Rally Point from the President: CONNECT CREW DURING COVID19
Inmarsat Maritime President Ronald Spithout says crews must be provided with enhanced connectivity as support is critical at this unprecedented time. He also shared insight into the work underway with welfare organisations to assist seafarers.
Inmarsat is the leading provider of maritime VSAT and L-Band services at sea, expectedly alert to the direct connection between Covid 19 and the surging demand for crew voice call and data services.
Since the virus first became widespread in Asia, Inmarsat has been working across the company and its partners for proactive steps to keep seafarers connected with loved ones during this global pandemic.
Spithout recalls that in February, Inmarsat enabled free of charge additional call time for users of its ChatCard voice services. All ship managers offering the service were directly advised, while seeking help from groups such as the Singapore Shipowners Association to spread the word.
Inmarsat also provides medical advice and assistance free of charge to seafarers over Fleet One, FleetBroadband and F77 services - anywhere, anytime and for anybody in need.
The firm has also prioritised telemedicine as an area for service development with our application partners, at no cost to owners nor crew.
With the anxiety over coronavirus worldwide, those at sea are as entitled as any to the medical and policy updates disseminated by authorities and news media, whether aimed at seafarers or their loved ones at home.
In collaboration with the Sailors’ Society, Inmarsat commissioned the report of the Royal Holloway, University of London entitled Navigating Everyday Connectivities at Sea given people working ashore may focus on secondary issues when they talk of crew welfare and wellbeing.
It says as soon as a ship comes within range of a terrestrial network, seafarers use their mobile phone regardless of time of day, whether they are working or not.
Where seafarers had to ration their allowance, the researchers found it could mean that domestic issues were not resolved, adding to personal anxiety as they continue to work.
When denied connectivity, crew members can be ingenious in finding work arounds: respect for crew welfare is all the more imperative in difficult times to avoid risks to a ship’s cyber security.
Inmarsat has improved crew connectivity by using the ‘Fleet Hotspot’ Wi-Fi solution for the Crew Xpress service launched for Fleet Xpress customers in 2019. Crew Xpress offers a managed ‘channel’ for crew login, with time/data exchanged for vouchers/online payment.
Spithout hosted talks with Intl Seafarers' Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) and a number of major charities to discuss development of a crew portal, data and voice incentives for crew quarantined on board.
He is foursquare on his stand, “We need everyone … the responsibility doesn’t fall solely on the satellite operator or welfare association: we’re all in this together.”