Global Shortage Of Seafarers Looms As Scores Set To Quit

A Dejected Seafarer
Despite increased satisfaction level, the challenges of balancing home life with the uncertainties of the crew change crisis have led many seafarers to want to quit the profession.
Accoording to the latest Seafarers Happiness Index report from The Mission to Seafarers which was designed to monitor seafarer satisfaction levels and published for the third quarter of 2021, seafarers are temporarily considering a move ashore, to accelerate their career change plans.
This will likely lead to growing shortfall in seafarers in the coming years, with seemingly little or no coherent mechanism to manage the problems coming over the horizon, according to the report.
Meanwhile, the report indicates that many seafarers are not intending to return to the sea once they eventually get home.
Challenges with shore leave and ship-shore connectivity remain. Shore leave is the leave that seafarers got to spend on dry land.
Also, extended contracts have been a big challenge since the start of the pandemic with 5% of seafarers responding saying that they have been away at sea for over a year. A further 13% of respondents have served at sea for over nine months, with the rest reporting less than nine months so far.
The report highlights happiness levels have increased overall to 6.59/10, from 5.99 in the previous reporting period, returning to the same, pre-Covid levels in Q3 2019. However, the study also showed that many seafarers intend to end their careers in the shipping industry once they get back home.
The survey, conducted with assistance from Wallem Group and the Standard Club, suggests that Covid-19 related strains on seafarers are beginning to ease, and support measures for seafarer welfare have now had a chance to take effect.
John-Kaare Aune, CEO at Wallem Group, stated “We are pleased to see that the happiness level of the crew has increased in this latest report, but at the same time it is worrying to see how many seafarers are considering ending their career at sea due to extended periods onboard.”
“In order to keep the world’s supply chain going, we as an industry must continue to have a sharp focus on getting back to normal crew change cycles, and most importantly the various countries around the world must treat seafarers as the key workers that they are and ease travel and crew change restrictions in their jurisdictions,” he added.
Additionally, the ship-to-shore connectivity is a long-held contentious issue. The crews who either have no internet access or feel that it is poor quality, slow, patchy and expensive, are not happy. Many respondents see the issue of internet access as one of the most effective ways of evaluating how a company treats its crew.
One seafarer stated, “Our internet onboard costs US$25 for 100MB”. That is the scale of how challenging the fee structures are for seafarers. Others bemoaned the size of their internet allocation, with one stating that owners gave them 250MB for the whole month consumption; potentially not even enough for one video call to their family.”
This feedback raises stark concerns over the affordability and rationing of internet access on board, which is such a priority for many seafarers from a well-being perspective. Owners and managers are therefore looking again at the steps that could be taken to improve this situation.
“The issues relating to Covid-19 continue to impact seafarers and are likely to for some time to come. That said, the data suggest that crew sentiment has stabilised, which is, at face value, good to see,” said The Revd Canon Andrew Wright, Secretary General of The Mission to Seafarers.
“Seafarers have been through so much over the past two years. They have been key to world trade at a time of unparalleled risk and disruption, they have kept the lights and heat on, they have kept shop shelves stocked and they have allowed the world to edge towards recovery.” We owe them all a huge debt of gratitude and enormous respect and recognition,” pointed out the Secretary General of The Mission to Seafarers.
He also urged every shipowner, operator and manager to study this report, listen to their crew and act on what is needed to address their needs, whether that is the longstanding issue of crew changes or, the costs and constraints on internet access, which can be a lifeline for homesick seafarers.

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