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

Maritime trade union Nautilus International is calling for a shake-up to the industry to provide good quality, low cost internet access for all.

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 homes1 have broadband access, with the United Nations recently suggesting that access to the internet should be a basic right, rather than a luxury2. The findings emerged from a white paper released last week by Nautilus to mark Seafarers Awareness Week (24th-30th 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?

'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 onboard, it’s essential for the wellbeing of all seafarers that we have free, high-speed internet access. We hope the results of our survey will help to convince shipowners of the benefits of providing internet access and explain how the costs and other counterarguments are outweighed by the positive impact of greater connectivity at sea.'

This survey is part of Nautilus International’s campaign for connectivity at sea. The full report can be found here on the Nautilus website.

Nautilus International is encouraging any seafarer concerned about access at sea to visit here.

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