… for maritime communications
A unique crew communications survey carried out by Airbus Defence and Space reveals that a growing number of seafarers see on-board Wi-Fi connectivity as essential in order to use their own smartphones, tablets and laptops aboard ships – and are prepared to put their money where their mouth is.
The Crew Communications 2012 Survey, which was commissioned by Airbus Defence and Space’ to fill the market gap in up-to-date data on crew communications requirements, questioned 960 Filipino seafarers during the third and fourth quarters of 2012. 12% of those surveyed were officers and 88% were general crew.
The survey explored the availability of communications for crew, with a positive finding that 68% of seafarers can now use some form of communication service most or all of the time when at sea, while almost all crew can make voice calls using a vessel’s satcoms system, at least occasionally.
The survey highlights the growing requirement for data communication among seafarers. The popularity of using one’s own device shows that owners investing in vessel-wide broadband connectivity and corresponding Wi-Fi connections to provide either free or low-cost internet access will experience return in terms of crew recruitment and retention. This is especially important considering the survey whitepaper states that the lack of qualified officers continues to grow, from a deficit of 10,000 to 13,000 in the period 2005–2010. Therefore shipping companies able to offer strong crew welfare packages are better positioned to recruit from the limited pool of talent and increase staff loyalty.
It is also important to note that the average amount of money spent on communications at sea was $150/month, with officers spending nearly twice as much on personal communications as crew members. The passenger, tanker and car carrier sectors included the highest levels of expenditure.
The emergence of on-board hybrid networks with VSAT and MSS – such as many of the solutions provided by Airbus Defence and Space – empowers owners to provide the levels of reliable, cost-effective connectivity required to support changing communication usage patterns. Airbus Defence and Space offers Prepaid and Crew Communications solutions which enable crew and passengers on board to stay in contact with friends and family. The Universal Card allows crew to make telephone calls, access the Internet and exchange messages at predefined costs.
Web compression and filtering solutions help to control costs and make crew communications affordable. Crew PC, configured for safe, efficient and unsupervised private usage, can serve as a personal communications centre. Another way of organising crew voice and data usage is offered by XChange; through XChange, crew can use their personal laptop or tablet in the privacy of their living quarters and can make voice calls via their own smartphones.
“The objective of the survey was to establish a clear picture of current crew communication requirements, the level of access to communications, what crew paid for these services and how they paid for them,” says Tilmann Michalke, Senior Product Manager Crew Communications. “Many shipping companies face staff retention issues and communication services can represent an attractive incentive to crew members. Airbus Defence and Space currently provides the most advanced pre-paid and crew communications solutions portfolio on the market. The only way we can ensure it remains so is by understanding today’s and tomorrow’s needs of crew and ship-owners, and building propositions for their different requirements and budgets.”
“It’s clear to see that seafarers are keen to be able to communicate with friends and family when they are at sea just as easily as they can at home. Offering this capability supports any operator’s crew welfare strategy,” adds Tore Morten Olsen, Head of Maritime Services. “This new data will assist us in developing innovative new solutions that will directly meet future user requirements. Likewise, with a stronger understanding of what drives the user, we can support operators through the on-going development of our core connectivity services and value added services.”