Seafarer Communications lacking at ports – Report

The International Committee on Seafarers’ Welfare (ICSW) has pub­lished a report on seafarer access to communications technology in port, which it claims is “taking a back seat because of high investment costs and ports’ concerns about security.”

The Developments in New Technology & Implications for Seafarers’ Welfare report was commissioned by ICSW in order to learn more about how port-wide Wi-Fi and WiMAX services are helping seafar­ers to maintain closer contact with home.

A survey found that 32 percent of respondents had port-wide Wi-Fi and 10 percent had port-wide WiMAX. Wi-Fi typically offers a maximum range of 50m indoors and 100m outdoors while WiMAX provides wireless reception over greater distances.

Of those ports with port-wide wireless networks, 58 percent allowed seafarers access to the networks and 38 percent gave seafarers access for free. Just 26 percent of ports without port-wide access reported having plans for this technology in the future.

The main reason cited for not having port-wide wireless technology was a lack of demand (50 percent), followed by concerns about se­curity (28 percent) and the cost of installing and operating port-wide wireless networks (28 percent).

Concerns about security were also the main reason for not allowing seafarers access to existing networks amongst those that do already have port-wide access but do not currently provide universal access.

The costs that are involved in providing these services can be signifi­cant, with some larger ports reporting that to implement this technol­ogy across their acreage would cost in the region of €10 million.

“Providing cheap and easy access to the internet and e-mail enhances the welfare of seafarers and supports recruitment and retention to the sector,” said Roger Harris, executive director of ICSW.

“Most of us would find it unthinkable these days to exist without the internet – we rely on it to stay in touch with friends and family, keep our affairs in order and enrich our lives.”

“Seafarers deserve the same benefits. The industry is facing a global skills shortage and young people considering a career in the maritime industry will undoubtedly be put off by not being able to get online when they’re in port.”

The research did find some models of success, including the Port of Antwerp, the Port of Singapore and the Port of Kandla, and ICSW says it will use these examples to encourage improvements in the sharing of knowledge and experiences between ports.