The Mission to Seafarers' latest Seafarer Happiness Index
survey shows growing levels of stress and unease amongst the seafaring
community due to the COVID-19 crisis, the maritime charity reported Wednesday.
An estimated 200,000 to 300,000 seafarers are stuck on board because of
government policies that prohibit regular crew changes, and even those who are
still within their normal contract periods are feeling the pressure, according
to the survey.
“We are in the midst of a welfare crisis. While Q1 showed us
how seafarers suffered as COVID-19 struck home and provided insight into the
support that was needed, the Q2 report highlights the cost of inaction and the
need for immediate solutions," said Steven Jones, the founder of the
index. "It is paramount that we see progress, with crew changeovers,
onboard PPE and improved communication between shore and sea, to defuse this
ticking time-bomb. Protecting our seafarers comes first and the industry must
now come together before it is too late.”
According to the report, many vessels are now sailing with
fewer crew, and those that remain have an increased workload to maintain
extra-high hygiene standards. At the same time, they must also try to maintain
social distancing measures in the close environs of a ship at sea - measures
that interfere with normal social contact and interaction with crewmates.
“Interaction is lowered, and morale has plummeted due to this pandemic,"
one survey respondent commented. Others complained that these stringent
shipboard containment measures are rendered moot by the large number of
unquarantined visitors and officials that come up the gangway during port
"Seafarers have reported feeling unsupported and
stressed, and without respite, which is impacting work standards as well as the
welfare of seafarers," The Mission to Seafarers said. "Combined with
the challenge of accessing medical services, the risk of an increase in
incidents of self-harm and in the number of accidents is very real as stress
impacts work, compromising safety at all levels."
The report also suggests that many seafarers have inadequate
access to communication services, leaving them unable to stay in touch with
their family and friends on shore in challenging times. In addition, some
report that they have little communication from their employers, leaving them
in doubt about their future.
“Never has the statement ‘money doesn’t buy happiness’ had
more meaning than in the crew crisis. No bonus or extra pay can resolve the
anguish, mental stress and problems being faced by the crew today," said
Frank Coles, the CEO of ship management company Wallem Group.