There was a small increase in satisfaction in regard to social interaction onboard, according to the latest Seafarers Happiness Index for Q4 2020. There were positive comments about the sense of unity onboard, and how seafarers are increasingly dependent upon each other in difficult times such as these.
Whilst it was good to see a rise in the happiness data, there were a number of notable comments from seafarers. One stated, “It is so hard to build good relationships onboard. People are stressed, tired and working hard”.
Another said, “It feels like an endless cycle of long hours, with nothing to look forward to. How can you be motivated when every day is just the same?”
Tiredness seems to be all around and is impacting not only the quality of life, but also interactions between crew.
The atmosphere onboard is being negatively affected according to some respondents. One commented, “I do not see smiles or hear laughs, now there is just a look of getting through and coping”.
Another seafarer felt that it was hard to maintain good relationships onboard as there are too few people to cover all the work: “I do not feel that we have enough people onboard, does not matter what any certificate says, it feels that we have to do so much more. Life onboard is work, getting ready for work, or recovering from work. There is nothing else”.
Where there is such pressure, tensions can develop too. One respondent stated, “no one seems to be the same to each other as they used to be. It feels that people hate being here, and do not like each other.”
From a group dynamic and social interaction perspective this is hugely significant. A number of industry initiatives have voiced that it is so important to focus on the social angle and cohesion onboard.
However, to try and force interactions when there is stress, tiredness, and too little time can be a recipe for failure.
Busy people merely coping and purely focusing on getting home do not make good company or indeed ship mates. One commented, “All crew members are miserable, everyone hates it at sea”, with another stressed that “camaraderie is a must for us to have an easy contract”.
There are also challenges of being isolated onboard. A female seafarer wrote of the difficulties she faces: “I wished there were more women onboard to talk too, as my colleagues do not understand what I go through daily”.