A connected seafarer is a contented seafarer?

A connected seafarer is a contented seafarer. Well, not exactly, but if you deny a seafarer access to the internet, you’ll definitely have a disgruntled seafarer. This is one of the takeaways from a survey conducted by The Mission for Seafarers’ recently published Seafarers happiness Index. More important perhaps was the finding that general satisfaction with a life at sea is down overall.

Asked how happy the seafarers were about contact they were able to have with family when at sea, the 8,000 responding seafarers to the survey recorded an average 6.68 out of an optimum 10. From analysing the data the MFS concluded:

“What it shows is a trend for those who have access to be incredibly happy – posting results of 8,9 and even 10s. While those who do not seem a little more circumspect – so the index posts a higher than expected result.

“That should not obscure the fact that seafarers increasingly want, need and demand to be connected. The younger seafarers (below 35), who stated they had internet access were incredibly happy, while those who don’t are equally dissatisfied. This is something that will seemingly need managing and addressing if the industry is going to keep the latest generation of seafarers happy.”

The respondents were least satisfied with their workload; the overall score coming in at 5.66. Some respondents alleged they were being treated liked “slaves” or “cattle.” There were also repeated suggestions that hours of rest are not being followed and overtime agreements being reneged upon.

With an overall score of 5.80 when it came to satisfaction with welfare facilities ashore this appears to be another bone of discontent. The major issue, which emerged is that some ports fail to provide adequate provisions for seafarers and others had no centre at all. The related issue of shore leave accumulated an overall score of 6.10.

“Seafarers spoke of a need for reliable, cheap/free transport. They want to be able to relax and feel refreshed but feel short turnaround mes in port and “uncoordinated” vessel visits by authori es make this all the more impossible or unlikely.” The survey noted.

Wage satisfaction scored an overall 6.18. The survey said that some shipmanagement companies were criticised “as there was a general sense they are quick to blame the woes of owners and charterers as a means of stagnating wages and keeping them low. There are, however, perceived as slow to respond when the markets improve.” The shipmanagers would surely reply that the owners are guilty of these practices.

Food on board received an approval rating of 6.26 although adverse comments on the use of oil in cooking and a lack of nutritious alternatives were frequently cited.

The level of satisfaction with the training provided scored 6.28. The survey said:

“Some respondents reported a lack of willingness from officers to assist in the training of crew. There were also cadets who relayed similar experiences, stating that officers simply wanted trainees to stay on deck. There were strong suggestions that companies were taking on cadets as cheap labour – using them as ordinary seamen, rather than training them to become officers.”

The most positive response to the survey questions was the seafarers’ satisfaction with interaction on board, accumulating a score of 7.17. Communication, interaction and team building were recognised as being hugely positive.

Finally, despite negativity about loneliness, disconnection and dissatisfaction, general happiness scored a satisfactory 6.29.

The overall score for the 2017 Q4 average Seafarer Happiness level is 6.25 out of 10. The 2016 annual happiness level was 6.41, while for 2015 it was 6.46. What could be the reason for this fall in job satisfaction? Could it be that, in line with research findings more generally, connectivity 24/7 is actually making us less happy?

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