Free WiFi in UK Ports from Three

Mobile network operator Three is to provide seafarers visiting ports across the UK with free mobile internet as part of a national scheme being run in collaboration with the UK Merchant Navy Welfare Board, which aims to connect international seafarers with their families using internet communications tools. Three UK has provided 32 mobile Wi-Fi hotspots to the national charity, with each device to be loaded with 15 GB of data per month.

Three estimates that this should be enough to make 1,500 10-minute Skype calls per month (with Skype calls to landlines or mobile numbers using around 1 MB for one minute of calling) or send around 75,000 e-mails. The MiFi devices use HSPA+ technology, which the company says provides a faster mobile internet experience than standard 3G. The donation is part of Three’s Community Fund, which launched in January and allows employees to nominate a different charity to benefit every month.

Three’s Director of Corporate Affairs, Hugh Davies said: “We have invested heavily in our network so that customers receive the best possible data experience.  This means that when customers connect their smartphone, tablet or laptop, they enjoy effortless streaming, clear internet calls and fast browsing. For seafarers, a connection to one of our portable MiFi devices means it’s free and easy for them to stay in contact with loved ones.”

“Working at sea can be very dangerous and isolating. Many contracts will last a minimum of six months and seafarers are expected to work long hours, seven days a week,” said the Merchant Navy Welfare Board’s port welfare manager, Carolyn Lewis. He also added “The lack of communication between seafarers and their families can add to the stress of working at sea. Many seafarers visiting UK ports have smartphones but no connectivity while at sea, and when on land, international roaming can be very expensive. With this initiative, ship welfare visitors are able to help seafarers get connected and keep in touch with their families and friends even if they’re only in port for a few hours.”

Access to internet can really help on the morale of crew onboard since it gives them the opportunity to be able to use Skype, instagram, tweet or facebook with their families. Communicating with home is of paramount importance to seafarers and their welfare. Access to the internet can trigger the positive effects of communicating with home enhancing their mental wellbeing while away from their family and friends for several months at a time.

Increasing seafarers’ access to the internet promises to both improve seafarers’ welfare and improve recruitment and retention rates across the industry facing a global shortage of skilled workers. While this research has shown port-wide wireless technology to have considerable potential to help increase seafarers’ access to the internet aboard ship, it has also highlighted a range of issues needing to be resolved in order that their potential be realized.

Sources: Digital Ship, Mobile News

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