Among eight significant just-agreed amendments to the ILO’s Maritime Labor Convention 2006 (MLC) is one that makes providing onboard crew connectivity a requirement for ship owners. The new MLC amendments come at a time when seafarer welfare is under increasing scrutiny. The world’s leading provider of global, mobile, satellite communications, Inmarsat, has long been a strong proponent for the well-being of crew, and says its Fleet Hotspot solution is helping ship owners address the requirements to ensure that crew remain socially connected while at sea.
Powered by Inmarsat’s Fleet Xpress service, Fleet Hotspot delivers high-speed internet access allowing crew to stay in contact with friends and relatives, as well as stream music, films and series. Seafarers can access the user-friendly Fleet Hotspot portal on their own device to monitor their usage or top up their balances as required.
The solution’s value to seafarers and shipowners is evident with the average monthly crew spend on connectivity increasing at a high pace in the past two years.
“We recognize that staying connected with friends, family and the outside world is a necessity for seafarer welfare – a fact that is now recognized in the recent amendments to the Maritime Labor Convention,” says Ben Palmer, president, maritime, at Inmarsat. “Fleet Hotspot uptake and usage have shown extraordinary growth over the past few months. Operators who have trialed the solution have gone on to roll it out across their entire fleet, which illustrates that it is meeting both owner and crew expectations.”
Following recent enhancements, Fleet Hotspot is now easier to use than ever before. Crew members can access their accounts even while they are at home and purchase data before boarding the vessel. Detailed payment and session history provides full visibility into spending and data consumption, and the management of payments, credit balances, and usage has also been simplified.
“Ship owners and operators see value in the dedicated network that Fleet Hotspot provides for crew to access the internet without interfering with the vessel’s operational bandwidth or exposing business operations to cyber threats,” said Palmer. “Operators are also drawn to the solution for the competitive advantage it provides in crew hiring and retention, with seafarers increasingly favoring employers that offer the highest-quality connectivity services.”
Inmarsat was active in supporting seafarer welfare following the onset of COVID-19. Through its Certified Application Provider (CAP) Program, Inmarsat provided seafarers with immediate access to a COVID-19 healthcare hotline. Inmarsat also works closely with the International Seafarers Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) and major maritime charities to ensure that seafarers have access to support without the burden of additional financial anxiety. Crew can access ISWAN’s SeafarerHelp portal and live chat function via Fleet Hotspot.
On an ongoing basis, crew are offered discounts on Fleet Hotspot and voice services during holidays and special occasions so that they can be a part of the celebrations back home.