Needs and possibilities for ship’s crews at high seas to communicate with their home
Marcus Oldenburg 1, 2  
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Institute for Occupational and Maritime Medicine Hamburg (ZfAM), Hamburg, Germany (Department of Maritime Medicine)
University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE), Hamburg, Germany (Institute for Occupational and Maritime Medicine)
University of Applied Sciences, Flensburg, Germany (Department for Nautics and Maritime Technologies)
Marcus Oldenburg   

Institute for Occupational and Maritime Medicine Hamburg (ZfAM), Department of Maritime Medicine, Seewartenstrasse 10, 20459 Hamburg, Germany
Int J Occup Med Environ Health 2019;32(6):805–815
Objectives: Good communication between seafarers and their families at home is essential to compensate for the work-related strain experienced on board ships. This paper presents the needs and possibilities for communication with home in seafaring. Material and Methods: In total, 323 seafarers were interviewed during their work assignments on board (the participation rate of 88.5%). The results were stratified by cultural background, family ties, rank groups and shipping routes. Results: The average stay of the officers on board the current vessels lasted 4 months and that of the ratings 9 months (p < 0.001). About a third of the officers and a half of the ratings evaluated these lengths of stay as too long. In the study, only 50 participants (15.5%) mentioned that the Internet on board their previous vessel was available for private use. Only 40.6% of these crew members stated that they had used it on a daily basis. Particularly the seafarers assigned to worldwide destinations and crew members without children experienced the insufficient possibilities for telecommunication as work-related strain (OR 1.87, 95% CI: 1.15–3.04 respective OR 2.00, 95% CI: 1.03–3.88). The average amount of time spent on telecommunication amounted to more than 2.5 h/week (which equals approximately 20 min/day). The average cost of about USD 30/week for telecommunication was considered by 24.7% of the seafarers as “much too high.” Conclusions: The fact that several crew members considered the time spans of their assignments as too long should lead to certain adjustments. In view of the importance of good options for shipboard telecommunication, this study makes an essential contribution to understanding the crews’ needs. Measures should be taken to improve communication by allowing an easier access to information and communication technology (ICT) (on board and ashore), by offering cheaper fees, and by providing Internet access in their cabins. The study results show a substantial need to improve the means of communication on board ships. Int J Occup Med Environ Health. 2019;32(6):805–15