Seafarers are the backbone of the shipping industry who are the heroes behind the screen to ensure we get our essential stuff. We don’t even realise the amount of work which goes behind, except for very few owners and other stake holders recognize the efforts.
It is felt that the seafarers are compensated adequately for their efforts. Even though Seafarers are paid it does not mean that they are not humans. We all clapped, rang bells and showered the medical and other staff with flowers, were they not paid? Then this difference with seafarers is only because they do not work in plain sight and not civilians are allowed inside ports.so Out of Sight is Out of Mind!!!
Seafarers have been performing relentlessly over centuries and are fully worthy of praise. The mission to seafarers is an organisation who recognised this contribution of seafarers and wanted to actually see how happy were the seafarers and what they wanted, which other stake holders were not providing them to continue performing in an exemplary manner.
Mission to Seafarers then devised an index based on 10 key areas which gives a pretty good idea on how well other stake holders actually treat our seafarers. There are around 1.7 million seafarers around the world and close to around 200,000 seafarers in India alone.
These 10 areas are converted into 10 questions and are required to fill the same every quarter and the results are published on a quarterly basis.
Once the responses are received, the Mission to seafarers have their way of analysing the data and they come up with one number between 1 and 10 to say, how happy are seafarers onboard.
Let’s 1st see the inputs of 2019 and then we will discuss the 10 areas where seafarers are asked for their feedback.
The index now has been between 6 to 7 out of 10 in 2019,4th quarter of 2019 being the least with the index at 6.13 and highest was in the 3rd quarter at 6.59.
The above figures clearly show that there is a lot of scope in making our frontline warriors happier as a way to thank them for their efforts.
Some of the points of the world seafarers in 2019 were as follows
1) Happiest were those who had positive relationships with other crew onboard, who had internet access, good food, time and ability to exercise and were able to get ashore now and again.
2) Younger 16-25 seafarers tended to be the happiest overall, though worryingly this does tend to fall away once they move into the next age bracket. With the 25-35 age range the least satisfied.
3) Another issue which is continually negatively viewed by seafarers is the difficulty of spending time ashore from the vessel. “Shore leave is dead…” was a sentiment we heard repeated
4) Seafarers were concerned about the new regulations coming into force in 2020 like the sulphur cap in fuel and a proposal of personal fines to seafarers which are not correct.
5) Cheaper access to internet and telephone is one of the key requirements of seafarer’s world over
6) Pressures of meeting vetting standards were criticised repeatedly. It was felt that systems which are meant to raise standards are seemingly compromised if they are making seafarers more stressed.
7) Pride seafarers feel when providing for their families and communities. Happiest seafarers spoke of the importance of their role as provider for their family, especially in giving their children a future and providing the best education and standard of living they can.
8) Sense of sacrifice in being away, but where that translates into positives at home, then seafarers are happy to do whatever they feel is best for their family.
Now let us discuss the 10 areas which actually matters to seafarers for their happiness.
1) Generally, when at sea: Seafarers need to feel happy to be onboard to be productive and concentrate on their jobs as distractions can prove to be very costly
2) Shore leave: is a very important aspect of relaxation to seafarers and hence play a very important role in their productivity. View the pandemic, this aspect has been significantly affected.
3) Contact with family: knowing the wellbeing of family and doing at minimum cost or free matters a lot, hence onboard internet is becoming a necessity from a privilege item.
4) Food: Healthy mind requires healthy food and hence this aspect cannot be over emphasized, for keeping seafarers focused on his job
5) Salary: This very obvious as seafarers need to cater to requirements to his family and his personal requirement
6) Ability to keep fit onboard: Exercising is very important for all seafarers as they get stressed and hence exercising acts as a cushion and increasing the ability to perform
7) Training: AS we have been seen in earlier posts as well, as the shipping and ships are changing very fast, seafarers need to be prepared for the same!
8) Socialising with other crew onboard: Ship has always been a very close knit community and it is always said the ship is made good or bad by the people on it and not by how old or new it might be. Hence the crowd on board should be good, interactive and should work as team in solving challenges.
9) Workload: There is always a fine balance between the technologies and the number of seafarers onboard. As new technologies get added, it makes some functions and may be a seafarer or two redundant. If the balance is not kept, it is possible that we remove more seafarers than the technology can support, hence the workload of seafarers left onboard increases. Also if the vessel is on a specialised trade, then too, there would be need to increase the manpower than too reduce it as the manpower and technology are always designed on a regular trade that ship would be on.
10) Welfare facilities ashore: Most of the ports are now a days far from the cities and may not have requirements like telephones, games, relaxation etc. easily and at an affordable cost, hence the shore leave becomes more stressful sometimes than being onboard, hence there should be support system for seafarers when they go ashore.
In summarising this is high time when we take our seafarer’s happiness seriously for the good of the industry as a whole and it the industry’s responsibility to keep its employees happy.
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Seafarers please do voice your opinions here: The link for survey