30 JUL 2020
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 calls.
“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.