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TOPIC: Seafaring and Family life

Seafaring and Family life 16 Feb 2015 12:20 #4397

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The world’s seafarers can be seen as one of the first truly international and global workforces, comprising of individuals from countries as geographically and culturally disparate as Western Europe, Russia, India, South America and the Philippines. Such seafarers may work on a range of different vessels, operating on different trade routes, with different cargoes and a diverse range of work conditions. However, one thing that these individuals have in common is that their work necessitates prolonged separations from their home and families, separations that often involve infrequent opportunities for communication. As such, seafaring may be seen as a more than an occupation, but rather a lifestyle - a lifestyle that is characterised by a constant cycle of partings and reunions and transitions from the shore-based home environment to the unique work environment of the ship. It is a lifestyle that will impact on seafarers and their families alike.

Given the dearth of research on seafarers in general, it is perhaps no surprise that very little attention has been given to the impact of seafaring on family life or the effect of prolonged absences from home and family on the seafarers themselves.
Nevertheless, there are few researches been done on this subject, namely by Seafarers’ International Research Institute at Cardiff University, ITF, Flying angels and others, but the number of samples collected by the researchers for their studies were quite less (due to monetary constraints) and the researchers had to conclude and suggest remedies based on those few data sets.

Since, Sailors Club is visited by a large number of Seafarers from around the world, it would be wise to utilise this platform to collect more information about the family life of Seafarers from them. Thus, here in this forum we would be discussing the issues of” Seafaring and Family life”, where we would also be discussing findings of those few researches and expect the replies and inputs from You and other seafarers.

So, if you are a Seafarer (or their partner) ,then consider to spare some time for this noble cause and give us some insight, about your views and thoughts on this issue, by downloading the attached Questionnaire forms (in word format) ,fill them and attach them with your replies in this forum or send us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , to keep those responses private and they will only be seen by Administrators of Sailors Club and researchers.

We will also forward them to the Seafarers International research Institute at Cardiff University, UK, where it will further add to the data set helpful for ongoing research on the” Social issues of Seafaring”. Finally, we would like to extend our gratitude to Mr. Michelle Thomas, for making such a wonderful report based on a sound research work, which Sailors Club wish to extend globally and continue with the help of its member seafarers and their families.
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Last Edit: 21 Feb 2015 21:24 by anandgardener.
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What is health ? 21 Feb 2015 21:19 #4398

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines health as:
A state of complete physical, social and mental well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. Health is a resource for everyday life, not the object of living. It is a positive concept emphasising social and personal resources as well as physical capabilities

The emphasis on physical health is reflected by the seafarers’ routine medical examination which tests for physical impairments (sight, hearing etc.) and the presence of chronic illnesses (diabetes etc.) but only explores psychological health in a limited way.

Yet seafaring is a psychologically demanding occupation, often necessitating long work hours, frequently in socially isolated conditions. For a seafarer, the ship is both a workplace and a home. Emphasis on fast turnaround times, reduced crewing levels and offshore discharge/ loading facilities often means that seafarers have few opportunities to go ashore or communicate with home and the world outside that of the ship.

Indeed seafarers work in conditions which are sufficiently harsh for some to compare a ship to a jail. In such an environment emotional well-being can be crucial. There is some evidence of mental health problems amongst seafarers. An Australian study on Fatigue, Stress and Occupational Health among seafarers found that 60% reported moderate to high stress levels. Further research with harbour physicians in Rotterdam identified three main psychological problems among seafarers:
loneliness, homesickness, and “burn-out” syndrome.

These problems were primarily caused by long periods away from home, the decreased number of seafarers per ship, and by increased automation. Mental health problems can also be seen to be reflected by the significant proportion of deaths at sea that are attributable to suicide.

Research on occupational mortality among seafarers in the British, Singapore and Hong Kong Fleets between 1981 and 1995 showed that approximately 5% of deaths (50) in each fleet were attributable to suicide. Statements from crew members through subsequent inquiries suggested that many of the suicides may have been linked to factors such as marital and other family problems, symptoms of depression or more severe mental illness, or work or financial related. Later investigations suggested that many of a further 66 seafarers who were reported to have ‘disappeared at sea’ may have taken their own lives by jumping over board. When compared to other industries these figures are particularly striking: in the same six year period (1990-1996) where there were 27 deaths due to suicide amongst seafarers in the British merchant fleet, there was not a single suicide identified amongst fishermen in British trawlers.

Investigations into suicide at sea have identified the role of marital and family problems as
contributory factors to the event . There is also some evidence to suggest that seafarers find their periodic absences from home problematic. Recent research by the Australian Maritime Safety Association (AMSA) found that seafarers reported the ‘home-work’ interface to be the largest source of stress. Similar difficulties were reported by the wives of Great Barrier Reef pilots.
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Seafaring and Family life 04 May 2015 08:47 #4419

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Partners and Wives of Sailors can take part in the survey by directly clicking on this link: www.surveymonkey.com/s/3P6VY6Y


The Results of the survey of the seafarers are out. Check Out this link: www.sailors-club.net/maritime-blogs/entr...cted-by-sailors-club
Last Edit: 15 May 2015 10:41 by Sengupta.
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Seafaring and Family life 15 May 2015 10:42 #4420

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Seafaring work patterns will vary based on a number of factors such as nationality and rank of seafarer, employers’ policies, type of trade and routes sailed. A typical length of contract for a Filipino rating is 9 months, with Sierra Leonians working average contracts of 12 months. Senior Indian & Western officers typically work contracts of between 3-4 months . Those working in coastal waters and offshore Installations may work shorter rotas, for example, two weeks to six weeks on & two to six weeks off.

Not only will length of tours of duty vary but so, also, will the ratio of work to leave time. Seafarers from developing countries, such as the Philippines, may take no more than 2 months leave before returning to sea for periods of 9 months or more, whereas senior Indian / Western officers may enjoy ‘back-to-back’ status working four months on and then having a corresponding four-month leave period.
Employment contracts may differ ranging from permanent employment with paid leave and other associated benefits to single contracts with no income during the leave period and no assurance of employment when the seafarer wishes to return to sea. However regardless of these (sometimes-considerable) differences in work patterns, all seafarers share the common situation that their work takes them away from home and their families for appreciable periods of time.

A further common aspect of seafaring work patterns is the irregularity of work schedules and uncertainties surrounding anticipated dates for joining and leaving vessels. Companies may experience problems finding ‘reliefs’ for seafarers who are due on leave, and the logistics of such a global industry along with the vagaries of nature may mean that a ship’s schedule may change daily making exact dates difficult to predict in advance.

In systems where seafarers work ‘back-to-back’ with someone of the same rank, personal situations
such as birth, death and illness may all serve to determine exact times of relief. Such uncertainty and unpredictability can potentially make the work pattern harder to manage for both seafarers and their partners.

Seafaring schedules, whether involving trips of weeks, months or even years, will involve a constant process of change, readjustment and transition for both seafarers and their families.

Unlike workers in many other occupations, the majority of seafarers do not, and indeed cannot, return home at the end of the working day, or even the working week. Seafaring means a life of constant partings and reunions. For seafarers, they must adapt from the drastically different environments of the ship to home life and vice versa, and for their partners, being married to a seafarer results in changes and upheaval as they adjust to sharing a life with a partner and then being alone again.
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Seafaring and Family life 10 Jun 2015 12:13 #4422

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Opportunities to communicate ship-shore can potentially have a considerable impact on the experience of separation for both seafarers and their partners. Regular contact may be crucial in maintaining relationships with the family and shore-based life with a reduced frequency of contact potentially leading to relationship decline and eventual breakdown .

The importance of communication may further increase at various points within a voyage and throughout a sea career, for example, contact with home can be particularly important at times of ill health of family members when stress levels at sea can rise dramatically.

Advances in communication technology have undoubtedly increased opportunities for seafarers and their families to have contact on a more regular basis than in the past. Indeed, such developments have been found to be of considerable significance in the lives of work-separated couples. It has, however, been found that in general, the shipping industry has been very slow to utilise computers and telecommunication facilities, particularly on board vessels.

Indeed, research on seafarers communication patterns and opportunities has shown that much of ship-shore communications occurs via Inmarsat satellite communication services that are often prohibitively expensive. For those seafarers on both coastal and deep-sea routes, email can significantly increase opportunities for communication at greatly reduced costs. However email access to seafarers continues to be limited, often restricted to officers, and is impeded by the fact that many seafarers may not be computer literate and that family and friends ashore may not have access to email facilities. Developments in telephone technology mean that seafarers can phone home using
mobile phones in national and international waters as long as the ship is in port or within close range of land. However for those on deep-sea routes this service is limited and access is also restricted due to cost.

Such increases in communication technology have been accompanied by a corresponding reduction in access to shore-based telephone points to communicate home. Time spent in port has decreased dramatically over the last 30 years, with seven out of ten ships with ‘turn-around’ times of 24 hours or less and over a quarter of ships spending less than 12 hours in port.

Theoretically such turnaround times still allow time for seafarers to go ashore however problems are exacerbated by reduced crew size, increased workload in port and the isolation and insecurity of port locations.
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Seafaring and Family life 22 Jul 2015 09:45 #4429

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Regular contact and communication has been found to be important to prevent the breakdown of couple relationships. However, many seafarers work in international waters with few, if any visits to ports in their home countries.

Thus for seafarers and their partners opportunities for face-to-face contact during voyages may be considerably limited. In these situations contact with home can be dependent on access to communication services and technologies.

Means of communication
Seafarers and their partners reports utilising a wide range of forms of communication,from conventional letters, to satellite and mobile phone calls and email. Advances in communication technology are heralded as quite life-changing for both seafarers and their partners.

Increasing access to email (and even internet access in few ships) and to cheaper international phone calls via cell-net phones served to expand opportunities for communication significantly. Those working coastal routes could often telephone home using shore-based mobile networks, at dramatically lower costs than satellite phone calls.

Weekly telephone communication is not uncommon for the families of seafarers with the seafarer on board. Regular verbal contact is important as it fulfilled emotional needs and help couples maintain an emotional closeness during their separation.

As one Senior Officer puts it "It’s so much easier when you speak to people, believe you me, you can get all the Christmas cards in the world but when you talk to somebody it’s personal contact. It’s as close as you can get to it if you’re away."

According to the wife of a Junior Officer, "If I know there’s a phone call I’ll try and be at home whatever to get his phone calls cos I know how much it means to him and how much it means to me just to hear him"

Telephone communication is also valued for its practical implications, allowing seafarers to take part in, and respond to household and family decisions such as queries over house insurance and decisions relating to children’s well-being.

"I can get information a lot quicker, I can give information a lot quicker, ‘why haven’t you done this?’ ‘Haven’t you done that yet?. ‘No I will tomorrow’. ‘Take the car in for a service’, you know! Simple things like that, so you keep in touch with what’s going on at home." Explains a Senior Officer

The advent of email is also seen as a significant improvement in the lives of seafarers. This relates to the cost, the immediacy and the sense it was a more informal form of communication than traditional letters. The following quotes are illustrative of the enthusiasm both seafarers and their partners towards email:

> Yes, that’s a good concept now, with the onset of email being so much available, I find that excellent, because in the past you know you had to write a letter and you couldn’t always guarantee that when you sent that letter it got home, at least this way, emailing, what you receive in reply isn’t history anymore, you know. (Senior Officer)

> Yeah that’s just the best invention ever really for us. Again it’s not formal writing it’s more short chats, I feel the email you do just tend to go on and really just type away.(Wife of Junior Officer)

> It is absolutely wonderful because whereas before I’d say ‘Oh bloody hell the girls - they’ve pissed me off!’ or something like that…. Now he can say ‘well what have they done now?’ Whereas before I’d have had to bottle it all up and you might put it down on paper but when you do that it isn’t anything like the day that you’ve gone through. Maybe by the time he’s come back you’ve got it all resolved but it’s better to be able to share it there and then. (Wife of Senior Officer) Email and telephone correspondence allow seafarers to keep up with small day-to- day events that might not be reported in a letter or mentioned on their return home. The frequency and content of email and telephone conversations is reported to be vital in managing the transition from home to work and work to home and in linking the two domains so that movement between the two is less problematic. > [I am] constantly in touch with her by email, so it’s like I’m away but I’m not away you know. (Senior Officer) > And, it [email] does help that period when you come home because you do know what’s going on. (Senior Officer) In addition to regular mail, in the absence of email and cell phone facilities, satellite phone calls continued to be appreciated by seafarers and their partners. Whilst acknowledged as expensive, for those seafarers working deep sea and without access to email, the satellite phone could provide a vital link with home. As one Senior Officer recalls, "[i]I used to have like 5 minutes every week on a Sunday to my wife on a Sat. phone.Which 5 minutes it sounds crap don’t it, sounds lousy, sounds like what’s 5 minutes?[….] 5 minutes was like priceless, it was like a diamond 5 minutes ‘everything alright?’ ‘Fine’. ‘Kids OK?’ ‘Yeah great’.‘House not on fire?’ ‘No.’ ‘Fine, ta ra bye’, bang that was it. That was like the best tenner I spent that week. So yeah you’ve got that kind of thing which can sort of bridge a gap you know, put a bridge across things.[/i]" [b]Problems[/b] Whilst in general opportunities to communicate were viewed very positively, such communication could also be problematic - seafarers talk about coping with the life aboard and separated from their families by ‘switching off from home’ and more frequent communication disallowed this. In particular seafarers may talk about the frustration and angst they felt hearing about difficulties at home, that, whilst at sea, they were powerless to address. As seafarers commented: > [Email is] a wonderful way, but it does mean that you know about problems at home all the time. It’s harder to switch off to it. (Senior Officer) > You have to switch yourself off sometimes. That’s a conscious thing. I mean while it’s easy to switch yourself off, conversely it’s easier nowadays to have communications with home through the satellite telephone, even your mobile phone if you’re around the coast, and that can switch you back on again, if you’re not careful. (Senior Officer) > I can’t get to sleep. Mind just wracks, just thinking just goes into over drive doesn’t it about home and stuff like that. Thinking about things you actually talked about and I think it’s just thinking more of home and then it wears off and wears off, that never wears off thinking of home but it peaks after you just come off the phone, and then wonder how everybody is and then it goes down a bit until you get into your work.(Junior Officer) Similarly, a small number of both seafarers and wives may tell that, telephone communication in particular, could be emotionally upsetting due to the fact that it made them miss their partner all the more. In addition, perhaps due to their very importance and value to couples, much anticipated calls were susceptible misunderstanding and disappointment. As the wife of a Junior Officer explains, "[i]To be honest I don’t really like the phone calls. Sometimes I come off the phone and I feel loads better and happy that I talked to him. Sometimes I come off and think I wish he hadn’t phoned, I think it can really unsettle me. He’ll go, ‘you don’t sound very enthusiastic’ and I think ‘oh no! I wanted to speak to him so much and now he’s rang it’s just like we’ve fallen out or been a bit niggly with each other’. Yet other times he can ring it’s like really nice, it’s not hard work, where at other times it can be and I don’t like that.[/i]" However, these problems do not appear to outweigh the benefits and value of regular communication between couples. [b]Cost of communication[/b] Access to telecommunication can vary according to rank and indeed use of such facilities will be variable simply due to the constraints of cost. One may find couples who are were fortunate in that the seafarers held senior ranks and had access to shipboard telecommunication facilities (such as email) and salaries that allowed the financial costs associated with communication to be less than prohibitive. However this may not be the case for seafarers of different ranks and nationalities. However cost is still relevant and satellite phone calls often restricts to special occasions (such as festivals or birthdays) or emergencies. As one seafarer’s wife explained the circumstances when she and her husband would use the ship’s the satellite phone "[i]If it’s been a bad day or Christmas or something special but apart from that no. Cos it is very expensive, and once you’re on the phone you can’t just stay on a few minutes you know. Phone and talk, talk. If you’ve not heard from him for little while, you know to phone for a few minutes it’s very hard to say ‘right OK, better get off the phone’,you just can’t do that so of course there’s that.[/i]" (Wife of Junior Officer) Whilst couples often disregard the expense of communication in order to have some contact with each other, the financial costs nevertheless often restricts length or frequencyof communication. Access to cheaper (or free) communication is frequently mentionedas a means of improving the welfare of seafaring families and reducing the negative effectsof a seafaring lifestyle on family life.[email] is absolutely wonderful because whereas before I’d say ‘Oh bloody hell the girls - they’ve pissed me off!’ or something like that…. Now he can say ‘well what have they done now?’ Whereas before I’d have had to bottle it all up and you might put it down on paper but when you do that it isn’t anything like the day that you’ve gone through. Maybe by the time he’s come back you’ve got it all resolved but it’s better to be able to share it there and then. (Wife of Senior Officer)


Email and telephone correspondence allow seafarers to keep up with small day-to- day events that might not be reported in a letter or mentioned on their return home. The frequency and content of email and telephone conversations is reported to be vital in managing the transition from home to work and work to home and in linking the two domains so that movement between the two is less problematic.

> constantly in touch with her by email, so it’s like I’m away but I’m not away you know. (Senior Officer)

> And, it does help that period when you come home because you do know what’s going on. (Senior Officer) In addition to regular mail, in the absence of email and cell phone facilities, satellite phone calls continued to be appreciated by seafarers and their partners. Whilst acknowledged as expensive, for those seafarers working deep sea and without access to email, the satellite phone could provide a vital link with home. As one Senior Officer recalls, "[i]I used to have like 5 minutes every week on a Sunday to my wife on a Sat. phone.Which 5 minutes it sounds crap don’t it, sounds lousy, sounds like what’s 5 minutes?[….] 5 minutes was like priceless, it was like a diamond 5 minutes ‘everything alright?’ ‘Fine’. ‘Kids OK?’ ‘Yeah great’.‘House not on fire?’ ‘No.’ ‘Fine, ta ra bye’, bang that was it. That was like the best tenner I spent that week. So yeah you’ve got that kind of thing which can sort of bridge a gap you know, put a bridge across things.[/i]" [b]Problems[/b] Whilst in general opportunities to communicate were viewed very positively, such communication could also be problematic - seafarers talk about coping with the life aboard and separated from their families by ‘switching off from home’ and more frequent communication disallowed this. In particular seafarers may talk about the frustration and angst they felt hearing about difficulties at home, that, whilst at sea, they were powerless to address. As seafarers commented: > [Email is] a wonderful way, but it does mean that you know about problems at home all the time. It’s harder to switch off to it. (Senior Officer) > You have to switch yourself off sometimes. That’s a conscious thing. I mean while it’s easy to switch yourself off, conversely it’s easier nowadays to have communications with home through the satellite telephone, even your mobile phone if you’re around the coast, and that can switch you back on again, if you’re not careful. (Senior Officer) > I can’t get to sleep. Mind just wracks, just thinking just goes into over drive doesn’t it about home and stuff like that. Thinking about things you actually talked about and I think it’s just thinking more of home and then it wears off and wears off, that never wears off thinking of home but it peaks after you just come off the phone, and then wonder how everybody is and then it goes down a bit until you get into your work.(Junior Officer) Similarly, a small number of both seafarers and wives may tell that, telephone communication in particular, could be emotionally upsetting due to the fact that it made them miss their partner all the more. In addition, perhaps due to their very importance and value to couples, much anticipated calls were susceptible misunderstanding and disappointment. As the wife of a Junior Officer explains, "[i]To be honest I don’t really like the phone calls. Sometimes I come off the phone and I feel loads better and happy that I talked to him. Sometimes I come off and think I wish he hadn’t phoned, I think it can really unsettle me. He’ll go, ‘you don’t sound very enthusiastic’ and I think ‘oh no! I wanted to speak to him so much and now he’s rang it’s just like we’ve fallen out or been a bit niggly with each other’. Yet other times he can ring it’s like really nice, it’s not hard work, where at other times it can be and I don’t like that.[/i]" However, these problems do not appear to outweigh the benefits and value of regular communication between couples. [b]Cost of communication[/b] Access to telecommunication can vary according to rank and indeed use of such facilities will be variable simply due to the constraints of cost. One may find couples who are were fortunate in that the seafarers held senior ranks and had access to shipboard telecommunication facilities (such as email) and salaries that allowed the financial costs associated with communication to be less than prohibitive. However this may not be the case for seafarers of different ranks and nationalities. However cost is still relevant and satellite phone calls often restricts to special occasions (such as festivals or birthdays) or emergencies. As one seafarer’s wife explained the circumstances when she and her husband would use the ship’s the satellite phone "[i]If it’s been a bad day or Christmas or something special but apart from that no. Cos it is very expensive, and once you’re on the phone you can’t just stay on a few minutes you know. Phone and talk, talk. If you’ve not heard from him for little while, you know to phone for a few minutes it’s very hard to say ‘right OK, better get off the phone’,you just can’t do that so of course there’s that.[/i]" (Wife of Junior Officer) Whilst couples often disregard the expense of communication in order to have some contact with each other, the financial costs nevertheless often restricts length or frequencyof communication. Access to cheaper (or free) communication is frequently mentionedas a means of improving the welfare of seafaring families and reducing the negative effectsof a seafaring lifestyle on family life.[email] does help that period when you come home because you do know what’s going on. (Senior Officer)


In addition to regular mail, in the absence of email and cell phone facilities, satellite phone calls continued to be appreciated by seafarers and their partners. Whilst acknowledged as expensive, for those seafarers working deep sea and without access to email, the satellite phone could provide a vital link with home.

As one Senior Officer recalls, "I used to have like 5 minutes every week on a Sunday to my wife on a Sat. phone.Which 5 minutes it sounds crap don’t it, sounds lousy, sounds like what’s 5 minutes?[….] 5 minutes was like priceless, it was like a diamond 5 minutes ‘everything alright?’ ‘Fine’. ‘Kids OK?’ ‘Yeah great’.‘House not on fire?’ ‘No.’ ‘Fine, ta ra bye’, bang that was it. That was like the best tenner I spent that week. So yeah you’ve got that kind of thing which can sort of bridge a gap you know, put a bridge across things."


Problems

Whilst in general opportunities to communicate were viewed very positively, such communication could also be problematic - seafarers talk about coping with the life aboard and separated from their families by ‘switching off from home’ and more frequent communication disallowed this.

In particular seafarers may talk about the frustration and angst they felt hearing about difficulties at home, that, whilst at sea, they were powerless to address.

As seafarers commented:
> a wonderful way, but it does mean that you know about problems at home all the time. It’s harder to switch off to it. (Senior Officer) > You have to switch yourself off sometimes. That’s a conscious thing. I mean while it’s easy to switch yourself off, conversely it’s easier nowadays to have communications with home through the satellite telephone, even your mobile phone if you’re around the coast, and that can switch you back on again, if you’re not careful. (Senior Officer) > I can’t get to sleep. Mind just wracks, just thinking just goes into over drive doesn’t it about home and stuff like that. Thinking about things you actually talked about and I think it’s just thinking more of home and then it wears off and wears off, that never wears off thinking of home but it peaks after you just come off the phone, and then wonder how everybody is and then it goes down a bit until you get into your work.(Junior Officer) Similarly, a small number of both seafarers and wives may tell that, telephone communication in particular, could be emotionally upsetting due to the fact that it made them miss their partner all the more. In addition, perhaps due to their very importance and value to couples, much anticipated calls were susceptible misunderstanding and disappointment. As the wife of a Junior Officer explains, "[i]To be honest I don’t really like the phone calls. Sometimes I come off the phone and I feel loads better and happy that I talked to him. Sometimes I come off and think I wish he hadn’t phoned, I think it can really unsettle me. He’ll go, ‘you don’t sound very enthusiastic’ and I think ‘oh no! I wanted to speak to him so much and now he’s rang it’s just like we’ve fallen out or been a bit niggly with each other’. Yet other times he can ring it’s like really nice, it’s not hard work, where at other times it can be and I don’t like that.[/i]" However, these problems do not appear to outweigh the benefits and value of regular communication between couples. [b]Cost of communication[/b] Access to telecommunication can vary according to rank and indeed use of such facilities will be variable simply due to the constraints of cost. One may find couples who are were fortunate in that the seafarers held senior ranks and had access to shipboard telecommunication facilities (such as email) and salaries that allowed the financial costs associated with communication to be less than prohibitive. However this may not be the case for seafarers of different ranks and nationalities. However cost is still relevant and satellite phone calls often restricts to special occasions (such as festivals or birthdays) or emergencies. As one seafarer’s wife explained the circumstances when she and her husband would use the ship’s the satellite phone "[i]If it’s been a bad day or Christmas or something special but apart from that no. Cos it is very expensive, and once you’re on the phone you can’t just stay on a few minutes you know. Phone and talk, talk. If you’ve not heard from him for little while, you know to phone for a few minutes it’s very hard to say ‘right OK, better get off the phone’,you just can’t do that so of course there’s that.[/i]" (Wife of Junior Officer) Whilst couples often disregard the expense of communication in order to have some contact with each other, the financial costs nevertheless often restricts length or frequencyof communication. Access to cheaper (or free) communication is frequently mentionedas a means of improving the welfare of seafaring families and reducing the negative effectsof a seafaring lifestyle on family life.[Email is] a wonderful way, but it does mean that you know about problems at home all the time. It’s harder to switch off to it. (Senior Officer)

> You have to switch yourself off sometimes. That’s a conscious thing. I mean while it’s easy to switch yourself off, conversely it’s easier nowadays to have communications with home through the satellite telephone, even your mobile phone if you’re around the coast, and that can switch you back on again, if you’re not careful. (Senior Officer)

> I can’t get to sleep. Mind just wracks, just thinking just goes into over drive doesn’t it about home and stuff like that. Thinking about things you actually talked about and I think it’s just thinking more of home and then it wears off and wears off, that never wears off thinking of home but it peaks after you just come off the phone, and then wonder how everybody is and then it goes down a bit until you get into your work.(Junior Officer)


Similarly, a small number of both seafarers and wives may tell that, telephone communication in particular, could be emotionally upsetting due to the fact that it made them miss their partner all the more. In addition, perhaps due to their very importance and value to couples, much anticipated calls were susceptible misunderstanding and disappointment.

As the wife of a Junior Officer explains, "To be honest I don’t really like the phone calls. Sometimes I come off the phone and I feel loads better and happy that I talked to him. Sometimes I come off and think I wish he hadn’t phoned, I think it can really unsettle me. He’ll go, ‘you don’t sound very enthusiastic’ and I think ‘oh no! I wanted to speak to him so much and now he’s rang it’s just like we’ve fallen out or been a bit niggly with each other’. Yet other times he can ring it’s like really nice, it’s not hard work, where at other times it can be and I don’t like that."


However, these problems do not appear to outweigh the benefits and value of regular communication between couples.

Cost of communication

Access to telecommunication can vary according to rank and indeed use of such facilities will be variable simply due to the constraints of cost. One may find couples who are were fortunate in that the seafarers held senior ranks and had access to shipboard telecommunication facilities (such as email) and salaries that allowed the financial costs associated with communication to be less than prohibitive.

However this may not be the case for seafarers of different ranks and nationalities. However cost is still relevant and satellite phone calls often restricts to special occasions (such as festivals or birthdays) or emergencies.

As one seafarer’s wife explained the circumstances when she and her husband would use the ship’s the satellite phone "If it’s been a bad day or Christmas or something special but apart from that no. Cos it is very expensive, and once you’re on the phone you can’t just stay on a few minutes you know. Phone and talk, talk. If you’ve not heard from him for little while, you know to phone for a few minutes it’s very hard to say ‘right OK, better get off the phone’,you just can’t do that so of course there’s that." (Wife of Junior Officer)

Whilst couples often disregard the expense of communication in order to have some contact with each other, the financial costs nevertheless often restricts length or frequencyof communication. Access to cheaper (or free) communication is frequently mentionedas a means of improving the welfare of seafaring families and reducing the negative effectsof a seafaring lifestyle on family life.
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