According to the latest Seafarers Happiness Index for Q1 2021, seafarers are happy that connectivity is getting better. If the COVID-19 issues have brought any single seafaring issue into focus, it has been that of connectivity.
Finally, it seems that progress is being made, and as the rise in positive responses has shown, seafarers are more commonly experiencing positives when it comes to getting online and connecting with friends, family and loved ones back home.
Toward the end of 2020, it seemed that some shipping companies were doing more to ensure their crews could get online, and this seemingly ramped up in the first quarter of 2021.
The impact has been very positive, with those who can now more easily, cheaply stay connected reporting the impact and improvement on their life at sea. While there are issues around the challenges and problems of remaining closely linked to issues at home, it seems that seafarers crave the engagement and feeling closer to others.
It is considered a “lifeline” for many seafarers, and being able to look forward to speaking with home was motivation through their working day. “Knowing I can go online after my shift makes such as difference”. It was also seen as being a real “stress buster”, as “talking with family makes me feel better, every time”.
Being able to remain connected has given some seafarers a new perspective on their job. “I get so excited to share my experiences, showing my family my job and even nature while at sea”.
It is perhaps an under-explored aspect, but having seafarers tell positive stories from the sea is an excellent form of public relations and exposure for the industry. Though of course, such sharing needs to be tempered and controlled in the event of negatives, such as accidents and incidents.
Such positives should see us blinded to those who are not granted or afforded the same luxuries. There were still all too many seafarers who do not benefit from good, affordable and high-quality connectivity. One said, “The international space station can have video calls with Earth yet we get a crackly and intermittent voice call at best”.
Those who did not report good connectivity scored low not just on this question, but also across the board. The impact of isolation or feeling disconnected has a very negative impact on a range of issues and seems to have a knock-on effect on the general perceptions of crew about the quality of life at sea.
The message is clear seafarers want, need, crave and demand the levels of online access that those ashore are accustomed to.