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Survey finds only 6% of seafarers can video call family when at sea

Survey finds only 6% of seafarers can video call family when at sea

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A survey of nearly 2,000 seafarers and shipping industry leaders by the maritime professionals’ trade union, Nautilus International has found that fewer than one in ten (6%) seafarers has sufficient internet connectivity for video calls when at sea, despite often being away from their families for months on end.

By comparison statistics show 91% of UK homes and 85% of European homes have broadband access, with the United Nations recently suggesting that access to the internet should be a basic right, rather than a luxury. The findings emerged from a white paper due to be released by Nautilus on June 30 to mark Seafarers Awareness Week (24-30 June). The report also found despite nearly 88% of seafarers having some form of internet access at sea, most have very limited speeds and at high costs.

In addition, only 57% of crew have personal email access and just one third have social media access at sea (34%), leaving the majority of seafarers isolated from friends and families. Nearly two-thirds of respondents (63%) also suggested they would consider moving companies if the new company provided better quality internet.

Of the industry leaders surveyed, one in ten admitted they don’t provide their employees with any access to the internet (14%). The two biggest reasons given were fears crews would access illegal or adult content (83%) and the potentially high installation costs (83%). The survey also found that nearly two-thirds of respondents (58%) were concerned the provision would result in a distraction to work.

Nautilus has published the white paper to further raise awareness of the current communications provision for those living and working at sea which it will present to industry leaders, politicians and those working in the industry. The union is hoping that shipping companies will then act to provide internet access to all which is free at the point of use.

Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson commented: “It’s shocking that in this day and age access to the internet at sea is not viewed as a fundamental right. At home we take this for granted and being able to contact anyone in the world at the touch of a button with devices in our pockets is fantastic. But why shouldn’t seafarers also be able to do this?”

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Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.

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1 Comment

  1. sorrel
    June 27, 2017 at 1:33 pm

    talking about digitalization of our industry… maybe there is a starting point here!?