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Tanker owners' association Intertanko has released the results of its latest online survey of crewmembers across the global fleet, based on responses from more than 5,400 seafarers. The snapshot of mariner sentiment revealed areas where satisfaction is high, as well as common concerns that will need to be addressed.

"Whilst there are some issues revolving around harassment, working hours and workload . . . in the main, seafarers are content with their career, wished to pursue the highest professional qualifications and continue their careers ashore," the authors found.

The survey was aimed primarily at junior officers on tank vessels, who made up about 70 percent of all respondents. The majority were Filipino, Indian and Greek, representing the leading seafaring nations, and the largest share serve aboard crude tankers. About two percent were female. 

Workload emerged as the biggest issue, consistent with reports from every corner of the seafaring profession. About 76 percent reported that they are overwhelmed by the tasks and responsibilities assigned to them. The spread between nationalities was substantial, with Filipinos most likely to report being overwhelmed. Filipinos also reported the highest motivation and happiness, and the highest satisfaction with their employment contracts, work-life balance and  shipboard conditions. They are also the likeliest nationality to recommend a seafaring career to others. 

"Given that all respondents are undertaking comparable tasks, the question of resilience among Filipino seafarers may require investigation at a company level," Intertanko's authors recommended. 

Perhaps the most concerning trend was the high percentage of female officers who reported misconduct on board on the basis of gender (44 percent). This is a systemic concern that has captured attention at IMO and beyond, and is consistent with other reports.  

Overall, respondents reported that nationality was the biggest source of discrimination and misconduct aboard ship (19 percent), followed by appearance (11 percent). 

The survey also examined recruitment, training and retention. On the front end of the cycle, getting sufficient sea time was a sticking point for many young officers. About half rated the challenge of getting 12 months of sea time as "difficult" or "very difficult." 

On the back end of the career cycle, most respondents (60 percent) said that they want to leave seafaring and work on shore once they attain a high enough rank. Family reasons, excessive workload and the availability of better opportunities in shoreside employment were the leading factors in this decision. The rising trend of seafarer criminalization (the tendency to arrest the crew after a major marine casualty) was a lesser but still present motivation for leaving the sea, along with the outside risk of abandonment. 

“It is clear we need to ensure that seafarers are looked after through high-quality employment conditions and really focus upon their welfare and development. Young seafarers today want to get on, be mentored by seniors and make the very best of their chosen career," said Dimitris Fokas, Training Manager at Maran Tankers Management and Chair of INTERTANKO’s Human Element Committee.

Source: File image courtesy USCG

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