COVID uncertainty and fluctuations led to major impact in seafarer welfare; The Mission to Seafarers reiterates call for key worker status and further investment in seafarer support during 2022, says a press release published in Missiontoseafarers website.
Seafarers Happiness Index
The Q4 2021 Seafarers Happiness Index report, published today by The Mission to Seafarers, reveals the sustained impact of COVID-19 throughout the year, with the Index’s measure of overall happiness decreasing from 6.59 to 6.41.
The survey, undertaken with the support of Wallem Group and the Standard Club, highlights that 2021 saw seafarer happiness rise and fall throughout the year, a trend that mirrors the waves of COVID infections.
Where there has been an opening up of economies and international movement, seafarer sentiment has improved, while in times of rising infections and restrictions on movement, happiness levels among seafarers have fallen. This clear correlation highlights how national decisions impact international seafarers.
A wellbeing crisis
With unpredictable variants and different rates of outbreaks across the world, the ‘yo-yo’ nature of the pandemic is having a serious impact on mental health. Seafarers raised concerns about the draconian nature of repeated COVID testing, as well as the quality of quarantine provision.
Relationships onboard are strained and there have been an increasing number of seafarers talking of bullying, harassment, and frictions on their ships. Growing numbers are reporting of plans for a career change, warning that a shortage of replacement crews and a drain of seafarers away from the industry will be imminent.
The gap in connectivity grows
The report highlights that progress is being made on the issue of ship-shore connectivity, with seafarers reporting online access has increased. Seafarers also expressed their gratitude for campaigns to deliver free access to calls or internet access over the holiday period.
However, the survey highlighted a very clear divide between vessels that provided free or affordable access, compared to those that do not. There is a chasm in the responses, and more and more seafarers are stating that they always check what access they will have before accepting new contracts.
Recognition for the invisible front-line workers
Seafarers responding to the survey highlighted the lack of recognition as key workers, despite so many initiatives in support of this status. In addition, concerns were expressed over limited freedom of movement, a shortage of vaccinations, and a perception that the profits of shipping companies are not being fed back into the workforce who keep seaborne trade going.
Some respondents also reported that standards were dropping. It is immensely concerning that practical training for emergencies appears to be falling away. However, it is perhaps a consequence of the reality of seafarers spending too long at sea. There is apathy creeping in, even about standards and safety. Careful, considered management is needed to make seafarers engage with safety once more.
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