Camaraderie of supportive crew helps seafarers’ morale when at sea

According to the latest Seafarers Happiness Index Quarter 3 2023, the general satisfaction level of seafarers dropped down from 6.71 in Q2 to 6.66 in this reporting period. While only relatively small, this decline indicates yet again the persistence of negative issues impacting morale and happiness for those working aboard ships.

Life at sea can hold an allure for many seafarers, and there are some who still see it as giving them a chance to explore the world and earn steady pay. Some enthusiastic voices described seagoing as a “rewarding adventure” that allows them to provide for their families back home. However, extended periods away can lead to profound homesickness and isolation.

The camaraderie of a supportive crew can help foster enjoyment and fulfilling relationships during long voyages. Yet, as we have heard so many times before, when overwork, stress, and outdated conditions prevail, satisfaction quickly deteriorates.

Dissatisfaction frequently stems from demanding workloads. Long hours performing physically strenuous tasks can cause mental and physical exhaustion, and stagnant wages fail to compensate for such rigor. Outdated accommodation and poorly maintained ships raise severe safety concerns and only increase stress.

At the same time, restricted access to connectivity and limited onboard leisure time and facilities can breed boredom and loneliness. Harassment and discrimination between mixed nationality crews can all too easily generate an uncomfortable social environment.

Enhancing seafarer happiness requires giving crews adequate shore leave, rest, and contact with loved ones to support their mental health. Upgrading onboard amenities and infrastructure can improve daily working and living conditions. Treating seafarers with dignity and care beyond their role as workers could significantly boost morale. 

While the seafaring life inevitably involves sacrifice, improved policies around leave, connectivity, workload, and shipboard culture could better sustain this critical workforce physically and emotionally.

The impact of these factors is of course deeply personal. While some thrive at sea, others struggle deeply with the hardships. Efforts to enhance seafarer well-being could substantially improve happiness.

Photo credit: iStock/ Igor-Kardasov

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