Wednesday, 12 May 2021 17:27

New service provides visiting seafarers with free onboard Wi-Fi


The Tas Bull Seafarers Foundation is providing internet connectivity to international seafarers entering Australian ports.

The foundation's Seafarer Connect initiative uses Cradlepoint's wireless cellular routers and NetCloud Service to provide internet connectivity for arriving seafarers.

The program initially covers nine ports in New South Wales, Western Australia and Victoria, but aims to equip every port around Australia.

"Supporting mental health and welfare of seafarers is a huge challenge in the industry across the world," said Tas Bull Seafarers Foundation executive chair Robert Coombs.

"Normally, seafarers are working on ships for nine months at a time, however during the COVID-19 pandemic, crew have been on ships for nearly two years, which is impacting the mental health of the workers."

Onboard connectivity is satellite based and therefore expensive, and COVID-19 restrictions mean seafarers are unable to disembark their vessels to use cheaper onshore services.

The Seafarer Connect Initiative aims to provide free of charge Wi-Fi connectivity so seafarers can communicate with family, download movies, and stay up to date on the current COVID-19 status and information in the country they are travelling to and their home countries.

"Health advice and COVID-19 updates at each geography go through a chain of communications and is then translated for the crew onboard, which means delays and gaps in relaying important and timely information. Connectivity to the outside world means seafarers can get direct and current information in their native language," said Tas Bull Seafarers Foundation project manager Bernie Farrelly.

The foundation wants to provide this service at ports around the world. It is working closely with the International Transport Workers' Federation Seafarers Trust, which has been an enthusiastic supporter of Seafarer Connect in Australia.

Cradlepoint technology was selected for its global compliance, reliability and security.

"The other key benefit of Cradlepoint for us is that often when we receive funding to provide connectivity at individual ports, that funding needs to be used quickly. The ability to deploy Cradlepoint solutions fast has been instrumental to the success of these projects," said Farrelly.

Cradlepoint APAC managing director Gavin Wilson said "It's very rewarding to see firsthand how these incredible organisations like Tas Bull Seafarers Foundation use technology to truly improve people's lives.

"This is one example of how Cradlepoint helps customers with many unique challenges and needs. Cradlepoint's NetCloud Service, the software at the heart of our solution, enables customers to make changes to the network centrally and remotely with ease. It also reduces the time and cost to deploy new services."

Tas Bull was an Australian seafarer turned waterside worker who became general secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation. He died in 2003.

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Stephen Withers

Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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