Ship standards linked to onboard welfare

The latest Seafarers Happiness Index figures indicated yet another rise in Q4 2022, as it reached something of a highwater mark of 7.9/10. The continued rise in 2022, up from the lowest point in Q1 2022, is seemingly being driven by more certainty surrounding crew changes, and small improvements in shore leave.

We also heard rather interesting feedback from seafarers who have moved jobs through the year – it seems there has been something of a professional migration from deep sea trades to short sea or coastal vessels, as seafarers have looked to try and insulate themselves against the risks of future travel bans and lockdowns. It will be interesting to see if that trend continues as it could have a very concerning impact on recruitment and retention in the year ahead.

Longer term there could also be potential problems, as it will likely be the short sea trades which will first make the switch to autonomous vessels. Questions will have to be asked about career viability moving forward.

Another key issue seen in the SHI results is the way in which data on seafarers’ sentiment can be transposed against ship standards and the question of onboard welfare. Working with one of our main sponsors, Idwal, analysis of the data reveals an interplay between how people feel, what makes them feel this way, and the influence of vessel condition. It seems we are edging towards better understanding and a more positive mechanism for analysing the SHI data to bring the elements together in a meaningful, useful and informative way. Indeed, it is now possible to argue, based on the
data, that good ships are better for people, and people who experience better things are happier. This is based on analysis which was started back in Q2 2022 as Idwal began exploring the welfare conditions of seafarers, using a new inspection approach which explored crew welfare conditions on board. They found that as their Crew Welfare Grade increases, so too does the vessel condition, and vice versa. Refining the data further to explore additional complexities such as vessel types did not alter that correlation.

The data was also examined against issues such as classification
society and flag state, and still the relationship persisted. Indeed, whatever the interrogation, whatever the parameters, whatever the specifics, the better the welfare, the better the ship… and the better the welfare, the happier the crew.This is extremely important when it comes to understanding the significance of seafarer welfare, and the role this plays in improving the standard of vessels.It is now possible to unequivocally state that happy seafarers rest on good welfare, and that is either translated into higher quality ships, or ships improve as a result.

This positive symbiotic relationship continues as we see seafarer happiness tracking higher with enhanced welfare standards.Where quality of life and the experience on board is better, we see higher levels of satisfaction. As such, happiness becomes the ‘canary in the coal mine’. Where we find happier seafarers we see better
welfare standards, and where we see better welfare, we find higher standard ships.

Steven Jones is the founder of the Seafarers’ Happiness Index, in association with Idwal and the Standard Club. The Index is designed to monitor and benchmark seafarer satisfaction levels by asking 10 key questions and serves as an important barometer of seafarer satisfaction with life at sea. Questions focus on a range of issues, from mental health and wellbeing, to working life and family contact. If you would like more information, to see the data or read more in-
depth reports, visit for access to the latest results.