The Seafarers Happiness Index (SHI) from the Mission to Seafarers provides an ongoing study into how people at sea feel about a range of key areas. According to the latest report for Q4 2019, the overall Seafarer Happiness has fallen almost across the board, down to 6.13/10 from 6.59.
Despite a slide in the figures, there were still some positives to emerge. One interesting snippet from the report is that the happiest seafarers were those on container vessels, aged between 25-35, from Africa and serving as engine crew.
Giving their children a bright future
Those seafarers who were happiest spoke of the importance of their role as provider for their family, especially in giving their children a future and providing the best education and foundation they can. There is a sense of sacrifice in being away, but where that translates into positives at home, then seafarers are happy to do whatever they feel is best for their family.
Training and education
With regards to training and education, there were many respondents who reported how pleased they are that their companies support them to learn and develop their skills. Whether in-house or external, they felt training brought a positive experience which went a long way to improving and advancing their careers.
Better internet access at sea
The other most telling positive reported was something of a surprise, as the issue of connectivity is an area which seafarers have traditionally voiced their dissatisfaction
and frustration for. This time though, seafarers reported improvements and there was a sense that the industry is waking up to the importance of providing good internet access for crews, although there is of course still huge scope for further progress.
Crews who have good quality, low cost access to the internet and good communication with their families are far happier than those who do not. Indeed, there is a growing sense of dissatisfaction where access is denied, is slow, or is too expensive. As one respondent put it, “companies should realize that people are at peace when they are in regular touch with their families. A happy ship is a safe ship!”
Furthermore, it seems that although crew are willing and able to accept that life at sea comes with certain issues attached, they are increasingly not willing to put up with a lack of connectivity.
There is real anger directed towards masters and companies who are seen to be profiteering from charging for access. They come in for particularly heavy criticism.
Seafarers see connectivity as a necessity. It was also suggested that when access improves, seafarers will be less likely to leave their careers at sea. Whether that is the case remains to be seen, but it seems that there is a simple answer to any downturn in recruitment and retention.