Earlier last Sunday we heard a news that more than 90% of the seafarers from a popular company voted for a pay strike. It was being reported that hundreds of union members may resign in masses. It all came down to not being remunerated fairly. ‘A meagre’ rise in salary kept the seafaring staff unhappy’ as apparently the company achieved record profits last year, due to tight shipping capacity and logistics disturbances caused by COVID-19. The disagreement erupted due to an eight-year salary freeze, which only lifted this year. The expectation of staff in terms of wage increase was not met.
Many of us maybe oblivious but seafarers have tough working conditions. Staying in confinements is part of their life at work. Many a times they stay on board for their entire period, with no possibility of leave. Usually crew members are limited on board, still having to run a fully functional township, managing their own water, food, power supplies plus managing routine near misses and even dealing with full-blown crisis.
Life at sea demands mental resilience which most seafarers learn and improve at with experience. There are coping mechanisms which every seafarer has to abide by to deal with feelings of anxiety, loneliness, helplessness and depression – which is very common occurrence. Usually seafarers wouldn’t talk about it because they are never asked for it. Usually mental illness are reported when their coping mechanisms are stressed beyond breaking point.
The COVID-19 pandemic added to already existing condition, showing an impact on the mental health of the seafarers, not only during their time on board the vessel, but also after their signoff. Seafarers deserve support and appreciation, by their managers ashore, to sustain mental health through these testing times.