No plans are being put in place to help British seafarers call home when they do not have access to a UK mobile service, the shipping minister has stated.
The minister, John Hayes, made the comments in his response to Labour MP for Sefton Central, Bill Esterson's Parliamentary question on 12 July 2017 about seafarer access to telecommunications.
Inspired by the release of the Union's investigation into connectivity at sea, Mr Esterson asked what plans were being made to address the connectivity issue which leaves thousands of UK seafarers either without means of contacting home, or being subject to high roaming costs.
In his written response, Mr Hayes said: 'The government has no plans to enable seafarers to make telephone calls when they do not have access to UK mobile telephone services.
It's disappointing to hear that the government is not prepared to help ensure that reasonable access to ship-to-shore telephone communications, email and internet facilities are available to UK seafarers when away from home
'However, seafarer welfare providers, such as Mission to Seafarers and Apostleship of the Sea, through their centres will often provide discounted phone cards and free wi-fi for foreign seafarers to use. This enables them to call or have Skype conversations, the preferred option for seafarers, with their friends and families at home when they are in UK ports. Some major ports and shipowners also allow the seafarers to use their wi-fi for free.'
Nautilus International in June 2017 launched a strategic campaign during Seafarers' Awareness Week to highlight the scale of the shipboard connectivity problems facing seafarers.
Nautilus general secretary, Mark Dickinson, said that the minister's answer had missed the point. 'It's disappointing to hear that the government is not prepared to help ensure that reasonable access to ship-to-shore telephone communications, email and internet facilities are available to UK seafarers when away from home,' he said.