Seafarers support digitalisation but wary of impact on jobs – report

A new report published by Inmarsat has suggested that seafarers are largely in favour of greater digitalisation of maritime operations, but that a sizeable proportion of those working at sea also fear shrinking job opportunities with increasing automation.

Compiled by maritime consultancy Thetius, Seafarers in the Digital Age – Prioritising Human Element in Maritime Digital Transformation draws on the results of a survey of 200 maritime professionals.

After canvassing seagoing and shore-based shipping personnel for views on the impacts of digitalisation on their health and welfare, on training, careers and job retention, and on performance, the report describes the relationship between seafarers and emerging maritime technologies as “broadly positive” but suggests that shipping companies and technology providers have work to do to mitigate some of the worries crew have about digital transformation at sea.

The report says that more than a third of seafarers prioritise personal access to digital technology as the key issue when considering a new employer, and that internet access ranks higher than pay as a deciding factor, with wages most important to fewer than 25%. The publication also found that 78% of ship operators surveyed had installed internet connectivity on board for personal use by crew in the last five years.

However, the report also highlights that seafarers see risks in the wider deployment of digital technologies, with half of those surveyed expecting job opportunities to decline by 25% within five years.

“The inclusion of mandatory internet access to the Maritime Labour Convention in May represents a paradigm shift for seafaring rights, putting into law what responsible owners already fully understand: high-quality onboard internet has become a key indicator of crew welfare and hence recruitment and retention of high-quality personnel,” said Ben Palmer, President, Inmarsat Maritime.

“Today, it also provides the basis for new and exciting next-generation job roles at sea, as well as supporting safer operations, greater sustainability and productivity gains.”

Seafarers in the Digital Age – Prioritising Human Element in Maritime Digital Transformation is available here.

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Rob O'Dwyer

Rob is Chief Network Officer and one of the founders of Smart Maritime Network. He also serves as Chairman of the Smart Maritime Council. Rob has worked in the maritime technology sector since 2005, managing editorial for a range of leading publications in the transport and logistics sector. Get in touch by email by clicking here, or on LinkedIn by clicking here.

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