Internet project for seafarers gets funding extension

Funding for a project that ensures seafarers and fishers can gain unlimited internet access during visits to UK ports has been given the go-ahead for another year.

The UK Port Welfare MiFi Partnership Project will continue to support the work of front-line welfare societies who provide a communications lifeline to thousands of seafarers and fishers in ports around the UK.

The top-of-the-range mobile hot spots have unlimited data plans and can support up to 20 users at a time. This allows them to contact home, stream films or simply catch up with what is going on in the world.

The MiFi units provide crucial social connectivity for seafarers who are unable to leave their vessels or access shore leave during fast turnaround times.

The project, funded by leading maritime charity the Merchant Navy Welfare Board (MNWB), Department for Transport and Trinity House, formed in 2019 and goes from strength to strength.

Stuart Rivers, Chief Executive of MNWB which is the umbrella charity for the UK Merchant Navy and fishing fleets providing support to 43 constituent charity members, said:

“Free Wi-Fi is easily available in towns and cities, but few ports – and even fewer vessels – provide seafarers with free access to the internet, which is what makes this project so crucial for seafarers’ welfare.

“There is something special about seeing seafarers connect with their families and friends after working away at sea for months at a time. Sea life can be a very lonely and isolated place and this project helps play a part in supporting one’s mental health and wellbeing.”

Maritime Minister Baroness Vere of Norbiton said:

“Staying connected to friends and family is vital for the mental wellbeing of seafarers and fishers while out at sea, so it’s fantastic to see UK Government funding supporting the extension of internet access for so many.

“It’s easy for those of us on land to take internet access for granted, but it can make a world of difference to those who work on and manage our seas.”

Captain Ian McNaught, Deputy Master of Trinity House which is a charity dedicated to safeguarding shipping and seafarers, said:

“We are pleased that the Trinity House Maritime Charity could award funds to such a worthwhile project. It is somewhat unfortunate that a profession that connects the world together – with the constant supply of fuel, food, medicine and so much more – can also be one marked by stretches of isolation, disconnected from friends, families and the world at large. This project works to fix that, and as such is a boon to seafarers’ well-being and working lives.”

Communications and access to good quality internet has always been the seafarers’ number one welfare request when onboard and in port.

In total, 39 MiFi units are distributed to ships in UK ports via eight maritime welfare charities: Aberdeen Seafarers’ Centre, Stella Maris, The Fishermen’s Mission, Liverpool Seafarers’ Centre, Mission to Seafarers, Queen Victoria Seamen’s Rest, Sailors’ Society and Invergordon Seafarers’ Centre.

Crew can download and stream as much as they like as there is unlimited data on each MiFi unit.

To find out more about the MiFi project, click here