Six Percent of Seafarers Video-Connected

seafarer with phone
Credit: Nautilus International

Published Jun 27, 2017 2:34 AM by The Maritime Executive

A survey conducted by U.K. maritime union Nautilus International has found that  six percent of seafarers have sufficient internet connectivity for video calls when at sea. 

Nautilus makes the comparison that 91 percent of U.K. homes and 85 percent of European homes  have broadband access. The United Nations recently suggesting that access to the internet should be a basic right, rather than a luxury, says Nautilus.

The survey included 1,790 crew members and 18 companies representing their entire fleets, and it showed that despite nearly 88 percent of seafarers having some form of internet access at sea, most have very limited speeds and at high costs. 

In addition, only 57 percent of crew have personal email access and just one third have social media access at sea (34 percent), leaving the majority of seafarers isolated from friends and families. Nearly two-thirds of respondents (63 percent) 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 percent). The two biggest reasons given were fears crews would access illegal or adult content (83 percent) and the potentially high installation costs (83 percent). The survey also found that nearly two-thirds of respondents (58 percent) were concerned the provision would result in a distraction to work.

Results also show that despite some companies believing that social interaction is affected by the provision of enhanced communications on board vessels, seafarers still view crew not speaking a common language as having the highest impact on social interaction on board, with crew using personal devices or spending time alone in cabins following closely behind. 

Nautilus is hoping that shipping companies will 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?

'We hope this survey will highlight just how poor connectivity is for our members. With very limited and regulated shore leave, increasing workloads, reduced crewing levels and reductions in the quality of social life on board, it’s essential for the well-being of all seafarers that we have free, high-speed internet access.”

The survey is available here.