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Seafarers fear they will take the blame for breaches of Imo 2020 once the regulation comes into force January 1, though overall they are more optimistic about the future, according to the latest Seafarers Happiness Index survey.

Conducted by The Mission to Seafarers (MtS) charity and supported by insurer Shipowners P&I Club the survey saw an overall improvement in the index to 7.28 in the third quarter compared 6.85 in the previous quarter.

“The report indicates there is a widespread fear of blame for non-compliance, suggesting some seafarers don’t feel prepared for the cap, which comes into effect in the New Year,” commented a joint statement from MtS and the Shipowners club. Seafarers fear poor quality data could find them getting in trouble with the authorities through no fault of their own. “They were worried they may not always have the correct data, and indeed, that tough inspections can get them into trouble with the authorities. There are real fears about drones sniffing funnel emissions and the crew being found guilty,” said the report.

Penalties for non-compliance in some jurisdictions could include hefty fines and jail sentences, in addition to vessel detentions.

“While there has been much attention given to the financial impact of Imo 2020 on shipowners, this evidence shines a light on the day-to-day pressures on those serving at sea and the need for governments and shipowners to prepare seafarers for the change,” said the MtS and Shipowners club.

However, overall the new report shows increased positivity and satisfaction among those working at sea, after concerning reports earlier in the year. The index shows a marked improvement in happiness levels amongst seafarers across all sectors of the industry. 

Happiness regarding interaction with other crew members has increased notably, up to 7.28 from 6.85 last quarter and is one of the highest figures provided in the five years since the report began and suggests a growing sense of comradery amongst seafarers. Indeed, the latest report saw a record number of participants engaging with the index, which the report points out is encouraging as it suggests more seafarers see the value in having their voice heard on a global platform.  Louise Hall, director – Loss Prevention at the Shipowners Club, said the positive results “demonstrates the effectiveness of this initiative, and its associated outreach projects, in improving the quality of life for those at sea”. She continued, “The index is providing a more accurate image than ever before of the conditions across the global fleet. With record numbers of seafarers participating in the survey and engaging with the research, we have been able to identify more ways to support our Members in prioritising the health and wellbeing of their crew.”

The report points out that understandably, salaries play a significant role in helping seafarers to feel stable in their careers. Whilst younger seafarers appear to be the happiest – reflecting enthusiasm about seeing new parts of the world, with a very high 7.9/10 – many reported low wages were making them question their future careers. “This is concerning for the future of the maritime industry, with the potential for a ‘talent-bleed’ if seafarers are lost to other industries,” said the report. Meanwhile, research by Cardiff University finds long working hours, isolation and extended periods away from home put seafarers at risk of poor mental health. Funded by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), the research urges cargo shipping companies to provide greater support for workers to help prevent conditions such as anxiety and depression. This includes the provision of on-board amenities such as internet access, improved accommodation and recreational activities.

More than 1,500 seafarers took part in the research, while face-to-face interviews were conducted with employers, maritime charities and other stakeholders. Helen Sampson, director of Cardiff University’s Seafarers International Research Centre, who led the study, says there is evidence the recent-onset psychological disorders are increasing among serving seafarers, yet more than half (55%) of employers said they had not introduced any policies or practices to address mental health for a decade.

Sampson said “It is all too easy for seafarers working out on the deep ocean to be invisible to those ashore. Their remoteness allows for abuse to go undetected. Sometimes seafarers are subjected to bullying and harassment by superiors and colleagues on board.  However many employers also mistreat seafarers by failing to provide decent and humane living conditions which promote good mental wellbeing. “This research, funded by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, reveals seafarers working on cargo ships experience very little happiness on board and suffer the consequences of social isolation, stressful working conditions, fatigue, and monotonous institutional environments. It is time such issues were properly addressed.”

Filed: 2019-11-05