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Seafarer happiness down amid stress over new regulations, increase in racism

Workload stress caused by changes
in regulations has been one of the three main factors impacting the seafarers’
happiness level in the fourth quarter of 2019, just months before the IMO 2020
sulphur cap entered into force.

In particular, seafarers were
experiencing mounting pressure surrounding inspections and audits to confirm
vessels’ compliance, in addition to the demands of ‘day to day’ administration
and paperwork, the latest Seafarers Happiness Index report, published by The
Mission to Seafarers, revealed.

As one respondent put it,
“shipping is tricking itself if it thinks being safe on paper makes it safer on
the water.”

The report inferred that systems
that are meant to raise standards are seemingly compromised if they are making
seafarers more stressed.

Overall seafarer happiness
dropped to 6.13/10 in the fourth quarter of 2019 down from 6.59 reported in the
previous quarter, the report shows. The data comes from over 2000 respondents, with
surveys completed in the final quarter of 2019.

The most satisfied of the
large-scale respondents were crews on board container ships, on average they
sat at 6.23/10, followed closely by tankers at 6.03, while bulk carriers
experienced a drop down to 5.65.

Cruise crews were seemingly
feeling happier this time around. Their numbers rose to 7/10, up from 5.3 in Q2
and 6.3 in Q3.

Elsewhere dredger crews appear to
be fairly happy at 7.57, and rather surprisingly those serving on offshore
vessels have seen a rise too, up to 7.36, the report shows.
The Mission to Seafarers said
that again the spread of genders in the responses was woeful.

“Over 96% of respondents were
male, and it shows that we need to find ways of better engaging with female
seafarers. Across past reports we have tended to see the female responses
higher than their male counterparts. Alas, this time round that trend
faltered,” the report said.

“Female seafarers reported their
levels to be 5.85/10, while males were at 6.20. The seafarers who preferred not
to disclose their gender were at 5.14, which again is far lower than we have
seen previously.”

Across all vessel types, three
key issues emerged from the survey responses over the three-month period:
workload stress caused by changes in regulations; a drop in satisfaction with
access to welfare facilities ashore; and an increase in racism experienced
while at sea.

Responses regarding shore leave
show that seafarers are not being able to reap the benefits of welfare
facilities ashore, which in turn hugely impacts their well-being.

“There needs to be an
industry-wide drive to ensure correct visas are acquired so that seafarers are
able to enjoy the benefits of shore-based welfare facilities whilst in ports
and terminals,” the report highlighted.

There has been a slump in
happiness concerning interaction with other crew this quarter – coming in at
6.67/10, down from 7.28.

The report says that there were
troubling accounts of racism raised, with concerning reports that victims do
not feel they have anywhere to formally complain or ask for support.

The report stressed that the
industry has a responsibility to recognize these concerns and respond to the
calls for an independent complaint line or procedure to support seafarers.

“It is saddening to report that
based on the seafarer statements received, it seems that there is a growing
problem of racism at sea. Not only was it an issue for a number of seafarers
who anonymously shared their experiences with us, but the problem was
compounded by the fact that not only had they been subjected to racism, they
said they felt powerless in dealing with it,” the report reads.

“There is a seeming lack of faith
in the system to report those who bullied, abused or attacked them. This is in
keeping with the issue of sexism we have heard about in earlier reports.
Company procedures, it seems, may be failing those who are most vulnerable
while supporting those who cause problems for those they work with.”

On the positive side, seafarers’
happiness with their ability to keep in contact with loved ones when at sea
rose this quarter. The report data demonstrate that 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.

According to the Mission to
Seafarers, in 2020, a maritime solutions company, Wallem Group, will be
partnering with The Mission alongside the Shipowners’ Club to support this

“This survey is a great way to
get a proper sample of actual seafarers’ views on life at sea and what can be
improved. Hopefully, we can then use this to improve the lives of all
seafarers,” Frank Coles, Chief Executive Officer, Wallem Group, commented.
World Maritime News.

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