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Survey confirms benefits of seafarer internet access

The survey indicates that internet access is having no negative impacts on seafarer rest or sleep and significantly improving mental well-being. Image courtesy of ICS/ECSA The survey indicates that internet access is having no negative impacts on seafarer rest or sleep and significantly improving mental well-being. Image courtesy of ICS/ECSA

A new survey from the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and the European Community Shipowners’ Associations (ECSA) reveals that internet access for seafarers for personal use onboard ships is more widespread than previously imagined, while the positive benefits associated with this access outweigh the feared safety concerns around the technology.

{mprestriction ids="1,2"}Survey responses indicate that the provision of internet access to seafarers for personal use may have improved the mental health and well-being of seafarers (according to 60 per cent of respondents) and the morale of seafarers in the company (according to 69 per cent of respondents). 82 per cent of those organisations who responded provide internet access to seafarers for personal use.

There have been some concerns from the industry that internet access may negatively impact upon seafarers obtaining adequate rest and sleep during periods available for rest. However, 85 per cent of companies reported that this has been unaffected or improved. Similarly, whilst there have also been concerns expressed as to whether internet access may negatively or positively impact upon the work performance of seafarers, 96 per cent of companies reported that this has not deteriorated.

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

93 per cent of companies that responded also said that reported incidences of online bullying and harassment 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.”

Martin Dorsman, secretary general of ECSA added: "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.

"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 responses indicate that the two primary reasons for not providing internet to seafarers are concerns about the costs involved (68 per cent) and concerns about the potential impact on rest/sleep (60 per cent).

The survey was carried out by the ICS and ECSA with support from the Asian Shipowners’ Association (ASA). 276 operators with 11,665 ships, representing 14 per cent of the world fleet responded to the survey.{/mprestriction}

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