A new survey from the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and the European Community Shipowners’ Associations (ECSA) presents that internet access for seafarers for personal use on board ships is more widespread and available than previously imagined. In addition, the survey shows the positive benefits related with this access, which outweigh the feared safety concerns regarding the technology.
The responses to the survey conducted by ICS and ECSA, with support from the Asian Shipowners’ Association (ASA), indicate that internet access to seafarers for personal use may have improved the mental health and well-being of seafarers, as 60% of respondents said, as well as for the morale of seafarers in the company, according to 69% of respondents.
82% of the organisations that responded, provide internet access to seafarers for personal use. In spite of industry concerns that internet access may negatively affect seafarers gaining adequate rest and sleep during periods available for rest, 85% of these companies reported that this has been unaffected or improved.
What is more, while there have also been worries as to whether internet access may negatively or positively impact the work performance of seafarers, 96% of companies reported that this has not gotten worse.
Moreover, most of companies reported that the number of incidences of seafarers seeking assistance because of family or home-related anxieties have stayed the same, despite speculation that increased communications with family might lead toe more anxieties about problems ashore.
In addition, the vast majority of companies, namely 93%, responded that the number of reported incidences of online bullying and harassment have not increased, despite speculations that further internet access might expose seafarers to this behaviour.
Continuing, the responses report that the two main reasons for not providing internet to seafarers are concerns about the costs involved (68%) and concerns about the possible impact on rest/sleep (60%).
Overall, the survey received responses by 276 operators with 11,665 ships, representing 14% of the world fleet, with a profile of respondents closely reflecting that of the world fleet.
Commenting on these results, Guy Platten, Secretary General of ICS, stated that:
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
He added that it is very positive the fact that most of the companies have a written policy regarding internet access by seafarers for personal use on board ships. However, he believes that it is surprising that almost a quarter of companies responded that they have not put any written policy in place, something that should be considered a matter of concern in relation to cyber security issues.
For his side, Martin Dorsman, Secretary General of ECSA, mentioned that internet access on ships for seafarers’ personal use can improve the working conditions of seafarers and also attract future generations into the sector. He also believes that the responses are encouraging, as most of the companies do provide internet on board for personal use. Nonetheless, he believes that the industry has still some way to go.