A 'lifeline' project ensuring seafarers can gain high-speed internet access while visiting UK ports to contact family and friends has been extended for another year.
The UK Port Welfare MiFi Partnership Project is run by the Merchant Navy Welfare Board (MNWB), The Seafarers' Charity and the Department for Transport – all of whom have pledged to fund the project for the third successive year.
The project supports the work of front-line welfare societies who provide a communications lifeline to many seafarers and fishers in ports around the UK. Many seafarers can only get internet access when in port, but if there’s no time to get to a seafarer centre, they can still find themselves without a strong and secure signal to help them contact their families. The mi-fi technology uses portable wireless routers that act as a mobile wi-fi hotspot on board.
Sharon Coveney, deputy chief executive of Southampton-based MNWB which is the umbrella charity for the UK Merchant Navy and fishing fleets, said: 'Having free wi-fi onboard, allowing seafarers to contact family and friends while in ports, is a priceless service which saves them vast amounts of money and time. There are still ships and ports which don't have internet available for the crew so being able to secure funding for another year will continue to make a huge difference. With that said, we are delighted to be leading on this project once again.'
Maritime Minister Robert Courts said: 'I'm delighted to be able to support this project once again to ensure seafarers and fishers have access to the internet when visiting our ports. We know being able to contact friends and family is incredibly important for well-being, which is the focus of our work on seafarer welfare.
'I look forward to continuing to work with the industry to improve working conditions of seafarers, including how we can explore possible initiatives to provide a long-term solution on internet connectivity for seafarers.'
Deborah Layde, chief executive officer of grant-making organisation The Seafarers' Charity said: 'The extension of this excellent MNWB-initiated project is a no-brainer!
'Communication with families and/or friends is often said to be key to mental health and wellbeing. For those away at sea for extended periods of time it is crucial. We also view this project as tremendous value to port welfare workers UK-wide, assisting them as they connect and providing listening and other valued forms of support to seafarers.'
Communications and access to good quality internet has always been the seafarers' number one welfare request when onboard and in port. In total, 40 MiFi units are distributed to ships in UK ports via eight maritime welfare charities including Aberdeen Seafarers' Centre, The Fishermen's Mission, Liverpool Seafarers' Centre, The Mission to Seafarers, Queen Victoria Seamen's Rest, Stella Maris and Sailors' Society.
Crew can download and stream as much as they like as there is unlimited data on each MiFi unit.
- find out more about the MiFi project
- The International Seafarers' Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) also recommended free wi-fi as one way to improve crew wellbeing, based on the latest findings from its ongoing Social Interaction Matters (SIM) Project.
- A new guide to improving fishing crew safety has been published by the MNWB and the Fisherman's Mission, including a chapter on health and safety and the owner, skipper and fisherman's responsibilities.guide