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Omicron restrictions hit seafarer happiness

Photo: Wilhelmsen Crew change with masks under COVID protocols
Crew change in Singapore
The Seafarer Happiness Index fell in the fourth quarter of 2021 as further COVID-19 restrictions were introduced.

“The impact of the latest Omicron COVID variant and the rush to close borders hit seafarers especially hard in the final month of 2021. This was especially unfortunate given the timing around the Christmas and New Year holiday period,” said the Q4 2021 Seafarers Happiness Index Report.

Published by Mission to Seafarers, the quarterly report builds an index from the answers to 10 questions asked to seafarers about how happy they are with various aspects of their work and conditions. The index fell from 6.59 in the third quarter to 6.41 in the fourth quarter.

“It appears that the yo-yo nature of COVID is having a serious impact on mental health and is driving negative sentiment on board. Seafarers raised concerns about the draconian nature of repeated testing and expressed concerns about the quality of quarantine provision,” said the report.

The pandemic’s influence was felt across the survey’s questions, beyond the immediate impacts of travel restrictions and quarantines. Connectivity has become increasingly important to seafarers; happiness with connectivity rose to 6.92 from 6.6 in the previous quarter, aided by improved online access and initiatives for free access over the holidays.

“That said, there was still a very clear divide between vessels that provided free or cost-effective access, versus those that do not… There is a chasm in the responses, and more and more seafarers are stating that they always check what access they will have before accepting new contracts,” said the report.

On wages and salary, seafarer happiness fell from 6.78 to 6.29. Respondents variously commented that remuneration for seafaring had fallen compared to once comparable jobs ashore, that pay does not reflect the stress of the work, and that pay had not increased despite record profits recorded in some sectors off the back of their work.

Andrew Wright, secretary-general of The Mission to Seafarers, said: “Looking at the results of 2021 as a whole, we hope this report will encourage organisations to recognise the lessons for 2022, when it comes to investing in their seafarers, whether it is continuing to improve connectivity, adjusting working hours, or enhancing training. It is about understanding the challenges and making a difference to support the men and women serving at sea.”

“The Q4 and annual review findings from the Seafarers Happiness Index are worrying to see, in particular the Yo-Yo of seafarer happiness. Despite seafarers undeniably qualifying as ‘key workers’ in our eyes, governments are not affording them the respect and recognition that their efforts so clearly merit,” said John-Kaare Aune, CEO, Wallem Group

The Q4 2021 Seafarers Happiness Index report is available for download.

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