Internet access rapidly becoming a deciding factor for top crew

North P&I Club is encouraging its shipowner members to consider the importance of internet access on their ships to ensure they continue to attract, recruit and retain high quality crews. The issue of internet access, part of a campaign by North to help its members get the right crew, is detailed in the latest issue of the club’s loss prevention newsletter Signals.

“Like most other people today, seafarers expect to have 24-hour, seven-day-a-week access to a good quality internet service,” commented head of loss prevention Tony Baker. “Engaging with friends and family and maintaining relationships via social media is now seen as the norm. In a competitive market for officers and crew, shipowners therefore need to do everything they can to provide good connectivity at sea.”

According to a 2016 survey by the Sustainable Shipping Initiative, provision of internet connectivity on board is a key welfare issue as it makes seafarers happier at sea. The Crew Connectivity 2015 survey report by Futurenautics Research also found 73% of seafarers say the level of onboard internet access influences which company they work for. Baker said: “The importance seafarers place on internet access, and how that affects their choice of employer, means shipowners should seriously consider whether they have good internet access onboard.”

North pointed out that the low speeds and high cost of onboard internet are still an issue. “But as satellite communications technology becomes more advanced and bandwidth limitations disappear, the cost of providing internet access at sea is becoming more affordable. Coverage, reliability and speeds are improving all the time,” said Baker.

North says investing in suitable satellite systems should give shipowners a competitive edge in the seafarer recruitment market as well as ensuring their officers and crews are happier and more productive at sea. However, care must also be taken to ensure the security of ships’ systems as well as maintain healthy personal interactions between crew members.

According to Came By Ship, a UK organisation aimed at promoting shipping to the general public, two-thirds of ship crews have no means of communication while they are on the open sea. Only about one in 10 will have internet. The issue is being discussed as a follow up to MLC 2006.

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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