate and senior marine surveyor Thom Herbert commented: 'While there is an increase in the score this quarter, and cause for optimism, for every positive we see there are many more negatives that still need to be addressed