Connectivity is an important aspect of working in jobs at sea and seafarer wellness. Seafarers who have access to the internet feel less isolated thanks to the ability to engage in social interaction with their friends and family on shore.
However the downside to this is that actual interpersonal relationships onboard vessels are seeing a decline due to many mariners preferring to spend what little downtime they have with their devices instead of engaging in conversation and activities with their fellow crew members.
Is Wi-Fi the key to seafarer wellbeing?
But even on ships without an internet connection, this feeling of disconnect can still be an issue: are we all so used to plugging in and tuning out that human interaction is rapidly becoming a thing of the past?
Yes, connectivity IS an important aspect of seafarer wellness - but that extends to connecting with other people - not just to the internet.
We need to re-purpose the internet for good
Life at sea and success in maritime jobs have traditionally relied on that sense of camaraderie that means so much to seafarers who spend months away from home in far flung corners of the globe.
But if isolation on board is occurring whether or not a ship has Wi-Fi, what's causing it?
We could point the finger of blame at differing social norms, troubled political times or the awareness of just how very different we are to some of our fellow mariners, depending on our background, race or religion.
Ironically all of these things are heightened by the fact that we're all so switched on and connected and are more aware of other cultures than ever before.
But as well as highlighting our differences, technology also has the ability to counteract these negative effects.
Our internet connection - whether we're ashore or living life on a container ship and working in jobs at sea - can be used to learn more and open our eyes.
Jobs at sea are changing thanks to technology
Technology is changing the future of shipping, both at an industry and a human level. There is a rise in personal tech being brought and used onboard ships and many seafarers are choosing to bring their own devices including smartphones, laptops and tablets with them on a voyage so that they have access to the outside world while at sea.
Because of the benefits of connectivity, internet access on board ships has almost doubled in the past few years.
This ability to connect is becoming a priority in the maritime industry as more shipping companies start to recognize the importance of promoting the health and wellness of their seafarers.
After all, organizations that prioritize seafarer wellbeing are more likely to retain crew in the long run. Something that is becoming increasingly crucial as the industry faces a talent and skills shortage.
Internet connectivity versus personal connectivity
But connectivity is not just about having an internet connection on board for seafarers to spend their time between shifts playing online games; it should also be about engaging with the maritime community as a whole. Creating a real life at sea!
There are a wealth of informative and interesting online magazines for mariners covering everything from wellness tips to industry news. Including our own blog of course!
So how can you, as a shipowner or manager, ensure that even if you can't convince your crew to log out and switch off, you can encourage them to use the internet to connect with each other and spend their time online more advantageously?
Realistically, you're probably not going to be able to drag your crew away from the movies they're watching in their bunks on their laptops up to the deck for a game of quoits, but the internet is also a great place for accessing industry training and information.
Statistics show that seafarers want more technology available on board to get more from life on a container ship, not only to interact with the outside world while at sea, but also to improve their professional skills.
Most seafarers see the rising trend of automation on board as a good thing and approximately 60% of crew members have said they want more training in technology and digital equipment to improve their on board experience and the prospects of them finding maritime jobs.
How online training can empower seafarers
Online training for seafarers, distance learning from established maritime academies and language lessons over Skype are all ways that today's seafarer can engage with their community, become happier and more well-rounded, increase their sense of purpose and potential.
And become more efficient, positive and effective contractors or employees who contribute to their crew mates' life at sea.
Connectivity is changing the seafarer experience both onshore and on board for the better, but it is crucial that wherever possible, personal connectivity as well as the positive and productive use of the internet is encouraged by shipping companies.
As research shows, crew members want on board access to the internet and this needs to continue to grow in order to contribute to seafarer wellness and retain talented crew members who truly enjoy their maritime jobs and life on a container ship.
Industry innovators like Martide are committed to creating a positive experience for both shipowners and seafarers through our software as a service solution.
We believe in harnessing technology for the greater good which is why we've developed an all-in-one crew management and recruitment solution that makes life for shipowners, managers and manning agents easier.
Want to learn more? Let's talk.
Eve is Martide's content writer and publishes regular posts on everything from our maritime recruitment and crew planning software to life at sea.