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Providing internet connectivity on board is one of the key objectives for making seafarers happier at sea

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Alastair Fischbacher, chief executive of the Sustainable Shipping Initiative, recently commented on a new ‘Seafarers on-board Charter’, a best practice charter that can be adopted by ship owners, operators and managers developed following a survey to explore seafarers’ quality of life and determine what more can be done to enhance the living conditions on board vessels (Splash 24/7, 27.06.2016).

Seafarer welfare is one of the six core areas of the Sustainable Shipping Initiative’s Vision, which is to create a truly sustainable shipping industry by 2040.There can be no doubt that seafarers face vastly different challenges to most working men and women. They often spend long periods away from home and their families, in potentially harsh working conditions, and with unfamiliar crew mates.

“There is a connection between crew experience, crew satisfaction and efficient operations – forward-thinking companies have seen this and already put a great deal of effort into developing and retaining crews”, commented Alastair Fischbacher.

To understand the challenges facing seafarers in today’s industry, the Sustainable Shipping Initiative initiated a survey to explore their quality of life and discern what more can be done to enhance the living conditions on board vessels. The survey highlighted that seafarers often experience stress while at sea, both in their day-to-day work as well as the emotional challenges of being away from their families for long periods of time.

According to the survey results, providing internet connectivity on board must be one of the key objectives for making seafarers happier at sea.

Internet connectivity, and particularly social media usage on board, is a double-edged sword. Whilst being able to freely connect to family and friends, seafarers must also have a good understanding on how their social media activity at sea can impact on their own and their company’s reputation. When something is posted on social media, it moves from the private to the public domain. Seafarers must learn about the relationship between what happens on board, media and reputation management and in particular where social media stands in that process. What they publish online is widely accessible and will be around for a very long time – the internet never forgets, and seafarers’ digital footprint can and will serve as a source for journalists.

It’s the responsibility of the company’s senior management to remind seafarers on the companies’ social media usage expectations – a little education can go a long way and recommendations should be communicated via official social media policies, guidance and/or training.