- Politicians might be one of the most maligned occupations in the country, but seafarers must be a close second when you realize how they are often treated.
- A lot of people still don’t know that an important link lies in those supply chains, shipping and the workers on board.
- Over 90% of all goods globally are transported by ship. Those ships are operated by seafarers of all nationalities.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority is doing a great job in catching and fining unscrupulous managers and owners of ships that frequent Australian ports when mistreatment or underpayment of crew is detected. However, they are only catching the tip of the iceberg.
Change In Mindset
Australian-flagged and Australian-managed ships pay their crews a decent wage and endeavor to relieve them after a reasonable time on board the ship so they can spend time with their families. It is a different story in many overseas countries, where unscrupulous shipowners that operate under a so-called “flag of convenience” mistreat their crews. They pay their crews a pittance – sometimes not even providing them with decent or sufficient food. The Covid pandemic hasn’t helped how seafarers are treated, with some of them being on board their ship for more than a year without being able to go ashore, let alone going home at the end of their contract.
The UK government recently published a 30-page report looking into one of shipping’s darkest secrets: suicides at sea. It offered a number of recommendations to help fix a grimly underreported scourge plaguing the industry. The report was penned by Ipsos for the UK’s Department for Transport and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. “There are a lot of cowboy flag states out there that I’m concerned about … that don’t have robust reporting in place,” one shipowner interviewed for the study said.
Lacking Basic Amenities
For most people living on land, some form of internet access is guaranteed, even in developing countries. This is not so on ships. Whilst most cruise vessels offer their passengers complimentary Wi-Fi this is not the case on many commercial vessels.
Not having internet access even contributed to a recent incident where the vessel sailed dangerously close to the coast of Mauritius and ran aground on a reef causing a significant oil spill and loss of the vessel. The vessel’s normal course would have steered well clear of the dangerous coastline, but the ship’s command decided to sail closer to the shore so the crew could have phone reception and ring home.
Seafarer Happiness Index
Fortunately, The Seafarer Happiness Index has revealed a welcome rise in optimism for the third quarter of 2022, as solutions to crew welfare challenges emerge. The index is an initiative of the Mission to Seafarers. The charity asks seafarers ten key questions through an ongoing, online survey and publishes the results quarterly to gauge the levels of happiness at sea and understand the challenges crewmembers face.
Survey scores indicate seafarer “happiness levels” reached 7.30 out of a possible 10 in the third quarter of this year, up from 7.21 in the previous quarter. Mission to Seafarers said the latest data follows a sustained increase in crew satisfaction after a record low of 5.85 out of 10 earlier this year.
Let’s hope that the Happiness Index continues to rise and that seafarers receive the treatment (and wages) they deserve when keeping our supply chains intact against all odds whilst sometimes enduring extreme personal hardships.
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