Index identifies communication as key to crew health
As part of the Standard Club’s continuing commitment to safety at sea and focus on seafarer wellbeing, this year the Club has partnered with the Mission to Seafarers, alongside Wallem Group to support the 2021 Seafarers Happiness Index report.
This report is focussed on the impact of COVID-19 and considers how the pandemic has affected key areas of seafarer life and what has changed during the past 12 months. It highlights the extreme differences in seafarer life from those reporting the highest levels of satisfaction to those at the opposite end of the spectrum, who report extremely worrying circumstances.
The report highlights three main themes: lack of recognition for seafarers as key workers, onboard challenges, and the benefits of onboard connectivity and port welfare services. Towards the end of the reporting period, the impact of the recent Suez Canal closure on global trade and the role of seafarers and shipping fired up further pressures, causing respondents to question the levels of risk and reward.
Onboard connectivity and access to support
Encouragingly, progress is being made with more seafarers able to get online and connect with loved ones back home. More shipping companies are working to ensure crews have access to Wi-Fi and this increased connectivity is providing seafarers with renewed hope and improved morale.
Although shore leave has been significantly impacted by COVID-19, the efforts of port welfare teams has been highlighted. Ship visitors making it to the gangway and being able to communicate with the crew in a socially distanced manner, or leave gifts of gratitude and support, such as toiletries, confectionary and books may seem small gestures, but make a significant difference to happiness levels.
Lack of progress on crew changes and vaccine access
The first quarter’s responses revealed lingering fears and worries about the ongoing crew change situation. The issue of when and how seafarers will be vaccinated also came to the fore and is likely to be a long-running concern until plans are made internationally clear. Seafarers are hopeful that borders are opening again, but as some nations edge into the third wave of infections, any progress could be swiftly lost.
Seafarers consistently spoke of the pressures to work excessive hours. While many shipping companies manage working hours effectively, there are significant reports of others not applying the same standards. In addition to concern over hours, the workload and the tasks being asked of crew also take a heavy toll.
Additionally, tensions between mixed nationality crews highlighted criticisms of manning models, particularly with regards to the impact of COVID-19. It was stated that some nationalities are not allowed ashore or allowed crew changes, while others are. This appeared to be a source of tension and strain on vessels, which further impacts stress and wellbeing.
Captain Yves Vandenborn, Director of Loss Prevention, the Standard Club said: “We are extremely honoured to partner together with Mission to Seafarers and Wallem Group on the Seafarers Happiness Index. In the recent years, the Standard Club has stressed the importance of seafarer wellbeing and we were one of the initial signatories to the Neptune Declaration.