Survey: General Cargo Ships Lag Far Behind on Measures of Crew Wellbeing

Singapore freight forwarders – Star Concord
21-Apr-2024

 

Seafarers who have spent enough time in international trade are familiar with a general pattern in vessel quality: newer, fancier ships are often more comfortable, better-kept and better for growing a career. Recently-released survey data from vessel inspection agency Idwal confirms this broad impression, plus one more common belief – that on average, general cargo ships lag far behind other vessel classes when it comes to quality of life. 

This won’t surprise many seafarers and inspectors, who see a rust-streaked tramp freighter flagged in a rust-streaked registry and can guess what to expect on board. But the consistency across metrics is surprising.  

On crew connectivity, general cargo vessels perform abysmally compared with the rest of the fleet, and they drag down the global average. On a percentage basis, when compared with costly and highly-regulated gas carriers (LPG, LNG, ammonia carriers, etc.), or more expensive tankers, general cargo ships are far less likely to have quality internet service for the people who work on board. Since internet bandwith can be expensive, depending on the satcom vendor, the ability of the shipowner to pay is part of the equation.

“General cargo vessels lag significantly in providing crew connectivity,” Idwal observes. “As a common vessel type, impact is substantial.”

Older vessels also tend to have poorer connectivity, in part because they may have outdated equipment or were built without any meaningful satcom capability on board. 

Fleetwide, most vessels have some form of internet for their crew, but 13 percent of all ships have no internet access – an “alarming” and “extremely disappointing” result, Idwal found. “Such a lack of basic connectivity exacerbates crew welfare issues,” the consultancy wrote. 

General cargo ships also lag the fleet on most other metrics. Their operators are less likely to score well on PSC inspections; keep up the basic appearance of the ship; maintain basic crew health standards like clean water, good food and hygienic facilities; less likely to demonstrate good management by keeping up with paperwork; far less likely to provide recreational facilities on board; far less likely to provide comfortable accommodations; less likely to provide training, skill-building and advancement opportunities for their crew; and more likely to overwork their crews. 

“General cargo vessels . . . exhibit the poorest workload management, potentially leading to fatigue and job dissatisfaction,” found Idwal. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the lowest inspection score that Idwal recorded during the period was for a general cargo vessel, flagged in Mongolia and classed by a non-IACS society. 

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