IFM Community Grants Program – Connecting stranded seafarers to their loved ones
It is estimated that over 400,000 seafarers have been ‘stranded at sea’ by COVID-191 and the ensuing government restrictions. Many have been required to remain on-board their vessel for extended periods of time (some as long as a year), without the usual access to shore leave and only limited access to phone or internet. This isolation can be damaging for mental health and wellbeing. This is a serious welfare issue for Seafarers who are essential workers performing a critical role for Australia by transporting food, medicine, minerals and other essential supplies around the world by sea.
The IFM Investors Community Grants Program has recently helped to fund the introduction of the Seafarer Connect project at DP World Australia’s Port Botany terminal. Seafarer Connect supplies ships at berth with portable WIFI units that deliver 100GB of connectivity at 4G speed to any device on board, enabling international seafarers to connect with their loved ones when at berth in Australia.
The Seafarer Connect project was developed by the Tas Bull Seafarers Foundation, with NSW Ports and IFM Investors, through the IFM Community Grants Program, helping to fund the WIFI boxes, and DP World Australia supporting the project by managing the logistics of transporting the WIFI boxes on and off the vessels.
Seafarer Connect has been rolled out to seafarers across all three container terminals and the bulk liquid berths at Port Botany, as well as at Port Kembla and other ports across Australia and is receiving very positive feedback from ship captains and crew.
IFM Investors is a major shareholder in NSW Ports, and we recognise the value that partnerships like this can make in the communities where our infrastructure investments operate. It is a great example of our Community Grants Program in action as the program was designed to support our infrastructure investee companies to collaborate with local community organisations on projects that create mutual benefits.
Bernie Farrelly of the Tas Bull Seafarers Foundation provides some background on the motivation for this initiative and how much it means to seafarers visiting our Australian ports to be able to connect with family back home:
“One of the biggest welfare issues for seafarers is the inability to connect with home while they’re plying the shipping routes of the world. The link between mental health and social isolation among seafarers has been noted for years. A 2019 Mental Health study of 1,572 seafarers found that 20% of those surveyed had thought about suicide or self-harm in the two weeks before the study. This is why we are committed to supporting our seafarers with free and unlimited internet on board vessels at Port in Australia.”
For more information on the Seafarer Connect initiative visit: https://www.seafarerconnect.com.au/