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‘Life is hell’ for seafarers during COVID pandemic

Photo: Marcus Hand seafarers.jpg
Responses to the quarterly Seafarers Happiness Index survey showed a loss of optimism as the three-month period progressed and fears of not getting home due to the second wave of COVID-19 grew.

The index published by the Mission to Seafarers, with support from the Shipowners’ Club and Wallem Group, actually saw an improvement as an average in the third quarter rising to 6.35 compared to 6.18 in the second quarter.

However, a quarterly report on the index said the average number masked a significant fluctuation across the period from July to September. Responses in the early part of the three-month period from seafarers were far more positive as the position in terms of crew change started to improve.

As the quarter progresses though this optimism is lost as the growing second wave of COVID-19 infections potentially shuts crew change down again and leaves seafarers unable to return home when their contracts end. A seafarer was quoted as saying “life during COVID is hell” as capturing the general sentiment.

Even when vessels are in port seafarers cannot go ashore due local restrictions, and a risk of infection if they do manage to go on land.

Andrew Wright, secretary general of The Mission to Seafarers, commented: “Once again, the Seafarers Happiness Index has revealed the immense human cost of the COVID-19 pandemic among the men and women who serve at sea and upon whom we all depend. It is deeply worrying to learn of the impact on the bonds between crewmates and the damage to social cohesion onboard.

“All of us who care about our seafarers must act now and act faster to deliver the immediate support and relief that they need, along with a longer-term plan of action; one that meets the needs of those serving at sea and those stranded ashore.”

Louise Hall, Director - Loss Prevention at the Shipowners’ Club, said the industry needed to work together to find new ways to help seafarers. “It is imperative that we work together as an industry to provide new services and tools, such as the online ‘chat to a chaplain’ service, to improve the health and wellbeing of seafarers during these most difficult times,” she said.

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