Shipping has long been the life blood of the world economy.
But only recently has there been greater awareness of the welfare and support required by the individuals dedicating themselves to a life at sea - seafarers. The Mission to Seafarers provides help and support to the 1.5 million men and women through a global network of chaplains, staff and volunteers. They provide practical, emotional and spiritual support to seafarers through ship visits, drop-in seafarers' centres and a range of welfare and emergency support services.
Earlier this month, we caught up with Ben Bailey, Director of Advocacy for the Mission to Seafarers, at CMA Shipping in Stamford, Connecticut. He explained the importance of the Mission's Seafarers Happiness Index, the value of the Index to the maritime industry, and briefly touched upon the sacrifices seafarers make on the job.
"The Seafarers Happiness Index is intended to be a barometer of sea-change."
Read the interview below.
Roxy Kashfi: Mission to seafarers recently launched the Seafarers Happiness Index. Could you tell us a little bit more about how the index works?
Ben Bailey: The Seafarers Happiness Index is intended to be a barometer of sea-change.
We poll seafarers throughout their time at sea on a range of topics with 10 anonymous questions. We ask them about their living conditions on board, about their wages, and ask them about their access to shore leave.
It's intended to give the industry a snapshot of what seafarers are feeling at any one time, during their time at sea.
"It's a very long, lonely and isolating profession. And we know that seafarers make many, huge sacrifices."
RK: What does this teach us about seafarer’s well-being, and why is that important?
BB: In many ways the index reinforces what many of us have always known about seafaring.
It's a very long, lonely and isolating profession. And we know that seafarers make many huge sacrifices. Many of these sacrifices are personal and done to support their families, and keep the world fuelled and fed.
What the index really does is challenge the maritime industry on those key points. For example, the level of paperwork seafarers are given, and the fact that many believe they don't have enough time to go ashore.
This naturally has impact on their mental health and their well-being.
"We have to take these factors into account so that we're supporting them in the most appropriate way."
If the industry is to ensure that it retains and recruits good, professional seafarers, then we have to consider them in the whole. It is not just about the qualifications that they have, but also about their soft skills and the kind of people they are. We have to take these factors into account so that we're supporting them in the most appropriate way.
KR: Could you tell us a little bit more about the work of Mission to Seafarers?
BB: The Mission to Seafarers is an international welfare provider. We operate in 200 ports, across 50 countries, and last year we visited over 60,000 ships, and more than 350,000 seafarers. We provide a range of social services to seafarers.
We have internet access in many ports around the world, but we also provide post-trauma counselling and support to seafarer’s families. Whatever issues crews might face working abroad, they know that they have a trusted, independent, and charitable provider, who can support them in their time of need.