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Seafarers win right to internet access whilst away at sea

Seafarers’ groups have won the right to internet access for crews to enable them to keep in touch with friends and family whilst away at sea.

The right to internet access was agreed as part of a package of measures in updates to the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC),

These included making personal protective equipment available in sizes that suit all seafarers, including women and improved access to free drinking water and balanced diets as well as social connectivity.

Mark Dickinson, vice chair of the International Transport Workers’ Federation’s (ITF) Seafarers’ Section said:

“Working for long periods at sea can be isolating and a lack of contact with the outside world can have profound implications for seafarers’ wellbeing — which we saw the worst effects of during Covid,

“Being able to keep in touch with family and friends isn’t just a nice-to-have, it’s a basic human right. That’s why we fought so hard for seafarers to be given internet access and to have a mandatory provision in the MLC.”

Despite the fact that ships already have the technology to provide internet access, shipowners dug their heels in over the change. They insisted that they should be able to limit access and be able to charge seafarers for internet connectivity.

The Seafarers Group lobbied to ensure that any charges levied on seafarers remain an exception, and if any charges are imposed that they are reasonable. Governments were also encouraged to increase internet access in ports without cost to seafarers.

The MLC is an international treaty designed to protect seafarers’ rights and has been ratified by more than 100 countries, who represent over 90% of the world fleet. One of its provisions is that governments, shipowners and seafarer representatives meet periodically to keep the convention under review and up to date.

The ITF is an affiliate-led federation of transport workers’ unions. They connect trade unions and workers’ networks from 147 countries to secure rights, equality and justice for their members.

Photo by Mark König on Unsplash