Crew Connectivity: A Matter of Mindset

KVH, crew connectivity, maritime VSAT, satcom at sea, crew welfare

(originally published in Crew Connectivity 2018 Survey Report, published by Futurenautics and sponsored by KVH Industries and Intelsat)

“Mindset change” is a term we hear frequently in the maritime world, and the information expertly presented by Futurenautics in the Crew Connectivity 2018 Survey Report – gathered from an impressive 6,000 seafarers – certainly confirms that there is a tremendous shift underway in the industry today. KVH has always been keenly interested in what connectivity can do for a seafarer, knowing firsthand the benefits of providing a connection to home, a way to receive onboard training, and a means for increasing the overall level of crew welfare.

We were, therefore, particularly interested in the picture of an extremely technology literate seafaring workforce that emerges in this report. For example, 88% of respondents described themselves not only as users of technology but sufficiently well-versed in it that they could assist others with technology. And 90% of the respondents – a combination of officers and ratings – reported that the technology they use onboard is easier to use than technology in their non-working lives.

crew connectivity, maritime VSAT, satcom at sea, KVH
The availability of crew connectivity for seafarers allows them to be in touch with friends, family, and home as well as continue to expand their professional skill set through training.

Connectivity is undeniably part of life at sea now: The average availability of Internet access is reported at 75%, a more than 30% increase since the last survey. Some 61% of seafarers report having Internet access “always or most of the time.” And only 2% report “never” having access. Seafarers today take an average of three devices onboard, with smartphones the most popular device, as well as laptops and even smart watches and fitness trackers.

Crew Connectivity Drives Decision Making

Indeed, staying connected is so important that 75% of seafarers say Internet access influences their decisions about where to work, a sentiment shared by officers and ratings alike. Interestingly, there was a significant increase in the degree to which it influenced their decision, with seafarers who said Internet access has a “strong or very strong influence on who they worked for” going from 78% in prior years to an impressive 92% in this report.

There are more signs of the mindset change in the fact that 95% of seafarers view connectivity as having a positive effect on onboard safety. It is interesting to note the generational change that came across in the fact that expenditure on crew communications was highest among seafarers ages 18-24. Although this fact is not surprising given digital natives’ ease with technology, it is remarkable in that it is a reversal of the results in prior years; this switch may have more to do with the affordability of connectivity today versus prior years, when a more senior person onboard had more money to spend than a younger crew member.

Training remains an area where seafarers view connectivity as more than just a requirement but truly an enabler for behavioral change, with 77% of survey respondents viewing a ship as a good place to engage in training, a percentage consistent with prior years. A point to note was the willingness of seafarers today to share personal data – albeit in a career scenario:

Some 50% of seafarers reported being willing to share their employment reviews and health history with a prospective employer, and only 13% reported being unwilling to share any data at all.

The effect of the mindset shift regarding technology throughout the maritime industry appears to be well understood by seafarers: Some 69% view big data and analytics, for example, as an opportunity for their jobs in the next five years versus only 17% who view it as a threat. Likewise, 75% of seafarers reported seeing predictive maintenance as an opportunity versus 15% seeing it as a threat. Some 68% of seafarers see automation as an opportunity versus 21% who see it as a threat, which illustrates the massive shift to connected data to inform real-time decision making.

This is an extremely exciting time for the maritime industry, as digitalization begins to transform ship operations and open up many opportunities to keep this industry vital. We are delighted to support this report, which reinforces the importance of connectivity and how it is changing the life of the individual seafarer. By better understanding their needs, and by giving voice to their experience, the entire industry is poised to grow for the future.


Discover More about Crew Connectivity:

See how businesses can benefit –  Message to Shipowners: Crew Connectivity Adds Competitive Value

Learn how Connectivity as a Service is revolutionizing how broadband is being brought to fleets – AgilePlans by KVH: A Connectivity Game Changer


About Martin Kits van Heyningen 3 Articles
President and CEO, KVH Industries Inc.