THE WELLBEING and satisfaction of crewmembers appears to have dropped again according to the Seafarers Happiness Index, marking the longest sustained decline since the index was founded.

The SHI report for the third quarter of 2023 gave seafarers’ happiness a score of 6.6 out of a possible 10, a decline from 6.77 in the second quarter and 7.1 in the first quarter.

Mission to Seafarers conducts SHI surveys with sponsorship from NorthStandard and Idwal and with additional support from Inmarsat.

The latest results showed a decline in most areas covered by the survey, including wages, workload and onboard connectivity.

The only areas to buck the trend of a decline in happiness for this quarter were shore leave, training and food, where the report showed marginal improvements.

Concerns around salary inadequacy emerged in the feedback, especially for senior roles. There were reports of how catering budget constraints forced nutritional compromises.

Connectivity and communications represented a double-edged sword in this quarter’s feedback – MtS said connectivity enables contact with loved ones but can also potentially facilitate micromanagement from ashore.

The mission said overwhelming workloads were again an issue, felt to be driven by expanding regulations and administrative tasks.

MtS flagged a growing sense of unmanageable responsibilities among seafarers, which is causing a huge amount of stress.

MtS secretary general Rev Canon Andrew Wright said it was “deeply concerning” to see seafarer happiness fall again in the third quarter.

“This extended downturn across all three quarters of 2023 so far paints a worrying picture,” he said.

“It seems clear that happiness levels will not recover to acceptable levels unless we can address the systemic challenges that continue to undermine the welfare of our seafarers, such as limited shore leave, unsustainable workloads, insufficient connectivity, and stagnant wages.”

Rev Canon Wright said the latest report also offered recommendations to address the issues.

“If we can work together in common cause as an industry, we can reverse these recent declines in seafarer wellbeing and turn the tide towards not just improved welfare at sea but ensuring that seafaring is a decent and fulfilling profession for all.”

Idwal senior marine surveyor and crew welfare advocate Thom Herbert said the downward trend in seafarer happiness mirrors the issues Idwal identifies during its vessel inspections.

“While connectivity enables constant family contact, it also risks facilitating micromanagement from ashore, persistent barriers to shore leave undermine its importance as a respite, and nutritional compromises on board highlight the basic need for well-provisioned ships and skilled catering crews.

“It is also deeply troubling to hear about the issues around gender issues and disparities.

“As ever, we believe targeted efforts to improve policies and practices in all these areas would go a long way to restoring optimism amongst crew and enhancing retention.”

And Yves Vandenborn, head of loss prevention Asia-Pacific at NorthStandard, said some areas covered in the index reflect marginal improvements while others show persistent declines.

“It is worrying that overall happiness remains hampered by persistent challenges in workloads, connectivity, and ability to keep fit and healthy on board.

“NorthStandard will continue to raise awareness on the seafarer condition and will work on collaborating with industry leaders in charting a course towards an improved working environment for seafarers worldwide.”