A crew communications survey carried out by Astrium Services reveals that a growing number of seafarers see on board Wi-Fi connectivity as essential in order to use their own smartphones, tablets and laptops aboard ships.
Social media, especially Facebook was highlighted as one of the most popular web destinations for crews whilst it was also revealed that many seafarers are prepared to pay for connectivity.
The Crew Communications 2012 Survey, which was commissioned by Astrium Services to fill the market gap in up-to-date data on crew communications requirements and supported by consultants Stark Moore McMillan, questioned 960 Filipino seafarers during Q3 & Q4 2012. 12% of those surveyed were officers and 88% were general crew. The survey explored the availability of communications for crew, with a positive finding that 68% of seafarers can now use some form of communication service most or all of the time when at sea, whilst almost all crew can make voice calls using a vessel’s satcoms system, at least occasionally.
The survey highlights the growing requirement for data communication among seafarers. The popularity of using one’s own device shows that owners investing in vessel-wide broadband connectivity and corresponding Wi-Fi connections to provide either free or low-cost internet access will experience return in terms of crew recruitment and retention. This is especially important considering the survey whitepaper states that the lack of qualified officers continues to grow, from a deficit of 10,000 to 13,000 in the period 2005-2010. Therefore, shipping companies able to offer strong crew welfare packages are better positioned to recruit from the limited pool of talent and increase staff loyalty.
The emergence of on board hybrid networks with VSAT and MSS empowers owners to provide the levels of reliable, cost-effective connectivity required to support changing communication usage patterns. Astrium Services offers advanced Prepaid and Crew Communications solutions portfolio, enabling crew and passengers on board to stay in contact with friends and family. The Universal Card allows crew to make telephone calls, access the Internet, exchange messages at predefined costs – all using a single prepaid card.
Web compression and filtering solutions help to control communication cost and make crew communications affordable. Moreover, the Crew PC, configured for safe, efficient and unsupervised private usage, can serve as a personal communications center. Another way of organizing crew voice and data usage is offered by XChange, Astrium Services’ integrated solutions platform. Over XChange crew can use their personal laptop or tablet in the privacy of their living quarters and can make voice calls via their own smartphones.
“The objective of the survey was to establish a clear picture of current crew communication requirements, the level of access to communications, what crew paid for these services and how they paid for them,” says Tilmann Michalke, Senior Product Manager Crew Communications, Astrium Services.
“It’s clear to see that seafarers are keen to be able to communicate with friends and family when they are at sea, just as easily as they could at home. Offering this capability supports any operator’s crew welfare strategy,” adds Tore Morten Olsen, Head of Maritime Services at Astrium Services. “This new data will assist us in developing innovative new solutions that will directly meet future user requirements. Likewise, with a stronger understanding of what drives the user, we can support operators through the on-going development of our core connectivity services and value added services.”