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COMMUNICATIONS Maritime Broadband’s C-Bird antenna can be commissioned and assembled in under six hours STAYING CONNECTED Access to communications on board is vital to a seafarer’s mental state F or seafarers, who toil at sea for months on end away from their families and friends, access to communications is just as vital to their spirit as oxygen, water and food is to their body. The Maritime Labor Convention 2006—the mariner’s bill of rights—promotes seafarer’s health and well-being. Vital to attaining that well-being is “reasonable access to ship-to-shore telephone communications, and email and internet facilities where available with any charges for the use of these services being reasonable in amount.” To that end, owners and operators have provided several communication options for crew—such as calling cards and access to email—but are those options enough? And how often are they available to crew? Futurenautic study A crew communications research survey conducted between December 2013 and March 2014 by Futurenautics Research provides some insight into how crucial the role of communications is in crew retention and keeping up morale. Retaining crew is crucial to a company’s bottom line as the cost to train and maintain the crew makes up 10% of all non-fuel costs. The survey included nearly 3,000 participants, across 20 nationalities. Sixty one percent of those surveyed worked as officers and 48 MARINE LOG June 2014 By Shirley Del Valle, Associate Editor 39% worked as crew. The respondents worked across eight maritime sectors: tankers, gas carriers, bulk, car carriers, containers, offshore, general cargo and passenger vessels. Of those surveyed, 56% said they have access to communications on board always or most of the time, while 6% said they never have access to crew communications. While the 6% may seem like a small number, it is up from the 2% in 2012’s survey. The survey also reports that expenditures are up when it comes to certain types of communications compared to the 2012 survey. Futurenautics says “Monthly expenditure when ashore on video chat has increased five-fold from only $5 in 2012 to $25 in 2014, and internet access is now costing the average seafarer $30 per month, as opposed to only $2 in 2012.” Meanwhile, 69% of respondents said that access to communications played a major factor in the decision on where to work. The study also noted that crews were “less stressed, happier, more relaxed and more motivated” when having improved access to the outside world. Giving crew access North American Maritime Ministry Association’s (NAMMA) Ken Hawkins has seen first-hand the vital role communications can play in the lives of seafarers. Hawkins, along with several chaplains and

June 2014 Marine Log

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