After surveying seagoing and shore-based seagoing personnel for feedback on the impacts of digitalization on their health and well-being, on training, careers and job retention, and on performance, Thetius describes the relationship between seafarers and emerging maritime technologies as “overall positive”. However, the responses also reveal that shipping companies and technology providers have work to do to change crew apprehensions about digital transformation at sea.
In a remarkable finding, the report informs that more than one in three seafarers choose personal access to digital technology as a key factor when considering a new employer. In fact, as an incentive, internet access is higher than salary (chosen by less than 1 in 4). The Seafarers Happiness Index (SHI) for the first quarter of 2022 indicates that crew wellbeing has fallen to its lowest level since the SHI was established in 2015, with limited access to basic internet connectivity as the main cause, notes Thetius.
Encouragingly, Seafarers in the digital age captures a shipping industry rapidly responding to crew connectivity needs: 78% of surveyed vessel operators say they have installed internet connectivity onboard for the personal use of crew in the past five years.
However, the report also highlights how seafarers perceive the risks associated with the wider deployment of digital technologies. Half of the seafarers who responded expected employment opportunities to decline by 25% within five years.
“While half of our seafarers believe that traditional employment opportunities at sea are disappearing, as this research suggests, more needs to be done to highlight how digitalization will help jobs change or create entirely new roles,” said Matthew Kenney, Head of Research and Intelligence, Thetius. “Digital tools and connectivity can create happier and more productive ships, while new and better ways of working are possible. Instead of allowing maritime professionals to become distrustful or even fearful of digital technologies and emerging, the industry must recognize the continued importance of human capital and work hard to get crews on the path.
Ben Palmer, Chairman of Inmarsat Maritime, said: “The inclusion of mandatory internet access in the Maritime Labor Convention in May represents a paradigm shift for seafarers’ rights, enshrining in law what responsible owners already fully understand: high-quality internet on board has become a key element. indicator of crew well-being and therefore the recruitment and retention of high quality personnel. Today, it also provides the foundation for exciting new, next-generation positions at sea, while supporting safer operations, greater sustainability and productivity gains.