Seafarers video calls will be free and voice calls at sea half price until the end of June, as global satellite provider Inmarsat responds to industry calls on behalf of needy crew during Covid-19.
Inmarsat has announced 50% shipboard VOIP call discounts and a free Covid-19 video call service until the end of June. For Skype and any other internet-based contact methods, Inmarsat is believed to be working on a solution for free access.
Caitlin Vaughan, project manager at International Seafarers Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) said it was 'delighted that more seafarers will be able to access SeafarerHelp for free. We welcome the discounted calls that Inmarsat are providing.'
Ms Vaughan said ISWAN is waiting for practical details of how the discounts would work, and how many seafarers this will be available to, but added: 'We're looking forward to continued partnership working with Inmarsat and the other maritime charities to improve seafarers' access to communications during this challenging time.'
At least one of Inmarsat's products is bought by seafarers directly, but so far there is still not a commitment for free personal calls/data – only discounts.
KVH already offers free VOIP calls to SeafarerHelp.
The Union has called on Inmarsat and shipboard internet solutions provider KVH Industries to enable free calls to seafarers to help provide some mental health relief for thousands of seafarers now stuck onboard ships unable to disembark due to coronavirus restrictions with many ports refusing crew changeovers and flight bans in most countries.
Communication with home is the number one welfare concern of seafarers, and the link with family has become even more important during the pandemic.
Inmarsat has urged its wholesale partners to pass the savings on to crew though the Crew Calling Service.
Nautilus members who are experiencing difficulties related to the coronavirus outbreak are advised to contact their industrial organiser for assistance. In an emergency members can also contact the Nautilus 24/7 helpline.