Optimistic outlook in seafarers’ wellbeing

The findings of the latest Seafarers Happiness Index report by the Mission to Seafarers show a positive start to 2024, with an overall increase in happiness


The Seafarers Happiness Index (SHI) is a quarterly survey undertaken by the Mission to Seafarers, delivered in association with Idwal and NorthStandard, and supported by Inmarsat. The survey offers vital insights into the sentiments and experiences of the men and women that serve at sea.

In contrast to the consistent decline observed in 2023, the Q1 2024 SHI report depicts a mixed but cautiously optimistic rise in satisfaction among seafarers, shedding light on the positive and negative aspects of seafaring life.

The positive shift in seafarer wellbeing reflects improvements in several areas. These include enhanced financial security through fair wages and timely payments, fostering job satisfaction and camaraderie through positive crew relationships, as well as improved connectivity facilitating better communication with loved ones.

Additionally, seafarers reported the benefits of supportive company policies and leadership initiatives promoting crew wellbeing through access to recreational facilities, shore leave, high-quality culturally tailored food, and the prioritisation of health and safety concerns. Comprehensive training programmes have further bolstered seafarer competence and professional development.

Conversely, the report also underscores persistent challenges that will require systemic reforms to improve seafarer wellbeing. These challenges include addressing work-life balance issues such as extended contracts and limited shore leave, which contribute to excessive workloads, stress, and fatigue. Substandard living conditions, connectivity issues – though improved – remain an issue, and disparities in access to welfare facilities are significant concerns. Moreover, poor management practices, including inadequate leadership and discrimination, alongside limited career advancement opportunities and predatory recruitment practices, continue to impact seafarer satisfaction.

A pressing issue highlighted in Q1 2024 is the persistent allegations of fraudulent working hours reporting, resulting in inadequate rest periods and compromised safety standards. Seafarers are increasingly expressing unease and scepticism toward reported working hours’ accuracy, with a reluctance to speak out against potential misconduct. The manual nature of the process combined with a lack of contextual factors is perceived as inherently vulnerable to fraudulent activities, raising doubts about data integrity and effectiveness in capturing the nuanced realities of seafaring life.

Andrew Wright, Secretary-General, The Mission to Seafarers, said: “After the depressing slump in seafarer happiness that we witnessed in 2023, it is encouraging to see a brighter start to 2024. We are cautiously optimistic that this points towards a better year ahead for seafarers, but sustained improvement will require meaningful action. Between us, we have the tools at our disposal to make a difference to the lives of those working at sea, and it is up to us to act.

“Despite the challenges they face, seafarers continue to demonstrate remarkable resilience. The Mission to Seafarers remains committed to amplifying seafarers’ voices, advocating for meaningful reforms, and fostering a culture of respect, inclusivity, openness, and integrity within the industry. Together, we strive to build a maritime industry that not only values seafarers’ contributions, but also safeguards their wellbeing and happiness at sea.”

Yves Vandenborn, Head of Loss Prevention Asia-Pacific at NorthStandard, commented: “As an organisation advocating for seafarer wellbeing, NorthStandard finds it heartening that the Index captures rising seafarer happiness levels in the first quarter of 2024, especially given the decline reported in 2023. We are also encouraged that the overall increase from 6.36 / 10 to 6.94 is driven by gains across all 10 markers used, instead of a selective few. NorthStandard will continue to raise awareness of the experiences of seafarers, and we believe it is crucial that we capture more data about all of those working at sea. We therefore also welcome the fact that female participation in the SHI this quarter was at its strongest ever, representing just over 9% of all respondents.”

Thom Herbert, Senior Marine Surveyor and Crew Welfare Advocate at Idwal, added: “The Q1 2024 Seafarers Happiness Index highlights both progress made and areas requiring further improvement. We are encouraged by the positive trends, particularly around financial security, crew relationships, and enhanced training opportunities. However, we must remain vigilant in addressing persistent challenges like work-life balance, substandard accommodations, and any discriminatory practices that undermine seafarer dignity and morale. Idwal remains committed to championing transparency, accountability, and a culture of care that empowers seafarers to thrive both professionally and personally.”

The Mission to Seafarers, in collaboration with industry partners, is actively addressing the ongoing challenges affecting seafarer wellbeing, providing direct support through a global network of seafarers’ centres and ship visits, chaplains, staff and volunteers, and digital solutions like the ‘Happy at Sea’ app for seafarers.

The Mission would also like to express its appreciation to the shipping companies and shore managers who encouraged crew to participate, as well as to the seafarers who took the time to complete the survey. We encourage more seafarers to step forward and share their experiences, as their contributions are fundamental in driving positive changes within the industry.

To read the full Seafarers Happiness Index report for Q1 2024, click here.

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