Crew responding to the LR survey have reported feeling unhappy, worry about things they cannot control and do not feel well rested.
Twenty-seven percent of survey respondents indicated poor management of workload and fatigue in their teams and not being able to get a good quality of sleep.
Furthermore, they also report not socialising on board, not being able to exercise as much as they would like to and not having access to good quality food.
The latest Mission to Seafarers’ Happiness Index, which is conducted every three months, appears to corroborate the LR survey results.
Released in October 2020, the latest Seafarers Happiness Index showed that the ongoing crew change crisis has chipped away at seafarers’ hopes for action to resolve the impact of extended employment contracts.
Although the index went up to 6.35, from 6.18 for the second quarter of 2020, the scores dropped as the third quarter progressed.
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 on board.
“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.
Mission to Seafarers highlights that there are reports of crew pulling together and a growing sense of unity in the face of the unprecedented challenge they face. On the other hand, other seafarers reported more social conflict on ships, as the social bonds between crewmates come under pressure. Protective measures onboard, including wearing masks and social distancing, have weakened social cohesion, causing loneliness among seafarers.
UK Chamber of Shipping’s policy director (Employment and Legal) Tim Springett told LR that social distancing measures could reduce opportunities for interaction.
He said, “If someone had symptoms and therefore was required to self-isolate and not permitted to work, then this would be a reason to prohibit social interaction. Most companies recognise the importance of social interaction for optimal crew welfare and encourage crew members to socialise.”
The Mission to Seafarers is assisting seafarers who feel trapped at sea, by working through its seafarer centres, including adapting facilities to make them ‘COVID-secure’ and developing alternative solutions such as online chats with its chaplains. However, some seafarers report feeling caught between the restrictions shore leave and fears of COVID-19 exposure if they do go ashore.
LR’s senior principal human factors consultant Jo Stokes opined that if all the crew on board test negative for COVID-19 prior to embarkation, social distancing measures can be eased.
“Alternatively, ships sailing for more than 14 days as a cohesive unit, with no one is showing any symptoms, can be considered as people living in the same “household” and as such should be allowed to socialise,” said Stokes.