A serious seafarer recruitment and retention crisis is looming unless governments and ship managers take steps to allow more shore time and improve conditions onboard ships.
The release of the 2021 Seafarers Happiness Index shows seafarer happiness levels have reached an all-time low, driven by the extra strain of spending months aboard without any shore time as COVID restrictions bite.
The detailed report, based on thousands of anonymised responses to 10 key questions, is compiled quarterly by the welfare charity Mission to Seafarers, with support from Standard Club and ship manager Wallem. It describes an increasingly demoralised workforce already facing heavy workloads and variable conditions aboard feeling the pressure of the lack of shore time, coupled with perceived low wages.
“We are sleepwalking to a manning crisis,” warned Yves Vandenborn, Director of Loss Prevention at Standard Club. “Resentment is brewing amongst this critical workforce due to the lack of shore leave, uncertainty of trip duration, draconian COVID testing and general lack of recognition.”
Despite the efforts of the international maritime community over the past two years, seafarers are still not designated as key workers. The Standard Club, a signatory to the Neptune Declaration on Seafarer Wellbeing and Crew Change, is again calling on authorities around the world to assign key worker status to the global seafaring workforce to facilitate crew changes and support the logistics of crew travel.
Over the last two years Standard Club has worked with its members, providing information as well as recommending and sharing best practice strategies to improve seafarer wellbeing during the pandemic. The Club is now urging the wider industry to prioritise seafarers’ conditions. Whilst shore-leave and travel restrictions are out of the hands of shipping companies, life onboard is not and varies widely across the industry.
The Seafarers Happiness Index report clearly shows that the ability to keep fit and healthy, the provision of good internet connections, training and protected rest hours, correlate with seafarer happiness levels.