Nautilus 24/7 provider ISWAN, on behalf of Nautilus and other trade unions, seafaring charities, the UK Chamber of Shipping and international maritime medical experts, have urgently requested global satellite provider Inmarsat and shipboard high-speed internet solutions provider KVH Industries to enable free calls.

In separate letters to the service providers, ISWAN executive director Roger Harris asked Inmarsat to grant additional free data and free satellite calls, and for KVH Industries to grant additional free data and free satellite calls for seafarers aboard vessels on international voyages for the next three months:

Seafarers on board vessels are being badly affected, often unable to leave their ship because of port state and other restrictions. They are having to stay on board for a lot longer than they signed up for and are being prevented from going ashore. Many seafarers are also stranded and unable to return to their home countries.

Mr Harris said communication back home is the 'number one welfare concern of seafarers, and the link with home has become even more important'.

Inmarsat Maritime president Ronald Spithout responded positively and offered a meeting to all the parties on Wednesday to discuss further ways it could help seafarers, in particular what else could be done on the development of a crew technology platform that Inmarsat and the main charities were already working on together.

He said that in recognition of the 'unprecedented crisis' Inmarsat had already been proactive over the last eight weeks in helping seafarers keep connected.'

Since the virus first became widespread in Asia over eight weeks ago Inmarsat has been working internally and with our partners to take proactive steps to keep seafarers connected and in touch with loved ones during this difficult time.

In February, Inmarsat had added free additional call time for all users of its ChatCard voice service which seafarers pay for, added Mr Spithout.

Inmarsat had also been working with several shipowners to provide subsidised bandwidth to meet with the increasing bandwidth demands from vessels.

In the next few weeks, Inmarsat will be announcing 'further incentives to provide further additional support to crew using our services'.

See also:

Australian ports offer free WiFi to seafarers