Seafarers suffering from exhaustion due to overwork

According to the Q4 2021 Seafarers Happiness Index, while the question of workload did not fall by much this quarter, there were some detailed and troubling responses from seafarers. The Index received written submissions focused on concerns regarding watchkeeping and hours of work and rest.

One response stated, “From nowhere we are suddenly expected to keep 6-on/6-off watch patterns. This is not sustainable, and I am already feeling exhausted. There will be accidents.”

The Index received comments from engineers who felt that planned maintenance on board was not being done, partly done, and some not to the necessary standards. “We do not have the people to do all that is stated and required. Some things are recorded, but they are not done fully.”

Others said that companies “just keep piling responsibilities and paperwork on the officers”, and there are no breaks. “We have no Sunday or even half-day. No offs, 12 hrs/day normal work and most of the time 18hrs/day work”. 

Another stated, “When I joined the company, five people used to do the same job as two do now in my department. There is no way to comply with hours of rest when the vessel is on operations.”

There were also indications of “job creep”, as duties are seemingly passed around. One stated, “Duties from Third Mate have been transferred up to second mate, and duties from Chief mate have been transferred down to Second Mate. However, the salary and working hours for Second Mate have remained the same, however it is impossible to conduct all those duties properly without working additional hours.”

The relentless demands are taking their toll and some officers are having to use Stop Work Authority as there is too much going on to be handled, especially in port. One comment summed up the sentiment well, “Everyone thinks seafarers are superhuman with four hands and four legs.”

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