Seafarers in 2024 will be happier than in 2023

By Marek Grzybowski

Merchant seafarers were more satisfied with their jobs and working conditions in the first quarter of 2024 than in 2023, according to the latest Seafarers Happiness Index (SHI) report, published quarterly by Mission to Seafarers. Although in 2024 seafarers declare improvement in all components of the satisfaction index, which translates into “something of an increase”, “this does not mean that the problems have been solved,” the SHI report emphasizes.
– The first quarter of 2024 showed positive results in all question areas. There was a jump in all categories, and some even started to show a positive advantage – note the authors of the report. The sailors assessed the possibility of using communication and going ashore as better than before. Overall, wages, food and health care are assessed positively. At the beginning of 2024, the availability of training and communication with superiors were rated better than in 2023. There is also a positive feeling in the area of ​​workload and social welfare.

2023 was a year of overall decline in seafarers’ job satisfaction and social conditions. In the first quarter of 2023, a relatively high happiness index was even recorded. It was at the level of 7.12 out of 10. However, in the following quarters there was an extremely disturbing decline in the level of happiness, down to almost 6.4 in the fourth quarter of this year.
Stability and cooperation
– The opportunity to discover the positive sides of a career at sea is crucial to shaping a better life at sea. From the stability of financial security, the thrill of global cruising and the hope that comes from crew camaraderie, there are plenty of reasons why seafarers can find fulfillment in their work, the report’s authors highlight the positive attributes of the seafaring profession.
The approach towards ship crews of fleet operators plays an important role in ensuring good working conditions. Shipowners are positively assessed as providing not only good working conditions but also facilities in terms of using communications that facilitate contacts with families. A friendly atmosphere in the company and on the ship plays an important role, as it guarantees the employee’s well-being. The opinions of people working on ships emphasize the possibility of personal development. The situation is assessed positively when the crewing company and shipowners appreciate the potential resulting from experience in working at sea. These are the experiences of the sailors who submitted the reports
The authors of the report distinguished the ten most important aspects of life at sea, which are taken into account when assessing the comfort of work and life on a ship. The report is prepared with the support of Inmarsat, NorthStandard and IDWAL.

Financial stability
Financial stability is top priority. It notes that “Seafarers appreciate the fair wages and financial independence that work provides them with, allowing them to support themselves and their families.” It is important that it is paid on time and compensates for the work performed.
The research takes into account job satisfaction as well as interpersonal and ship crew relationships. – The highest level of satisfaction is observed among seafarers who enjoy their work due to the positive relationships that exist on ships – the report notes. A high work comfort index is created where “the crew is able to cultivate a sense of camaraderie.”
From the employee’s point of view, the company’s support is important. The authors of the report note that companies operating in maritime transport evaluate three levels of work comfort on a ship.
– On the good side, we hear a lot of positive things about leadership, empathy, understanding and true prioritization of the well-being of the crew – say the authors based on the respondents’ statements and emphasize that “Companies that work hard to send their employees on leave, when they inform about it, and who understand the consequences that may result from failure to comply with this obligation are highly respected, even if something goes wrong.”

It is important for people of the sea to be able to maintain contact with their families. Some swimmers expressed concern that difficult access to the Internet may affect relationships on the ship. Seafarers are particularly pleased with the comfort when they have no problems with access to communications on ships and can communicate regularly with their families. For most people, it is extremely important not to feel isolated and lonely.
Well-being is important when working outside the home and in isolation. It’s about “building positive well-being.” It depends on many factors, such as good treatment of the employee, the ability to communicate with home, access to recreational facilities, good infrastructure and the ability to spend planned holidays.
Great importance is also attached to the possibility of disembarking the ship while it is in port. The report’s authors note that “You can’t have a sense of adventure, travel or well-being without occasionally stepping off the ship to see a bit of the world.” The opportunity to visit the city where the ship docks is perceived by seafarers “as an important component of stress relief, resulting from the opportunity to relax and establish social interactions with people outside the ship’s crew.”

Good kitchen, good employer
The importance of food on board is emphasized. On ships where the food is prepared according to the culture and eating habits, there is “the highest level of happiness”, declared by sailors. The assessments also focus on ensuring adequate time for eating meals.
The most satisfied seafarers spoke positively about those employers who help them improve and develop. “These sailors feel more confident and motivated; they are doing better and making progress.” Those working on ships particularly appreciate such an environment where there is a sense of camaraderie and support from the operator on land. It’s about the sense of belonging to a group that understands each other well and creating a positive work environment.
– The secret of a seafarer’s happiness actually lies in the right combination of many aspects [of their professional life – MG] – the report states and emphasizes that “We constantly hear from the happiest seafarers that they feel that their companies care about providing good accommodation, good food, affordable internet access and the ability to go ashore.”
Research shows that “These positive aspects contribute to a fulfilling and satisfying life on board for many seafarers, despite the challenges they face.” It is emphasized that seafarers do not expect all expectations to be met at the highest level, because “they are realistic and pragmatic, but they need each of them to at least feel the positive attitude of the company and their superiors.”

According to crew research conducted in the first quarter of this year. shows that the highest ratings for the comfort of working on a ship are catering crew (8.3), technical crew (8.1) and cadets (7.8). The lowest ratings for the working and living conditions on the ship were given to captains (6.8), third (6.3) and second (5.8) officers and engineers for the fourth position. Positive assessments of life on a ship prevailed in two age groups: from 55 to 65 years (8.2) and from 45 to 55 years (7.5).
The work and service conditions are assessed best by crews sailing on ships operating in the offshore business (8.4). Thus, the first quarter of 2024 presents a fundamentally positive trend in the evaluation of work on ships. However, the authors of the report emphasize that the results should be approached with cautious optimism. The report is available on the Mission to Seafarers website.