Seafarer morale rebounds from record low

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Happiness increased across all categories, leading to an overall increase to 7.2/10 from 5.85 in Q1.

Much of the increase in the latest report appears to stem from the easing of constraints on seafarers related to the COVID-19 pandemic. As restrictions on international travel have eased, crew travel has become easier to facilitate and seafarers’ schedules have become clearer; the certainty of when the crew will return home has a significant impact on morale.

“After more than two years of uncertainty caused by COVID-19, seafarers are beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel,” the report said.

“Although challenges remain due to restrictions in some Asian countries, China has eased quarantine requirements for Chinese seafarers. Significantly, restrictions have also been lifted in Singapore, and the Philippines and India have also lifted a series of travel bans and COVID measures – meaning seafarers have a much better chance of returning home without issue. It lifts the mood dramatically and understandably.

Data from the report suggests that 41% of seafarers have now been on board for one to three months, a considerable improvement over recent quarters.

During the contract, there are further bonuses for seafarers as COVID restrictions ease. Many sailor centers have reopened, giving crews better access to support, entertainment and supplies ashore.

Along with the ripple effects of COVID recovery, the report noted an increased focus on seafarer welfare by owners and operators.

“The industry has also been focused on finding solutions to many of the frustrations that have plagued seafarers for years. Some of these initiatives now appear to be bearing fruit. With more vaccinations, better travel, wage increases and new amendments to the Maritime Labor Convention (MLC) raising hopes for universal maritime connectivity, there is cautious optimism. Nevertheless, while the data suggests improvements, complacency should not be allowed,” the report states.

The term ‘smile wash’ was coined in the latest report, a variant of the term ‘green wash’, to refer to companies that invest in impressive onboard facilities but do not ensure that the crew has time to use these facilities.

“These latest data show that there are signs of improvement for seafarers. However, any restoration of seafarer happiness must be handled with sensitivity and can easily be lost. It is important that the industry continues its efforts to improve crew welfare and does not rest on its laurels,” the report states.

Reverend Canon Andrew Wright, General Secretary of The Mission to Seafarers, said: “Although it has been a difficult two years, it is good to see some return of optimism, which is in large part due to the hard work that the industry has done to make life better and boost morale on board. However, there are still areas that can be improved, which is why it is so critical for organizations to continue to take meaningful steps to improve sailor happiness and crew well-being.

Thom Herbert, Idwal Crew Welfare Advocate and Senior Marine Surveyor added: “While there is an increase in score this quarter, and a source of optimism, for every positive we see there are many more negatives that still need to be processed. Hours of work and rest continue to conflict, and the individual cases cited in the report indicate that this issue deserves more attention. Communication with home remains a major challenge, and while it is good to hear that seafarers are positive about the changes in MLC, the reality is likely to be disappointing.

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