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Internet project for seafarers at UK ports gets funding extension

31 July 2023

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 MiFi technology uses portable wireless routers that act as a mobile wi-fi hotspot on board. The units provide crucial social connectivity for seafarers who are unable to leave their vessels or access shore leave during fast turnaround times.

In total, 39 MiFi units are distributed to ships in UK ports via eight maritime welfare charities including: 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.

The project, which is co-funded by the Merchant Navy Welfare Board (MNWB), Department for Transport and Trinity House, started in 2019.

Communications and access to good quality internet has always been the seafarers' number one welfare request when onboard and in port. Captain Ian McNaught, deputy master, Trinity House

MNWB's chief executive Stuart Rivers 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.

'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.'

Trinity House deputy master Captain Ian McNaught said: '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.'

Maritime Minister Baroness Vere acknowledged that staying connected to friends and family is 'vital for the mental wellbeing of seafarers and fishers' while at sea: '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.'