Connectivity Key to Seafarer Welfare, Inmarsat Sponsored Report says
Inmarsat sponsored a new report which explores the future of seafaring to 2050, a report that offers not just insights on connectivity, rather recommendations on how shipping, training institutions and welfare services can respond to the changing needs of tomorrow’s seafarers.
Dubbed ‘A fair future for seafarers?’, the report was prepared by maritime consultancy Thetius. While published as the world still struggles with the impact of COVID-19, the report suggests epidemics and pandemics may become more common, predicting that crew safety, fatigue and harassment issues are unlikely to recede in the short term, and foresees the potential for seafarer abandonment and criminalization as growing problems that need to be addressed.
Crew welfare continues to be a hot-button topic, as seafarers have endured tremendous stress during the pandemic with the inability to effectively enact regular crew changes, some stuck on ships for more than a year. Connectivity, allowing contact with people and events on shore, is increasingly seen as a critical plank in overall seafarer health and welfare.
“Seafarers in 2050 will likely have greater interaction and engagement with teams of people ashore,” according to the report. Shipping economics and carbon emission strategies point to shorter port stays. Welfare services will become more digitally focused than physical, face-to-face contact. Lower crew numbers and shorter shore leaves will also mean less reliance on seafarer centres, therefore online charity outreach services will grow in vital importance.
“The 2020-21 pandemic may come to be seen as a tipping point for telemedicine,”said Ronald Spithout, President, Inmarsat.
The report highlights how fatigue monitoring and management systems will likely replace manual logging of rest hours. Following the 2020 Crew Welfare Open Innovation Challenge, Inmarsat and Shell Shipping and Trading are sea trialling the software capability provided by Eupnoos and Workrest to enable intelligent fatigue management from the data collected by wearable technology.
In 2050, seafarers will have been born into the digital era, Gardner and Chubb note, but the use of artificial intelligence (AI), 3D printing, and extended reality (XR) technology onboard will still demand higher levels of technical training. Signs of change are also apparent here, with the Isle of Man Registry working with start-up Tapiit to create an app to live stream training, and organisations such as Ocean Technology Group delivering maritime training using VR headsets.
“We are fully aware of the sacrifices our seafarers continue to make to keep the world economy running,” says Spithout. “This new report includes important proposals for the creation of a global seafarer advocacy organisation and an urgent strategic review of local seafarer services. For its part, Inmarsat is doing everything in its power to support our seafarers. We are doing so through enhancing connectivity and the digital services that support safety, continuous professional development and crew welfare as well as continuously working in collaboration with charities, ship owners and managers to provide enhanced welfare services.”