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THE importance of email and web access for seafarers was once again underlined in a survey carried out for the ITF last year: Among the major findings were

  • The most popular ways for seafarers to communicate with their friends and family while at sea was by phone from seafarers’ centres (85%), through mobile phone calls (82%) and via SMS (74%).
  • Onboard access to email has risen three-fold since 2007 but remains limited. 52% per cent of seafarers, and 68% of ratings, said they had no access to email on board.
  • Access to onboard email also varied according to the vessel type – for example, 67% of the seafarers on board dry bulk carriers and 65% on board general cargo vessels had no email access at all.
  • Some 80% of seafarers, and 97% of ratings, said they had no access to the internet while actually at sea. Where access was available it was expensive, they said.
  • Websites are a potential communication tool in addition to email software – 50% of seafarers access the internet at least twice a month.
  • 70% of respondents used social networking sites. Facebook was the most popular, while 78% of Chinese seafarers used QQ.
  • Officers were much more likely than ratings to use the internet, mobile phones and social networking sites, whether at sea or at home. For example, 82% of the officers accessed the internet every day when they were at home, compared with only 39% of the ratings.
  • Ratings relied more often than officers on phones in seafarers’ centres or public phone boxes while on shore leave.
  • However officers and ratings had similar levels of access to email when they were on shore leave.
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