Maritime workers and Wi-Fi: What is the connection (or lack thereof)?

Do you remember the last time you didn’t have access to reliable Wi-Fi or cellular dataFor most of us in Canada, Wi-Fi or access to cellular data is something we take for granted. Outside of our technological bubble, regions are struggling to secure reliable internet which the United Nations deems as a basic human right. But what about those people that don’t live on land 365 days a year? Seafarers are maritime workers who are employed to work on ships around the globe. There are 1.5 million seafarers worldwide, many of whom are on board for months at a time with inadequate, costly or lack of Wi-Fi. 

The role of seafarers has been historically overlooked and underappreciated.  These men and women make significant sacrifices to carry out their essential roles which benefit the rest of society daily. There is no better word than “essential” to describe the work they do, without them, half the world would starve, and the other half would freeze. Their job function is dangerouswith the ocean being one of the riskiest places to work. 

Where does Wi-Fi fit in? 

The COVID-19 pandemic has created what the International Maritime Organization refers to as a “growing humanitarian crisis” for seafarers. With travel restrictions leaving tens of thousands of workers stuck aboard ships, many issues have arisen, one often overlooked being poor access to Wi-Fi. This limits seafarer’s ability to both be able to connect with the outside world including loved ones and to shop for essential items they might need while docked in port. 

At Port Saint John, we want to do all we can to aid during this humanitarian crisis, and one critical thing we can provide is access to Internet at the most frequently used Port Saint John facilities. Championed by Chaplain Eric Phinney of the Saint John Seafarers Mission, in response to this crisis, Port Saint John recently installed three Wi-Fi access points. Once connected to the newer Wi-Fi access points, seafarers are directed to a list of services they can access virtually including emotional support resources and shopping options. 

How can I help? 

1) Slow the spread of COVID-19 

The number one way you can help with this issue is to wear a mask, stay home and wash your hands. Though all issues facing seafarers will not end when the pandemic does, Internet access is widely available to them when they once again feel safe and are able to disembark. 

2) Donate and consider volunteering with your local Mission to Seafarers 

The Mission to Seafarers is an organization found in 200 ports globally ready to help seafarers in any way possible. They deal with issues such as communication, fatigue, piracy, mental health and wellbeing, ship abandonment and shipwreck.  

This post is also available in: French