Seafarers are pushed to breaking point during pandemic

According to the Q4 2021 Seafarers Happiness Index, there is a drop in the level of happiness for seafarers when at sea.  The Index received a range of responses, including messages from many seafarers who felt that they are being pushed towards breaking point. There are worrying signs that the unpredictable nature of COVID is having a serious impact on mental health and is driving negative sentiment on board.

The Index heard from seafarers who are desperate to get home. “All I can think about is going on vacation, the stress and fatigue after 6 months on board are too much”, stated one. While for others, the impact of COVID testing and quarantine experiences is a major problem.

Seafarers raised concerns about the draconian nature of repeated testing and expressed concerns about the quality of quarantine provisions. One seafarer was certain that he caught COVID in a hotel he was forced to endure for two nights before joining a vessel. He stated, “This was the last time I go to sea. My career of over 40 years came to a stop. Who wants this way of life?”

Aside from specific complaints, there is a growing feeling of frustration at sea and uncertainty surrounding trip duration. Lack of shore leave and concerns over getting back to work once they are home, have all combined to create a growing sense of anger. They also make seafaring a less attractive career option, something which was stressed by multiple respondents.

Allied to this was anger about the lack of recognition of seafarers and the fact that, despite so many initiatives, they are still not universally seen as key workers.

This frustration is seemingly combined with all the other day-to-day issues to create a potentially toxic atmosphere, one which is very likely to have long term implications for recruitment and retention. Regardless of whether seafarers are “happy” with the micro view of their jobs, there is definite anger about the macro employment environment, and that resentment is growing.

Until seafarers feel certainty about their freedom of movement, until they feel they have the same access to vaccination as the wider populace, and until they feel accepted and recognized as key workers, then there is a seafaring storm brewing. Seafarers are clear in their message that these issues need to be addressed.

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