As we gear up for Christmas, NSW Ports and IFM Investors are bringing a little comfort and cheer to our international seafarers with the roll-out of the Seafarer Connect initiative at DP World Australia’s container terminal in Port Botany.
Seafarers perform a critical role for Australia by transporting food, medicine, minerals and other essential supplies around the world by sea. However, with COVID-19 many have been required to remain on-board their vessel for extended periods of time, without the usual access to shore leave and little or no access to phone or internet. This isolation can be damaging for mental health, particularly when seafarers miss important moments with their loved ones.
Now with the introduction of the Seafarer Connect project at DP World Australia’s Port Botany terminal, seafarers can call or message home this Christmas. Seafarer Connect supplies ships at berth with portable WIFI units that deliver 100GB of connectivity at 4G speed to any device on board.
The Seafarer Connect initiative has been developed by the Tas Bull Seafarers Foundation, with NSW Ports and IFM Investors funding the WIFI boxes, and DP World Australia supporting the project by managing the logistics of transporting the Seafarer Connect WIFI boxes on and off the vessels.
Seafarer Connect has now been rolled out to seafarers across all three container terminals and the bulk liquid berths at Port Botany, as well as at Port Kembla and other ports across Australia and is receiving glowing feedback from ship captains and crew.
NSW Ports CEO Marika Calfas said, “2020 has been a challenging year for everyone around the world, but most particularly our seafarers, many of whom have been on-board and away from family and friends for close to or more than a year.
“Given the important role they play in supporting Australia we are delighted to play a role in helping to keep our seafarers connected with their loved ones while they are away from home.”
As a major shareholder in NSW Ports, IFM Investors recognises the value that partnerships like this can make in the communities where our infrastructure investments operate.
IFM Investors Global Head of Infrastructure, Kyle Mangini said, “We believe it’s important for the sustainability of our infrastructure investments that they also actively contribute to the sustainability of their local communities. We are proud to support this collaboration between NSW Ports and the Tas Bull Seafarers Foundation and the benefits it will create for the seafaring community.”
Bernie Farrelly of the Tas Bull Seafarers Foundation spoke to us about how much being able to connect with family means to the seafarers visiting our Australian ports:
“One of the biggest welfare issues for seafarers is the inability to connect with home while they’re plying the shipping routes of the world. The link between mental health and social isolation among seafarers has been noted for years. A 2019 Mental Health study of 1,572 seafarers found that 20% of those surveyed had thought about suicide or self-harm in the two weeks before the study. This is why we are committed to supporting our seafarers with free and unlimited internet on board vessels at Port in Australia.”
Third officer, German (from the Russian Federation) accepted the Seafarer Connect WIFI unit and said that regardless of rank, religion or country of origin, Christmas is a significant time of year for everyone on board and having the ability to connect to high speed WIFI free of charge will make it a little easier to be away from family and friends.
“Everybody on board is thankful for the opportunity to call home and speak with family at this important time of year. I have been onboard for five months and some of the others have been on for far longer than that –we’ll have a ship celebration to mark Christmas together on the 25 December and we’ll all call home too.”
It has been a pleasure collaborating on this project and bringing it to life for the benefit of crews at berth in Port Botany.
For more information on the Seafarer Connect initiative visit: https://www.seafarerconnect.com.au/
NSW Ports came together with DP World and Sydney’s seafarer welfare leaders – Sister Mary Leahy, “the angel of Sydney’s waterfront”, Shane Hobday, Chair of the Sydney Seafarer Welfare Committee and Bernie Farrelly of the TasBull Seafarers Foundation to celebrate the launch of Seafarer Connect at DP World Australia’s terminal in Port Botany.