Seafarers call for better connectivity on ships, says new UK survey


Some 69% of seafarers believe connectivity needs improving on ships, according to a newly published survey. Results from The UK Port Welfare Seafarers’ Survey, published by leading maritime charity the Merchant Navy Welfare Board (MNWB), show 359 out of 519 seafarers want better connectivity when they visit a UK port.

This is so seafarers, who spend months away from home at sea, can make much-needed calls and messages to friends and family.

Comments from seafarers in the survey said connectivity should “be made available 24 hours a day”, “increase the speed and make it free for all crew” and “make it stronger and faster”.

The nationwide survey, which MNWB launched in 2023 aimed at seafarers visiting UK ports and ran over a three-month period, asked for their feedback on services and facilities available to them and how important they were with the limited time they had in port.

The aim of the survey was to get first-hand information from seafarers on the services available to them in UK ports, as well as to get a snapshot of general areas of concern they might have. This included questions on welfare and shore leave.

When it came to rating port services in the UK, almost 77% of respondents said that seafarers’ welfare facilities in the UK are excellent. However, the lack of transport available to seafarers to get to shops was mentioned by 15% and 10% of respondents commented that every major port in the UK should have a seafarers’ centre – comparing the outstanding facilities available in Europe to those lacking in the UK.

One seafarer commented that “something to break down the barriers between crews from each country – as we all just stick with our own countrymen” was needed.

As for shore leave, 95% of all respondents said that they received some period of leave. Some 65% of seafarers were given 1-4 hours, 28% had 5-10 hours, but only 2% had more than 10 hours and 5% had no time off.

Sharon Coveney, Deputy Chief Executive of the MNWB which is the umbrella charity for the UK Merchant Navy and fishing fleets representing 45 constituent welfare charities, said: “Generally, seafarers seem to be happy with the facilities provided at ports.

“But we are concerned that 69% of seafarers believe connectivity needs improving on ships. While our jointly-funded MiFi project provides crucial social connectivity so seafarers can stay connected with loved ones, many are still hampered by poor connectivity, which is why a long-term, sustainable solution is needed to combat this issue with the help of shipowners and ports.

“It’s no myth that seafarers just want parity with those in shore-based jobs. Yes, it’s very different at sea, but basic human needs can still be met. When ashore, it is the simple things that they appreciate like the opportunity to go shopping, make a video call, relax in a comfortable environment. Seafarers keep the global economy moving and things would grind to a halt without them.”

The survey was translated into six additional languages – Indonesian, Mandarin, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog (one of the main languages of The Philippines) and Ukrainian.

Out of the 519 total respondents, more than 50% were Filipino, over 15% were Indian and less than 5% were British.

The survey was completed online and paper copies were distributed by port chaplains, ship visitors, seafarer centre managers and port staff.

Additionally, there were separate surveys for the ports of Milford Haven and Southampton. There were 61 responses from the port of Southampton and 29 for Milford Haven.