Inmarsat, Shell and Thetius launch initiative to help seafarers

pilot, port control or duty officer in charge handle of the ship navigating to the port destination, keep watching navigation on the bridge of the ship vessel under voyage sailing to the sea

Inmarsat, Shell Shipping and Maritime and maritime digital consultancy Thetius have collaborated to launch a new ‘Open Innovation Challenge’ to identify technology to help seafarers’ safety, health and mental wellbeing while at sea.

In a statement, Inmarsat said the challenge is aimed primarily at start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and has been launched after the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the welfare of seafarers to global scrutiny.

The six-week Open Innovation Challenge will look for novel solutions that have the potential to improve crew safety and welfare across four innovation challenge areas spanning deck safety, fatigue, administration reduction and overall wellbeing.

“We are seeking applications for solutions from start-ups and SMEs who want to conduct a proof of concept onboard a vessel supported by Shell Shipping and Maritime and Inmarsat,” said Nick Chubb, Managing Director of Thetius, who will run the Challenge.

“Start-ups and solution providers who apply to the Open Innovation Challenge will be required to submit a pitch that details their proposed solution and a proof of concept onboard a Shell vessel.”

From the submitted applications a shortlist will be generated. The successful solutions will be invited to pitch their idea to a decision-making jury at the end of September.

The majority of the jury will be made up of serving seafarers, with representatives from Inmarsat, Shell Shipping and Maritime and the welfare sector also taking part.

The team behind the chosen idea will be awarded a $13,000 (£10,000) cash grant to test their idea by implementing a proof of concept onboard a vessel and the winning start-up will also receive support from Thetius, Inmarsat and Shell Shipping and Maritime.

“Shell is committed to improving the safety and wellbeing of seafarers,” said Richard Holdsworth, Shell’s Maritime Ventures Lead. “We are excited to learn more and help support new technologies that could make a difference to the welfare of crews.”

Last month Inmarsat and Thetius launched a new report ‘Welfare 2.0: How can the next generation of technology enable better crew safety, health and wellbeing at sea?”, which highlighted the current lack of funding for crew welfare technology that has hindered its development so far.

“Our report last month shone a light on the need for far greater support and investment in crew welfare technology,” said Ronald Spithout, President, Inmarsat Maritime. “This collaboration and challenge are designed to help nurture and develop solutions that can help improve the lives of seafarers.”

The wellbeing of seafarers has become one of the maritime industry’s biggest talking points in 2020.

Restrictions brought in to stop the spread of the coronavirus has forced some to remain at sea for up to 18 months as they have been unable to change over at port.

In July 12 major maritime nations pledged to solve the crisis and lift border controls that prevented seafarers from leaving their vessels. This announcement, while welcomed, was met with scepticism by some major carriers, including Hapag-Lloyd and A.P. Moeller-Maersk.

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