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Four considerations for Gen Z and maritime connectivity

The Seafarers Happiness Index for Q3 2022 was encouraging: the study reported increased optimism among mariners, compared with the previous quarter. However, connectivity continues to be an ongoing challenge. The report states, “…technology is advancing rapidly while the access, bandwidth, allotment and quality of shipboard crew connections are not.” In May 2022, updates to the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 mandated connectivity for crews. It is critical for organisations to work together to address these concerns and changes.

We must also understand the new generation of mariners. The aging of the workforce, including seafarers, has been felt worldwide. The Covid pandemic sparked retirements and departures. Gen Z, born between 1996 and 2015, will comprise 27% of the workforce by 2025.

In a recent study by Dell, 91% of Gen Z respondents stated that technology would be a decisive factor in choosing a job. Some 98% owned a smartphone. Mental health and burnout are key concerns. In a Deloitte survey, 46% of Gen Z respondents indicated their burnout was “due to the intensity and demands of their work environments”. Knowing the stress of a career at sea, it’s not difficult to recognise the issue facing the industry.

However, Gen Z’s love of technology could be the solution. While at sea, connectivity can be key to communication with family and friends. Easy access to entertainment and continued use of their smartphone can ease stress and burnout. How can you contribute to the solution?

1. Recognise the change: Fifteen years ago, a basic voice line, fax line, and email service were all that was needed on board a vessel. But today’s mariners have never lived a life without the internet. They are accustomed to interacting with family and friends daily — and this will not change when they’re at sea. Connectivity has become a requirement for today’s crew.

2. Consider this an HR and an IT issue: Conversations regarding connectivity often originated with IT. With the 2021 Seafarer Workforce Report reporting a shortage of 16,500 officers and 26,000 crew at the time of the study, HR must be part of the conversation in determining benefits that will recruit and retain vital employees on ships.

3. Look at solutions holistically: Crew do not have time to learn complicated new processes to accomplish daily tasks. Solutions must tap into the Gen Z mariner’s needs and to their familiarity with technology and its conveniences.

The shift towards hybrid connectivity is one example. Multiple connectivity channels offer faster speeds, increased affordability, and the ability to engage in a variety of activities. KVH’s TracNet™ hybrid terminals offer satellite, cellular, and wi-fi in the same dome, with intelligent automatic switching to stay connected to the best option at all times, with no intervention needed by the user.

4. Build value for all stakeholders: Consider other important stakeholders such as financial managers. Connectivity solutions are long-term investments that can be costly and complicated. KVH’s AgilePlans® offers flexible payment and subscription options, no CAPEX, the option to suspend services and to cancel a contract with no penalty.

The shipping industry will be challenged by crew shortages. Gen Z will fill the gaps, but only if their unique needs are understood and met. Focusing on crucial issues like connectivity will help shipping companies recruit and retain the workforce needed to grow their businesses in this changing world. By recognising the challenges and needs of the Gen Z mariner and other stakeholders, decision makers can choose connectivity solutions to meet their goals.

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