Limited shore leave for seafarers due to the COVID-19 pandemic is taking its toll according to the latest Seafarers Happiness Index report from The Mission to Seafarers.
The latest report for Q1 2020 shows a drop in the index to 6.30 compared to 6.39 in the fourth quarter of 2019. The main issues raised by seafarers in the survey, undertaken in association with the Shipowners Club and Wallem Group, were workload, shore leave and interaction of crew onboard.
The report found that limited shore leave was taking its toll with seafarers unable to benefit from welfare facilities ashore which was greatly impacting their mental wellbeing.
“Even when shore leave is possible, the cost of shore passes, access to transport and health fears can impact the decision to go ashore. Additionally, given ships are reduced to minimum crewing levels, taking shore leave requires cover, forming further issues regarding logistics,” the report said.
“Many seafarers are prioritising completing their contract and getting home rather than getting ashore when in port, further emphasising the need to ensure vessels are suitable places to spend extended time.”
There were also reports of increased social conflicts between crew onboard vessels. While seafarers are keen to complete their contracts, many are finding their contracts are being extended due to crew change restrictions while workloads are increasing.
The result is a growing concern about seafarer wellbeing. “The combination of increased workloads, extended contracts and increased isolation leaves the majority of seafarers feeling stressed, anxious and exhausted. This risks undermining the quality of their work and safety standards.
“Seafarers need better connectivity, including internet access as a basic necessity to combat isolation and to improve the connection between sea and shore to ensure seafarers feel protected by the decisions made on shore,” the report said.
Steven Jones, founder of the Seafarers Happiness Index, commented: “This report highlights how essential it is to have a survey where seafarers can share their views. The industry can gain real insights into how we can improve support for our seafarers, particularly in these challenging times. It is paramount that industry calls for seafarers to be recognised as key workers are acted upon and that we support those who are maintaining our global supply chains.”