Helping offshore workers connect
Published: 05 Sep 2014
Many of us check our smart phones throughout the day and don’t give a second thought to picking up the phone to call a family member. The sense of irritation swings in if we lose Wi-Fi connectivity to our iPad or if our network goes down, but imagine if this happened recurrently every day for up to six weeks at a time.
This is still unfortunately something that is not unheard of in an offshore environment. Hugh MacKay, director at IP communications and network services business, 4MS Network Solutions, gives us an insight into why poor connectivity offshore has become a hot topic of consideration when it comes to crew welfare and staff retention.
“Attracting and retaining staff in the offshore sector is notoriously challenging. Not only do operators and service companies initially have to compete against some of the highest salary brackets in the world, but they then also have to provide incentives to keep personnel within the company as time goes on.
“With staff turnover comes the cost of retraining personnel in everything from multi-million pound contract work to basic activities.
“Not only does this have a financial implication to the business, but it also has a detrimental affect on productivity and crew morale.
“Companies have to examine the key contributors for staff departure more closely. The nature of the business means that crew have to work in remote and often harsh environments for an extended period of time, away from friends and family. This is when a sense of boredom can creep into the monotonous lifecycle of the offshore worker. The lack of entertainment and poor connectivity to ‘the rest of the world’ aboard platforms and offshore vessels is still an unfortunate reality to some.
“Where terrestrial communication methods, such as smart phones, are an every day commodity onshore, the remote offshore environment renders such technologies inoperable due to lack of communication infrastructure. This often leads to a sense of frustration, with crew sighting the lack of access to low cost voice and data services to make contact with friends and family as something that makes them seriously question their offshore role.
“This is why companies are now moving to adopt crew welfare initiatives which incorporate advanced communication solutions to assist in the improvement of working conditions and quality of life offshore. Optimised communication solutions can give crew access to the Internet, social media, telephone services and video calling.
“While it used to be commonplace to stand in a long queue to make contact with those onshore via a single connection, multiple calling through a single IP connection is now the ideal, enabling several crew members to call home at the same time.
“Where internet is concerned, operators are now taking the move to upgrade and enhance operational efficiency to meet the demands of the crew and new bandwidth hungry technologies such as iPads. Employees want to communicate much more than just via e-mail, they want to stay online and in touch 24/7. Providing dedicated services for welfare with flexible packages per crewmember will keep workers much happier, without compromising the security and availability of business communications systems.
“Those companies not making the critical move to implement crew welfare policies for connectivity can be faced with challenges from unions, calling for immediate change. Where change has not been implemented, companies have simply seen staff turnover increase.
“The best option is for companies to move with the times and implement optimised communications. Not only does it provide readily available connectivity for many people at once, but it also enables secure connection at an affordable rate.”