How to Be Happy When Working in a Seafarer Job

Mar 23, 2023 · 9 mins read ·

Life at Sea
seafarers having fun

With March 20th being the United Nations International Day of Happiness we thought that for this post, as well as looking at ways you can create a positive atmosphere onboard the vessels you work on, it would also be a good time to look at what makes working in a seafarer job a happier experience.

The message of the International Day of Happiness is simple: Be mindful, be grateful and be kind. Can all of us honestly say that we are those three things all of the time? Probably not! But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

So with that in mind, let’s first of all take a look at some of the ways YOU can be a better crewmate when you’re working away at sea.

How to be the seafarer everyone wants to work with

When you’re working on a cargo ship, tanker, bulk carrier or other merchant vessel, you see the same faces every day for months. And that can get pretty old, pretty quickly - especially if you don’t get on that well with one or more of your fellow crew members.

Read more: Why It's Important to Get Along with Your Fellow Crew

But seeing as this post is all about happiness - international happiness - no less, we’re going to say rise above any irritations and be the better seaman or woman! Here are some ways you can do that:

  1. Don’t join or form a clique - it’s far nicer, and fairer, to include everybody onboard in conversations and activities if they’re available. Especially now that crews are smaller than ever.
  2. Don’t be the onboard gossip - nobody likes someone who talks behind others’ backs. Plus it could get you into trouble with your superiors if they find out you’ve been stirring the pot.
  3. Support your fellow crew members - whether you’re working in an entry level cargo ship job or you’re a higher ranking Officer, lending a hand or offering words of support to your ship mates will give you a reputation for being a good person to have onboard.
  4. Be honest if you’ve messed up - we all make mistakes, but on a ship not owning up to them can have far reaching consequences. Hold your hands up and tell your superior if you’ve made an error. It’s the right thing to do and will earn you more respect than trying to cover something up.
  5. Be the voice of reason - when arguments or petty squabbles break out on a vessel it can have a big negative impact on the crew. It could even create safety issues as well. Don’t get involved in fights; instead try and diffuse the situation and help restore order.

The Seafarers Happiness Index

As you may know, four times a year, at the end of each quarter, The Seafarers Happiness Index releases data which aims to give a snapshot of how happy seafarers across the globe are.

They collect this information through a ten question survey that enables men and women who work at sea the opportunity to share how they feel about a range of issues including on board food, wages, shore leave and the good and bad things about life at sea today.

The trend is positive at present, with the last quarter of 2022 showing a seafarer happiness score of 7.69 out of 10 - up from 7.3 in the third quarter of 2022.

This is good news as the index saw a big decline in happiness onboard during the global pandemic which, as we know, saw seafarers stuck onboard their vessels well beyond their contracted dates - while others had to remain at home, unable to work.

The latest survey results show that “...even the historically most problematic areas, such as shore leave and access to welfare ashore, are recovering. Crew members continued to express their relief at the return of freedom of movement, as well as their increased sense of certainty and stability.“

As the world opens back up and crew change dates are able to be adhered to, it’s clear things have improved.

So what are some of the other things that make life better for seafarers who are working on a container ship or other commercial vessel?

10 things that make working at sea a happier experience

  1. Shore leave
  2. Access to welfare facilities and wellness initiatives
  3. Sports and gym equipment
  4. Table and deck games
  5. Companies investing in their seafarers
  6. Training
  7. Social interaction with fellow crew members
  8. A comfortable area to socialize in
  9. Good quality food with decent sized portions
  10. Access to the internet

With regards to number 10 - internet access - we have to say that this is a contentious issue as ever! Seafarers who work on ships with decent WiFi are indeed happy to have it. Those that do not have access to the internet are, unsurprisingly, not happy.

In fact, according to the latest Seafarers Happiness Index survey, connectivity was the only area in which there was a decrease in satisfaction - proof that not enough vessels have internet access.

If you’re working on a cargo ship, bulker or tanker and you do not have WiFi and instead have to rely on expensive telephone cards to get online, or you only have access to email you will know the frustration caused by this.

But this blog post is about positive seafarer experiences and is a tribute to the International Day of Happiness!

However, in any line of work there is always bound to be a day, or even a week, when we’re feeling less than 100%. And if you’re experiencing a period of unhappiness onboard your vessel, what can you do?

How to improve life onboard your ship

Whatever the cause of your unhappiness, there are steps you can take to try and put yourself in a better mood.

But remember - we’re obviously not doctors, so if you think what you’re experiencing is more like depression, we strongly recommend that you talk to a professional when you’re back ashore, as well as someone you can trust onboard if you’re currently working at sea.

But if you feel like you’d benefit from a quick uplifting mood fix, here are a few ideas:

  • Get a good night’s sleep - but if you’re struggling to do so, we have some tips for insomniac seafarers here.
  • Read some inspirational quotes for seamen - either in English or in Tagalog!
  • Learn to communicate better - it will help ease frustrations and help you at work and in your daily life.
  • Practice being kind - it will not only help the people around you but it will boost your mood too.
  • Connect with your fellow crew - play some games, organize a competition, hold a movie or karaoke night.

Finally, line up your next seafarer job. Uncertainty can sometimes get us down, but when you know that you have a contract lined up after your next period of time ashore, it can help lift the spirits.

After all, money makes the world go round!

Check out Martide’s latest seafarer job vacancies and we hope to see your happy faces onboard one of our clients’ vessels soon!

Eve Church

Eve Church

Eve is Martide's content writer and publishes regular posts on everything from our maritime recruitment and crew planning software to life at sea.

UK