Many of the 5000 seafarers who visit Geraldton Port each year are now keeping connected to friends and family thanks to free WIFI provided by Seafarer Connect and port operator Mid West Ports.
The mental health benefits for crew, who are often at sea for over a year at a time, of phone, zoom, & messaging contact with loved ones cannot be overstated.
While isolation, homesickness & mental health issues are ever present for seafarers COVID has made the challenges harder.
Pre-pandemic seafarers worked on ships for nine months at a time but now, because crews can’t disembark due to Quarantine restrictions, they’re stuck aboard for two years at a time.
This means they are unable to purchase cheap phone cards, SIM cards or access inexpensive onshore communication equipment. There is no connectivity aboard most shipping which uses Geraldton Port apart from satellite communications which is prohibitively expensive for crew to use.
Under the new initiative port officials hand the ship’s master a pelican case containing a high-tech ‘Cradlepoint’ WIFI kit specially developed by the Sydney Telstra Business Technology Centre to get seafarers online through their phones, tablets and computers.
“It’s very special when you see seafarers getting some face time with their families after months at sea, it’s pretty emotional to be honest,” says Bernie Farrelly from Seafarer Connect.
“It really is a case of plug and play. It’s fantastic seafarers moving Australian iron ore, grains and mineral sands through Geraldton Port can now keep in contact with their loved ones.”
“This Friday the 25this International Day of The Seafarer so it’s great to celebrate this initiative in Geraldton at this time.
Damian Tully, Mid West Ports Authority Acting CEO says “it’s been great to be part of an initiative which keeps people a bit closer to home.
“It is a very rewarding to be involved in providing WIFI to these seafarers, who are often at sea for months at a time. Such a simple solution which is providing considerable benefit.
A seafarer aboard the ‘Warnow Chief’ says he was able to watch his children play over FaceTime and attend the live streamed funeral of a loved on.
“Thanks so much for this service, it means so much,” he said.
At ports across the nation Seafarer Connect helps thousands of seafarers connect to home with each using roughly 2.6 Gigabits of data – enough for many hours of video calls to family, to browse news services from home and to