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Isolation and the challenges of crew internet

Isolation and the challenges of crew internet
07 November 2018

No one was arguing that seafarers shouldn’t have internet access at the CrewConnect Global conference in Manila, but there are growing concerns over the impact it can have in terms of isolating individual crew members and their mental health.

With smaller crew sizes isolation on board vessels was already becoming an issue and with the growth in connectivity this has been exacerbated by seafarers spending increasing amounts of time in their cabins on the internet rather than socialising with their fellow seafarers during non-work hours.

“Isolation on board is becoming an issue. More internet on board seems to have a connection to psychological challenges, it seems to be something that is growing numbers these days,” Simon Frank, director crew operations East for V.Ships told the conference. He added that it was an area where they had to be mechanisms in place.

This is happening at the same time that there continue to be pressures on crew sizes and Stuart Rivers, ceo of Sailors Society, questioned at what point would “safe manning” levels become such that seafarer interaction was impossible.

It is not just that seafarers don’t socialise with their fellow crew members while using the internet there are also issues with social media and the family connectivity which the seafarer far from home may be ill equipped to deal with.

Guy Platten, secretary general of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) said that connectivity was great but there were also pressures that came from social media. “Social media is a power for good, but also presents a problem as it allows seafarers to observe what is going on at home but not to participate.”

This brings the question as to whether there should be some limits on internet on board either in terms of time or physical location where it can be accessed.

Ben Bailey, director of advocacy and regional engagement for the Mission to Seafarers, said, “What we are seeing with internet on board is seafarers who are becoming even more isolated.” He said that companies could be putting limits on the use of the use of internet or that it could be used in just one area.

The issue of isolation is part of a growing concern over mental health seafarers and the high percentages of deaths from suicide especially among more junior seafarers.