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16/06/2020 05:04 PM

Seafarers in NSW one click closer to home

International seafarers visiting NSW will be one click closer to their loved ones thanks to a new port WIFI system connecting mariners with the world.

Far from home and often at sea for months at a time, the world’s seafarers face high levels of mental health and well-being issues. Making a call to family is a priority for many seafarers while in port, but without local SIM cards and limited time, this can be fraught with difficulty.

Seeing the need for better communication services in Australian ports, the not-for-profit Tas Bull Seafarers Foundation has launched an Australian-first initiative to bring free high-speed WIFI to where seafarers need it the most — on the ships.

The Seafarer Connect project supplies ships at berth with a portable WIFI unit that delivers 100GB of connectivity at 4G speed to any device on board. When logging in, the seafarers are taken to a port-specific portal that gives them useful information about their location, including transport options, where to get vital supplies, and welfare services.

Following a successful trial of the programme at Port Botany in Sydney, the initiative has now been rolled out to seafarers at the ports at Newcastle and Port Kembla and is receiving glowing feedback from ship captains and crew.

Image: Crew members in Port Kembla give the Seafarer Connect project the thumbs up.

“We are very grateful for this service, especially at this difficult time,” said a ship captain in Port Kembla. “Our ship’s network was down due to a motherboard failure, but now crew have a possibility to connect their phones and communicate with loved ones.”

Tas Bull Seafarers Foundation is now looking to expand the system to other major ports in Australia.

Image: One of the WIFI units that will deliver connectivity to crew in ships at berth in the ports of NSW.

Tas Bull Seafarers Foundation chair Robert Coombs said: “This is simply a modern-day requirement that most of us take for granted. It will mean that when a ship ties up and the router is installed, crew members will be able to connect with their families and loved ones free of cost and without the hassle of going ashore of finding a shore side facility”.

A recent Seafarer Mental Health Study by Yale University has shown the world’s seafarers face potentially dangerous levels of depression, anxiety and suicide risk.

The Tas Bull Seafarers Foundation is a not-for-profit foundation established to protect, promote and improve the welfare of visiting seafarers. It aims to ensure the wellbeing of international seafarers by providing social and welfare assistance when they berth at Australian ports.

Find out more about Seafarer Connect


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