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. Not all ships offer free, reliable internet.
To address this problem, we installed three Wi-Fi access points for ships docked in our Port. 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. This initiative connects to Sustainable Development Goals #3 Good Health and Wellbeing, #8 Decent Work and Economic Growth and #9 Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure.
The impact of access to Wi-Fi for seafarers is immense. A 2019 survey indicated that 60% of seafarers experienced better mental health and well-being and 69% of seafarers reported increased morale with access to Wi-Fi. We are tracking the number of users through secure monitoring software.
This project was in collaboration with the Saint John Seafarers Mission and Solutions Inc, a leader in Wi-Fi networking and Internet management. Our Vice President of Operations and Harbour Master, Chris Hall lead the project on behalf of Port Saint John. Other ports have since reached out to learn about implementing this initiative for their visiting seafarers and we are gladly sharing best practices and lessons learned.