From Sea to Sky – Offering Seafarers
a Digital Lifeline
The more internet-hours the captain and crew get access to at sea, the more efficient and happier they become.
This will not just have a positive impact on the company's wallet – but also the environment.
– Imagine having to say “I love you, I miss you” in front of your boss and superiors. Two decades ago most workers at sea – in lack of their own megabytes and data plans – needed to go up to the captain to ask for permission to make a phone call home, says Mr. Wesley Tham, CEO of Blue C Mobile, a global provider of affordable internet at sea.
Surrounded by unforgivable waves or neverending horizons, for months at a time, with close to zero internet connection, as well as the realities of just a little hint of life from their family calling from a landline into the ship's satellite phones costing several of dollars per minute, it made the distance from family and friends seem even greater than the dark ocean itself.
– Today the situation is better, but with more internet, more affordable data plans all seafarers will be able to have private phone calls and even long video calls with their loved ones which in turn will make them better and more stable employees, Mr. Tham says via Google Meets from his office in Singapore, bathing in sunshine and 30 plus degrees.
In the mid 2000s, all along the busy port of Singapore, heaps of different vessels and cargo ocean liners needed repair. Some had to fix a broken crane or replace a motor. And right there in the middle – ready to help with budgets and logistics – was Wesley Tham (49), a Malaysian born engineer whose parents shipped away when he was just three years old – like a little human package of future talent – to live with his grandmother in Singapore so he, the first born, had a better chance to get higher education in proper English. And so he did, quickly.
Fast forward to 2022 and you'll find Mr. Tham as CEO of the international internet-at-sea-company, Blue C Mobile – again ready to help exactly the same kind of commercial fishing boats and merchant vessels he once used to assist getting repainted and repaired on shore. Just this time around, his help is in the clouds.
– You know, internet access at sea is still extremely expensive in comparison to what we have on shore. And the internet is not just nice to have, it's a necessity. Nowadays it's a way of life, one that a new generation cannot live and work without, says Mr. Wesley Tham.
Robin Hood of the Seas
With support from his lightweight VSAT-antenna – one of the world’s smallest – as well as a bunch of strong high speed satellites circling The Seven Seas, and flexible data plans that offer near three times as much internet usage for the same price as before, Mr. Tham will not just be able to save marriages and possibly make the shipping industry a tiny bit greener; he is out to democratize the internet for all seafarers, not just the big, wealthy companies.
– You could call me the Robin Hood of the Seas in terms of helping the less privileged, as long as you eliminate the “robbing the rich”-part, Tham laughs.
– Because my goal with Blue C Mobile is to open a door previously closed for the crew, so they can be connected to the world, their family and the news. And most importantly, with no extra cost to the ship owners!
Longer chats can save marriages
Around 20 years ago, usually only captains and senior officers had access to the internet in order to send reports back to the land office on how much fish they had caught or check the newest weather reports at sea. Company owners all over the world were in a difficult position trying to afford giving every one of the 20 or so men on-board their own megabytes.
– How would almost triple the amount of phone call minutes per month help improve morale and stability on board?
– With Blue C Mobile’s small antenna strategy combined with our flexible data plans on board it would mean a huge step towards an advanced digital future with no extra cost. And since it would function just like wi-fi in your house, workers would be able to receive videos of a birth they might be missing or talk to a grandmother who is suddenly sick. They can check in more often with their children so that they will not forget their fathers voice and face, celebrate their birthdays and send videos via WhatsApp to show their families what they are up to, in order to make them proud and happy, says Tham before he stops himself to ponder for a second:
– In some way increased online access may even save some marriages! Making a better work-life balance for people at sea with families at home, is the main reason why I get up in the morning and work so hard, says Tham.
Online access makes shipping greener
The shipping industry is never short of big companies, and even bigger ships. Most of the large multinational corporations can afford top class internet communication for the several weeks, months or even years while they sail across open waters in one go. But when these humongous 20,000 TEU container “motherships” glide a bit closer to ports and harbors around the many fjords and islands of the planet, they are not always able to enter. Therefore, they need to be assisted by smaller regional vessels bringing everything from luxury teak furniture and solar panels in South-East Asian waters, to coffee beans and rain coats in the Northern Sea back and forth between neighboring countries. Trips that still involves transportation outside the 4G zone (an area that stretches about 20 km or 15 miles from land) and therefore they'll also be in need of strong, reliable internet connectivity.
– With heightened internet access these smaller cargo vessels can more frequently and in advance send emails and declaration reports back to mainland and ports, as well as improve and increase online monitoring from shore to ship – all in order to make every ship more efficient. Meaning burn less fuel, save time, save money and…yes, be greener, Tham says.
– Sustainability is a big subject, also at sea?
– Yes, and I sincerely hope all the shipping companies and their owners mean what they say when they want to be greener in the future. Having increased access to the internet will help them do that. With our system even the smaller ship owners can afford to use valuable megabytes to plot a faster route, plan to avoid strong winds and maybe ride a friendly wave current and thus reduce fuel consumptions, says Tham and adds:
– We should all do our part, and with Blue C Mobile everyone at sea will have a chance to be up to date. Not just the big boys, also the small players of shipping can join the “access revolution”.