Digital crew welfare services will be central to shipping’s ability to deliver fairer conditions for seafarers in the near future, according to a new report by Inmarsat. The report specifically recommends that there needs to be a global solution to welfare needs as the current delivery models are struggling to cope with demand now, let alone in the future.
ponsored by mobile satellite communications provider Inmarsat and prepared by maritime innovation consultancy Thetius, the report ‘A fair future for seafarers?’ is exploring the future of seafaring to 2050, offering recommendations on how shipping, training institutions and welfare services can respond to the changing needs of tomorrow’s seafarers.
Increasing automation and technological development create a range of issues for shipping to tackle by 2050, from skill fade to poor standardization, so the industry will need to adapt to these changes by transforming training and using tools such as extended reality to enhance learning, according to the report.
For instance, the report suggests epidemics and pandemics may become more common, predicts that crew safety, fatigue and harassment issues are unlikely to recede in the short term, and foresees the potential for seafarer abandonment and criminalization as growing problems that need to be addressed. Meanwhile, it stresses that the rise in connectivity and the decline in proper shore leave means that access to welfare services will likely become more digitally focused than physical.
If such scenarios appear bleak, they also highlight connectivity as a necessity. “Seafarers in 2050 will likely have greater interaction and engagement with teams of people ashore,” the report finds. Shipping economics and carbon emission strategies point to shorter port stays. Welfare services will become more digitally focused than physical, face-to-face contact. Lower crew numbers and shorter shore leaves will also mean less reliance on seafarer centres, therefore online charity outreach services will grow in vital importance.
The 2020-21 pandemic may come to be seen as a tipping point for telemedicine,
…says Ronald Spithout, President, Inmarsat Maritime.
In addition, in 2050, seafarers will have been born into the digital era, the authors Nic Gardner and Nick Chubb note, but the use of artificial intelligence (AI), 3D printing, and extended reality (XR) technology onboard will still demand higher levels of technical training.
All the above present a range of issues for the welfare sector, so the report provides three recommendations in order to answer questions including how best to equip seafarers and their families with the skills they need to thrive:
- Establish a global seafarer advocacy organization to support individual seafarers and lobby for improved funding and standards;
- Conduct a strategic review of local seafarer services around the world;
- Increase development of digital services and develop services that can be delivered within local seafaring communities.