Providers offer free and discounted seafarer voice calls to enhance welfare services to crew
Satellite connectivity providers have cut costs of crew telecommunications in reaction to increasing demand for welfare services during the coronavirus pandemic.
They recognise the importance to seafarers of communicating with family and friends during months of isolation as shipping overcomes the challenges posed by Covid-19.
Inmarsat responded to the global coronavirus crisis and its impact on mariners by introducing a 50% discount for crew voice calling services on more than 40,000 ships, from the beginning of April until the end of June.
In addition, Inmarsat has assured calls made to the SeafarerHelp service, provided by welfare organisation International Seafarers’ Welfare Assistance Network (ISWAN), are available free of charge over the same period.
Inmarsat is also working with crew healthcare specialist Vikand and software platform provider FrontM to provide a free Covid-19 video call service with a trained health professional.
Voice call discounts are available for three months on FleetBroadband ChatCard voice services and to wholesale partners offering FleetBroadband voice calls under the legacy Crew Calling SQT brand. Inmarsat has also accelerated launching ChatCard services for Fleet Xpress (FX), with an introductory discount.
Inmarsat Maritime president Ronald Spithout says, “We recognise the unprecedented situation facing seafarers as the global maritime industry responds to the challenges of Covid-19.” Inmarsat has discussed crew welfare services with charities ISWAN, Sailors’ Society, Seafarers UK, Mission to Seafarers and Apostleship of the Sea.
“It is clear being able to talk to family, friends and colleagues is critical for the health and well-being of seafarers during these difficult times,” says Mr Spithout.
Inmarsat’s distributors and partners are rolling out these services across their customers’ ships. Marlink has introduced free or discounted voice services for seafarers, and additional data top-ups for vessel operators during the Covid-19 pandemic. It has provided free call minutes for crew on all vessels equipped with Sealink VSAT.
Marlink has handed out new crew calling cards for Sealink and Marlink FX vessels, offering more than double talk time. It has implemented short-term bandwidth upgrades on all Sealink packages to cope with the surge of demand for data from crew.
Additionally, Marlink is providing free access to Marlink XChange Media service to access news content and a new version of its XChange Telemed remote healthcare solution.
Marlink has also reacted to restrictions to technician visits on ships by providing free access to its new KeepUp@Sea Monitor service to simplify remote monitoring and analysis of onboard IT hardware and software. It has stopped activation fees for the XChange Universal Remote Access service for essential maintenance and has no monthly fees for XChange Cloud Entry to optimise and simplify file transfers.
KVH Industries has reduced costs on crew calling cards and upgraded data plans for vessels using its VSAT services. It also introduced free delivery of World Health Organization videos over KVH Link and NewsLink maritime news to all VSAT customers, and provides free VoIP calls to ISWAN’s SeafarerHelp hotline.
Sailors’ Society has launched practical resources including advice, contacts and podcasts to help seafarers during the coronavirus crisis. Seafarers can join its Facebook group to share news, tips and words of encouragement. The charity has also rolled out virtual chaplaincy for seafarers to contact over the phone or social media, after it had to suspend port activity in response to the coronavirus.
Riviera Maritime Media will present discussions covering digitalisation, digital twins, implementing digital strategies and voyage planning during Vessel Optimisation Webinar Week, giving operators vital insights into the options available to extract maximum value from vessel operations. 12-15 May
New video on demand service unveiled
Baze Technology has launched a new video-on-demand service for vessels with less than 35 crew on board. This is the first service not bundled with airtime and available for vessels sailing without VSAT.
BazePort Seea uses similar technology to its IPTV system BazePort. It is a standalone offline streaming service, enabling seafarers to use their own devices to watch films, entertainment programmes, news, podcasts and access information. Up to 10 users can access content simultaneously and news is available in 13 different languages.