Lost at sea: Seafarers cut off due to lack of web access, says union


Seafarers are being cut off from their families for months on end due to a lack of internet connectivity while at sea, a survey by by maritime professionals’ trade union, Nautilus International has found.

In Seafarers’ Awareness Week (June 24-30 ), the report looks at the need within the industry to provide internet access at sea, with just 6 per cent of crew having video calling access despite being away from home at months on end.

By comparison, 91 per cent of UK 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 report also found that while 88 per cent of seafarers have some form of internet access at sea, most have very limited speeds and at high costs.

In addition, only 57 per cent of crew have personal email access and just one third have social media access at sea (34 per cent), leaving the majority of seafarers isolated from friends and families.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents (63 per cent) also suggested they would consider moving companies if the new company provided better quality internet.

The survey included input from the industry leaders, and one in ten of these admitted they don’t provide their employees with any access to the internet (14 per cent).

The two biggest reasons given were fears crews would access illegal or adult content (83 per cent) and the potentially high installation costs (83 per cent).

The survey also found that nearly two-thirds of respondents (58 per cent) were concerned the provision would result in a distraction to work.

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.

“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 will be released on the 30th June and can be found at www.nautilusint.org.