The Mission to Seafarers released the Seafarers Happiness Index report for Q1 2023, which shows a decline in overall happiness levels among seafarers during the first three months of the year, and levels lower than the prior three quarters of 2022. The charity which works with insurer NorthStandard and marine surveyor Idwal, reports the survey reveals growing frustrations and challenges faced by seafarers, highlighting the need for collaborative industry-wide action to improve welfare and well-being in shipping.

The survey which seeks to measure seafarers’ sentiments worldwide across a wide range of welfare issues, covers ten key questions that the organizers believe provide insights into the challenges and opportunities facing seafarers. During the most recent quarter, the index fell to 7.1 out of 10 and down from 7.69 in Q4 2022, highlighting what the Mission says is growing frustrations among respondents, following a period of rising happiness. Nine out of ten areas surveyed showed a decrease in happiness levels.

The Revd Canon Andrew Wright, Secretary General of The Mission to Seafarers, raised concern noting that “We saw the satisfaction of seafarers steadily grow throughout 2022, and this continued into the fourth quarter with a high-water mark of satisfaction at 7.69/10. Unfortunately, this positive trend came to an end in the first quarter of this year, as happiness levels have declined almost across the board.”

Many of the issues being identified rise from the long periods seafarers are spending aboard ship. Shore leave and a desire to access welfare services ashore were identified as key areas for concern. Seafarers also reported growing frustration with owners who attempt to make seafarers sign on for longer periods than desired, as well as with the delays experienced in sign-off procedures.

In addition, the challenges of coping with extended periods on board have reportedly been made harder due to inadequate food provisions, bureaucratic and unnecessary paperwork demands, ineffective shipboard leadership, and a sense of social isolation adding to the stress of life onboard. The seafarers also mentioned insufficient entertainment options on board are making it harder for them to find a reason to interact socially with their shipmates, elements that have been identified as contributing to their well-being and job satisfaction.

The report also identified several other challenges facing seafarers, including a growing wellness gap between companies that provide health and well-being programs and those that do not, access to dental care in some ports but not others, and limited access to mental health support, medical advisory services, and physical well-being consultations. Seafarers also expressed concerns about salaries, the cost of living, and potential obstacles to career advancement.

“The dip in the Seafarers’ Happiness Index in the first quarter of 2023 is a worrying sign after the steady increase last year,” said Thom Herbert, Idwal Senior Marine Surveyor and Crew Welfare Advocate.

The one area that showed an increase in satisfaction is with connectivity. Seafarers have long highlighted their desire for improved communications and the ability to maintain contact during their long periods at sea and away from home. Seafarers still however reported connectivity issues at sea across different companies, as well as concerns about data allowances, internet speed, and connectivity limitations.

The Mission to Seafarers hopes that the Seafarers Happiness Index report will draw attention to the challenges faced by seafarers and that companies and industry stakeholders will work collaboratively toward finding solutions to improve their welfare and happiness levels. According to the organizers of the survey, the current results illustrate how important it is to maintain momentum on seafarer welfare and why there can be zero complacency over the conditions in which seafarers find themselves.

The Seafarers Happiness Index is a barometer of the key issues facing those at sea, conducted every three months. Seafarers are asked ten key questions about their experiences, via an online survey.