Survey indicates benefits of seafarer internet

A new survey from the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and the European Community Shipowners’ Associations (ECSA) has suggested that seafarers are gaining significant benefits from the provision of personal internet access on board ships, outweighing any concerns regarding deteriorating work performance associated with the technology.

The responses to the survey carried out by ICS and ECSA, with support from the Asian Shipowners’ Association (ASA), showed that some 82% of organisations currently provide internet access to seafarers for personal use.

Those surveyed indicated that the provision of internet access may have improved the mental health and well-being of seafarers (according to 60% of respondents) as well as the morale of seafarers in the company (according to 69% of respondents).

Despite industry concerns that internet access may negatively impact seafarers in obtaining adequate rest and sleep during rest periods, 85% of companies reported that this has been unaffected, or even improved.

Similarly, whilst there have also been concerns expressed as to whether internet access may negatively impact upon the work performance of seafarers, 96% of companies reported that this has not occurred.

In addition, the majority of companies reported that the number of instances of seafarers seeking assistance due to family or home-related anxieties has stayed the same, despite speculation that increased communications with family might generate more anxieties about problems ashore.

On another positive note, most of the companies (93%) responded that the number of reported incidences of online bullying and harassment of seafarers have not increased, despite speculation that greater internet access might expose seafarers to this behaviour.

“This survey provides a very optimistic picture not only of the positive impact of access to the internet for the seafarer, but also of the industry’s readiness to embrace technology that will be commonplace in the future. If you had asked the same operators whether they offered crew personal access to the internet only five years ago the results would have been very different,” said Guy Platten, Secretary General of ICS.

“We were also pleased to see that a majority of companies have a written policy related to internet access by seafarers for personal use on board ships. However, it is quite surprising that nearly a quarter of companies indicated that they have not put any written policy in place, and as we move towards greater connectivity this must be considered a matter of concern in relation to cyber security issues.”

Continued progress

The two primary reasons for not providing internet to seafarers highlighted by respondents were concerns about the costs involved (68%), and concerns about the potential impact on rest/sleep  (60%).

“Internet access on ships for seafarers’ personal use is a key factor in efforts to improve the working conditions of seafarers and to attract  future generations into the sector – people to whom a world without the web is entirely alien. We have been discussing this topic with our social partner, the European Transport Workers’ Federation, in the European social dialogue,” added Martin Dorsman, Secretary General of ECSA.

“The results of the survey are very encouraging – both in terms of responses received and the state of affairs they have mapped out. They show that a large majority of companies are indeed providing internet on board for personal use, whilst concerns about possible detrimental effects on seafarers are shown to be largely unfounded. Nevertheless the industry still has some way to go and we look forward to continuing to work with our social partner to encourage best practice.”

The survey on the provision of internet access to seafarers for personal use on board ships received responses from 276 operators with 11,665 ships, representing 14% of the world fleet. The profile of respondents also closely represented that of the world fleet, the associations said.