More must be done to provide connectivity for our Seafarers

18th July 2017

Seafarers can be on vessels for months at a time, while at home the world keeps turning without them. It is not unusual for the men and women manning the global fleet to miss Christmases and birthdays, family milestones such as first steps, weddings and graduations. Even for those without children, spending such long periods away from friends and loved ones can lead to isolation, loneliness and depression.

For many working under these conditions, internet access provides a vital link to their families, allowing them to access emails, make calls and even watch videos snapped for them by their loved ones. Although internet provision for seafarers has grown considerably over the last decade, a recent survey by the seafarers’ union Nautilus found that only just over half (57 per cent) of seafarers can access their personal emails while on board. Only a third (36 per cent) can use social media, and a tiny fraction (4 per cent) have access to video calling. Bandwidth at sea is often narrow, expensive and unreliable, making it difficult for crews to maintain contact with their families unless they are in port.

Thanks to the development of smartphones, now used by more than half of the world’s population, Wi-Fi is key for seafarers to maintain regular and affordable contact with their homes. Superfast Wi-Fi can be installed port-wide, and in addition, The Mission to Seafarers manages over 100 Flying Angel seafarer centres worldwide providing vital communication hubs with computers, telephones and Wi-Fi access that seafarers can visit while in port. These centres provide essential connectivity for seafarers, as on vessels and in ports across the globe, Wi-Fi coverage remains limited.

In the twenty-first century, leaving seafarers with infrequent internet connectivity is not good enough, and The Mission to Seafarers has set out to change this. Joining our efforts, the Liberian Registry has stepped forward to offset the cost of providing Wi-Fi at The Mission for Seafarer’s Flying Angel centres, ensuring that seafarers who transit through ports with these centres can maintain much-needed contact with their homes.

“Our seafarers work tirelessly, and often in difficult conditions, to ensure the safe transportation of goods across the world. They are the lifeblood of the shipping industry and without them, world trade would cease. Providing seafarers with the connectivity needed to reach their families and loved ones is one way we at the Liberian Registry are showing our gratitude for their service.” Commented Scott Bergeron, CEO, Liberian Registry.

Laura Brown, Corporate Development Manager at The Mission to Seafarers, added, “Reliable and secure internet connectivity makes a tangible difference to seafarers, and it is fantastic that the Liberian Registry has sponsored its installation in our seafarer centres. However, more can be done to improve connectivity across the world. The shipping industry must pull together to eliminate this unnecessary hardship for its seafarers, and The Mission to Seafarers is willing to provide corporate partnerships for any organisation eager to join this cause.”

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