A charity supporting seafarers has called for industry-wide collaboration to improve welfare in shipping after a survey found that seafarers have experienced an overall decline in happiness since last year. 

The Mission to Seafarers, which conducts its Seafarers Happiness Index report every quarter, found that overall happiness declined in Q1 2023 when compared to the last three quarters of 2022, with an overall drop from an average of 7.69 out of 10 in Q4 2022 to 7.1 in Q1 2023. However, the charity noted that a dip in happiness levels at the beginning of the year is common when compared to previous reports. 

Whilst respondents showed a decline in all aspects of seafaring, except for connectivity and contact with family whilst at sea, shore leave and access to welfare services whilst ashore were the two key areas of concern with both areas receiving an average rating below seven out of 10. 

The Revd Canon Andrew Wright, secretary general of The Mission to Seafarers, said: “This illustrates how important it is to maintain momentum on seafarer welfare and why there can be zero complacencies over the conditions in which our seafarers find themselves.” 

Age was also a key factor in the happiness of seafarers with 16 to 25-year-olds averaging a happiness rating of 7.4 whilst 55 to 65-year-olds averaged a significantly lower 6.5 and over 65-year-olds reporting a 6.8 rating. 

Addressing the issues raised by the Happiness Index report, The Mission to Seafarers and the Happiness Index founder Steven Jones joined with NorthStandard, Idwal and Inmarsat at the Singapore Maritime Week to develop an approach to improve the well-being of seafarers. 

The charity outlined that it is hoped that ship owners, managers and charterers will be able to use the research and insights presented by the index to “propel the industry towards a solutions-centred approach”.

Thom Herbert, Idwal’s senior marine surveyor and crew welfare advocate, described the index’s results as a “worrying sign” and highlighted issues with shore leave as an important part of crew welfare. 

Herbert said: “Moving out of the pandemic does not make lack of shore leave any less of an issue and we need to keep a spotlight on this to ensure it improves.” 

Herbert also called attention to complaints about the quality and availability of food whilst onboard: “As a former seafarer, I know how important good nutrition and good food is to keep you healthy and motivated. Good meal times together can also go a long way to help the onboard culture and camaraderie.” 

The full Happiness Index report can be found on The Mission to Seafarers website.