The Internet affords us many luxuries these days, including the opportunity to communicate with people across the world. This allows families and friends to stay in touch and maintain their close bonds. Using the Internet at sea is nothing new for merchant mariners, but it’s not something employees take for granted.
That’s mostly because deep-sea vessels rarely have a consistently reliable connection. Using the Internet while Out2Sea has been a source of much frustration for the seafaring community. Most mariners hope this aspect of life at sea improves before long. In some cases, they’re actively trying to evoke change.
Using the Internet at sea
Not all merchant mariners report problems with using the Internet. For example, American mariners that travel from state-to-state and stick near the coasts usually enjoy moderately good Internet access. It’s the international travel that causes problems.
International runs are much longer and thus have more opportunities for Internet failure. Some areas in the middle of the ocean make it tougher for radio waves to be transmitted between devices – a necessary function of Wi-Fi. Weather can cause many of these issues, and rough seas put ships in a constant state of flux.
Longer trips also mean more people connecting to the Internet at sea. And oftentimes, ships struggle with bandwidth issues. Yes, one seafarer who loves to stream videos or play games can tie the Internet up for everybody else. Seafarers certainly need to remember to be considerate of their fellow crew members, all of whom have families and friends to stay in touch with.
When traveling across the world, some mariners report losing Internet for long periods of time. It isn’t uncommon to go several days in a row without a connection.
Finding a better connection
Shipping companies have tried to give merchant mariners potential solutions for slow Internet. Ships do contain satellite phones that seafarers can pay to use. Some even offer international calling cards for their employees. But mariners have to pay for these, which can get pretty expensive over the course of an entire voyage. Typically, they run between $35-40 for a single hour.
Many seafarers understandably don’t want to spend this kind of money. They’re taking their concerns to the unions, which have the power to push for a better solution.
By and large, the Internet at sea is poor because the Internet packages companies order are poor. All too often, as mariners quip, shipping companies get the lowest-quality package they can buy. These lower-level Internet packages theoretically give sailors an opportunity to communicate, but bring much frustration to the process. Most sailors agree that if companies were willing to spend more, the Internet would improve.
Unlicensed mariners, as opposed to the mates and captain, regrettably experience the worst connection speeds on ships. Luckily, unions like SIU have the power to change this by negotiating better contracts with shipping companies. That’s why so many workers are pressuring union leaders about the issue of Internet connectivity.
At the end of the day, the technology for reliable Internet at sea exists. But improving the connection depends on how vocal seafarers are willing to be with their unions and how much companies are willing to pay over the long haul.