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Latest Seafarers Happiness Index report shows mix of hope and despair as crew change crisis lingers

3 November 2020

The newly-released Seafarers Happiness Index report for July-September 2020 has revealed an average increase in happiness levels from 6.18 to 6.35 compared to the previous quarter, though there are signs that optimism is diminishing.

The positive overall result in the report, which was produced by maritime welfare charity Mission to Seafarers, masks significant fluctuations between July and September.

Early responses from seafarers were quite positive, driven by rising hopes about the re-opening of national borders and a solution to the pandemic-related crew change crisis.

Unfortunately, this optimism was lost as the quarter progressed, with the second wave of infections dashing the hopes of many seafarers for a return home or a return to work.

Looking at relationships onboard during this quarter, there have been welcome reports of crew pulling together in the face of exceptional challenges.

'Worryingly, though, there are also reports of a rise in social conflict onboard, as the social bonds between crewmates come under pressure,' the Mission said. Some of this pressure seems related to the need on some vessels to wear disease-preventing face masks and carry out social distancing, which is contributing to feelings of isolation and unease in crewmates' company.

The findings of the report make it clear that the crew change crisis has not gone away. Seafarers continue to report their dismay and frustration as trips are extended beyond their contractual timeframes and workers are still expected to put in long hours.

The survey also reveals the growing impact on the welfare of seafarers who cannot join vessels and are facing severe financial consequences as a result. These seafarers feel they have nowhere to turn and report a sense of being the forgotten victims of the crisis – an issue which is particularly acute among those who work in the cruise sector.

Mission to Seafarers secretary general Andrew Wright commented: 'Once again, the Seafarers Happiness Index has revealed the immense human cost of the Covid-19 pandemic among the men and women who serve at sea and upon whom we all depend. It is deeply worrying to learn of the impact on the bonds between crewmates and the damage to social cohesion onboard. All of us who care about our seafarers must act now and act faster to deliver the immediate support and relief that they need, along with a longer-term plan of action; one that meets the needs of those serving at sea and those stranded ashore.'

  • The Seafarers Happiness Index report is produced every three months by the maritime welfare charity Mission to Seafarers with the support of the Shipowners' Club and Wallem Group. Hundreds of seafarers take part, and are asked 10 key questions about their experiences via an online survey
  • Read the Seafarers Happiness Index report covering July-September 2020