Q1 2020: No Feeling Like Calling Home

The latest Seafarers Happiness Report is a special focus on the impact of COVID-19 on seafarers. We did ask our usual set of questions…and here we find out the answer to the enquiry about…How happy about contact with family when at sea?

  • 6.81 down from 6.96

In the words of one seafarer, but echoing many, “Nothing is better than being able to contact home”. Ships with internet access are happier than those without. A classic response is that “With Wi-Fi facilities we are happy, but without Wi-Fi impossible”.

There is once more a growing number of respondents who feel that, “internet access is a basic necessity and should be provided free to all seafarers”. Now, however, the demands have evolved slightly. Seafarers are demanding that not only should costs come down, but the quality must come up. Crews feel that things are “getting better”, but there is still a long way to go.

Crews want unlimited high-speed Internet, and there have once again been calls to change the Maritime Labour Convention to reflect this. It is also felt that such a service will help seafarers in managing their rest hours, especially in ports as a lot of time is wasted in using internet during the limited port stay. There are clearly spikes of activity when a ship has cheaper access, and this can lead to concerns about safety. Such problems can be solved with constant, on demand access.

While there is a focus on improving online access, there have been worrying concerns that the move toward Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) satellite communication systems have impacted the quality of phone voice communication. There were respondents who claimed that the quality of voice communications with home were “heavily deteriorated”, with calls being “very bad quality or even impossible on some ships”. This is perhaps an area which needs some attention or further research.

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