The Seafarers Happiness Index from Mission to Seafarers surveyed seafarers and highlighted areas where there are opportunities for improvement. Companies can take a cue and look for solutions to give crews the support, access and services which will make them happier and thus more productive.
Inadequate work support and demands of external agencies
The requirement for crews, ships and companies to meet vetting standards was criticized repeatedly. One seafarer stated, “A lot of my workload is time consuming fulfilling the requirements of vetting and does not contribute to the vessels’ operation. It will never be looked at by anyone other than myself”. This was mirrored in many responses. While the checks to ensure standards and compliance are important, if they are making seafarers stressed then it seems the system is somehow compromised.
It seems time for a rethink and revisit of how companies adhere to the demands of clients, and indeed of their own safety and quality management systems. The documents, checklists and requirements may well be completed or filled in, but there seems to be no parallel check of their impact on crew.
Continuous pressure about inspections and audits, in addition to the overload of checklists and paperwork, makes the job tough and harder than it needs to be. Technology was meant to be easing this burden, but there is little or no indication that this is the case.
There could be improvement to the ways in which crew management companies deal with remittances. Numerous seafarers stated that their remittances which are sent back to their families often appear to have been unfairly tapped at source with either brokerage fees or questionable exchange rates applied.
Heavy admin and paperwork
Administrative duties can even seemingly impact safety. A deck officer commented, “More pressure to carry out admin during bridge watchkeeping.” There is something very wrong with systems which are supposed to enhance safety but then place undue pressure and distract seafarers from their primary tasks.
As one respondent put it, “shipping is tricking itself if it thinks being safe on paper makes it safer on the water”. Systems which are meant to raise standards are seemingly compromised if they are making seafarers more stressed.
More fitness and sports equipment
By far the happiest respondents were those who were encouraged and allowed to take part in physical activities or sports onboard. Those who were playing basketball regularly, or even table tennis, reported far higher happiness levels than those who did not have access or time to exercise.
The use of fitness equipment and playing sports is an important part of any wellbeing regime and has the added benefit of boosting social aspects of life onboard too. A gym or sports area is a great place for crew to spend some time, to either engage in activities which allow them to focus on non-ship related matters, or to have time with crewmates and a chance to talk.
Some respondents were frustrated that the wider industry spent time stressing the importance of exercise rather than ensuring that companies actually provide the means to partake in it. Crew are unequivocal about the benefits and importance of sports and exercise equipment, and of having the time to use it.