How Internet Improves Life of Seafarers Onboard

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Improving crew welfare onboard is not only a necessity for the shipping industry to show it cares for its seafarers, but also a contributing factor to ship safety, experts agreed during a webinar organized on the occasion of the Day of the Seafarer, last month.

Ship condition and seafarer wellbeing

In the webinar, Captain Yves Vandenborn, Director of Loss Prevention at Standard Club, discussed together with Idwal’s Senior Marine Surveyor / Crew Welfare Advocate, Thom Herbert, and Steven Jones, Founder of The Seafarer’s Happiness Index the link between ship condition and seafarer wellbeing and why wellbeing is important in relation to risk.

The pandemic brought major disruptions in shipping, but one of its positive aspects was that it put a spotlight on wellbeing, noted Capt. Yves Vandenborn, Director of Loss Prevention at Standard Club. The most recent updates of Seafarers’ Happiness Index, published by The Mission to Seafarers and providing quarterly reports on crew welfare, show a curve over the past months, with the lowest levels recorded in Q2 2021 (amid COVID-19), but also in Q1 2022.

They (seafarers) want better connectivity; they want better food; Shore leave is a massive issue, the fact that so few seafarers are even getting the slightest bit of break away from a vessel. They want wages to reflect what they feel is the work done…they want training that reflects the job that they do… they want entertainment, they want exercise, they want people ashore to understand them,” said Steven Jones, Founder of The Seafarer’s Happiness Index.

Seafarers’ concerns for 2022

  • War zones and attacks
  • Tensions onboard
  • Freedom of movement
  • Connection to family
  • COVID coming back
  • Monkeypox outbreak

The geopolitical wrinkles around the world are felt constantly by seafarers and we need to listen to the seafarers to understand the implications of them and what we can do about it,” he added.

Internet connectivity VS social interaction onboard

Internet connectivity is one of the main requests contributing to seafarers’ wellbeing, with more and more shipping companies deploying VSATs to provide better connectivity onboard, continued Capt. Vandenborn. This is reflected in the recent MLC changes that will make it a requirement to provide connectivity onboard ships, he stressed.

However, commenting on the “flip side” of connectivity onboard, Capt. Vandenborn stressed how sometimes the Internet onboard makes crews simply disappear into their cabins because they want to communicate with their own people. This is why ISWAN recently proposed, as part of its ongoing Social Interaction Matters (SIM) Project, the appointment of a voluntary ‘Social Ambassador’ onboard every vessel to help convene social activities and promote crew engagement.

(Connectivity) is of course very important and it helps the wellbeing of that seafarer, but it comes at a cost to the social cohesion onboard ships. And that is something that I feel there needs to be a balance and shipowners need to find a way to improve that social cohesion onboard ships. If you are able to get a happy crew onboard, if they start caring for each other instead of only caring for their own part, they will improve the safety culture onboard ships,” Capt. Vandenborn commented.

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Source: Safety4sea

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