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An unevenly distributed benefit


Connectivity took centrestage (again) at the London International Shipping Week (LISW)

In a seminar, Nick Chubb of research firm, Thetius said, “’Technology cannot solve shipping welfare issues, it can only amplify the good and the bad. As a key saying goes ‘the future is here, it is just not evenly distributed’.”

Connectivity – a new old topic
At the Meeting the Needs of Seafarers in a Digital Age seminar hosted by Inmarsat, connectivity was a heavily discussed topic. Secretary-general of The Mission to Seafarers Andrew Wright, said the Mission recognised that digital would remain a key element of providing seafarer welfare along with ship visits by chaplains. He remarked, “The seafarers Happiness Index run by the mission is a very important digital way of listening to seafarers and measuring how they feel throughout the year – by sharing with us, other charities and the shipping industry.”

The conference learnt many ship operators are still not providing their crew with free unlimited internet access. Wright said the Mission was still providing Mi-Fi units because seafarers expressed they often had no chance onboard to communicate with their families, and had to wait until they got to port.

Inmarsat Maritime President Ronald Spithout, concurred the last 18 months amplified the needs of seafarers and magnified things which could have been done differently. As a result, digitalisation has accelerated. Mark O’Neil of Columbia Ship Management said the crew change crisis showed that pre-emptive mental health support is critical for better welfare provision for all maritime staff. “COVID-19 brought a huge impact to all maritime staff at sea and ashore in crewing, technical and treasury, all working as part of a team to keep the propellors turning,” he noted.

Is cost the crux?
Sara Baade of Sailors’ Society, referenced Nautilus research on connectivity at sea that showed only 57 per cent of seafarers have access to satellite phones/personal emails, and only 6 per cent can access video calls. Baade’s comment was in relation to internet access being a facet of required wellness at sea.

This is one elephant in the room the industry clearly refuses to acknowledge. Employee benefits have (unfortunately) always been subject to budgets. Spithout surprisingly expressed his exasperation, “If you look at billions every year that are completely wasted in damages that are human made because of stress and fatigue, I really am mind boggled why this is a discussion at all!” Ironically, Inmarsat released a report in July 2021, stressing connectivity is crucial to seafarer’s future.


Crewing Online News Team
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