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Is shore leave becoming non-existent despite seafarers’ needs?


Seafarers feel shore leave is a thing of the past

In 2021’s Q1 report, findings from the Seafarers Happiness Index revealed shore leave score dropped to 5.25 compared to 5.53 in Q4 2020. Some seafarers were cynical about the idea especially when the vessel is shorthanded.

What used to be a fundamental part of a seafarer’s life became pointless. In the latest survey, shorthanded vessels only warranted more manpower and hours spent on completing the work – leaving no room for shore leave. Some seafarers reacted adversely to the topic. “Why do you even ask anymore?”, “Shore leave is not even part of my life anymore” and “I could not get ashore and would not want to if I could” were common responses.

The pandemic worsened the crew change crisis, and news of seafarers’ deteriorating mental health confronted the industry. Unfortunately, no amount of support provided appeared to replace the need to sign-off on time. Crew forced to remain onboard for extended periods is nothing new, not to mention difficulties in remaining connected with family. New variants of the disease only escalated the conundrums with numerous border closures in a bid to contain the spread.

Moreover, crew stressed the costs, hassles and knock-on effects of time off the ship are not worth it. “There are simply not enough people to get the work done, and we cannot cope if people are off ashore,” was the honest reflection of one senior officer. Getting through the trip and getting home became the new norm, drastically intensified by the pandemic.

Shore leave might become non-existent – corroborated by lack of manpower and COVID-19 induced border closures. However, will signing-off on time be even feasible with the current restrictions? If border closures remain in force, it makes no difference to seafarers taking shore leave or signing-off on-time.


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