January 25, 2022

Digitalization of the shipping industry gives seafarers a much-needed welfare boost

In the shipping industry, sourcing used to be an analogue and time-consuming process, but this is now changing. Source2sea gives crews a more convenient way to order and receive provisions and stores, and also contributes to crew welfare and job satisfaction.


As the world continues to adapt to the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, our dependence on what was previously taken for granted has come into sharp focus. We are now increasingly aware of our interdependence in general – and of our dependence on some specific groups in particular. For example, the seafarers that keep maritime supply chains running every day on over 74,000 ocean-going vessels worldwide. When more than 80% of global trade is transported by sea, these essential workers matter to us all. Their welfare is essential to everyone else’s. And it’s in everyone’s interest that their welfare is good.

Almost 2 million people call the sea their home

An estimated 1.89 million people live and work at sea. That’s more than the city of Hamburg’s metro population, and more than the entire populations of countries like Bahrain or Latvia. Population at sea is expected to grow even more as maritime trade volume increases by a projected 300% by 2050 according to the OECD. Seafarers’ welfare matters. Not only to them and their families, of course, but directly to their employers and, indirectly, to all of us.

Limited connectivity has hampered the digitalization of the shipping industry – and remains a central welfare issue for crews

The shipping industry has been slow to reap the rewards that digitalization has brought to so many other industries, and connectivity is the reason. The oceans are too wide for wi-fi, and the internet cables that cross the seas are of little use to the ships sailing above them.

This limited connectivity has held back the digital transformation of the shipping industry. Whereas many land-based industries long ago embarked on their voyage toward higher productivity, increased agility, and better profits through data-supported insights, the shipping industry has been stuck in port.

This is now changing fast. Digitalization increasingly improves everything from navigational optimization and weather routing to real-time monitoring of key vessel parameters and smart sourcing platforms, including the digital marketplace, Source2Sea for crews and purchasers.  

At sea, digital connectivity also contributes to crew welfare and job satisfaction

Vessel crews cannot simply pop into their corner store when they need to pick up a liter of milk or grab a loaf of bread. That does not mean that they don’t run out of stores and provisions between ports, however. Today, procurement at sea remains anchored in an analog past replete with paper catalogs and faxed requisitions – far from the ease with which many of us now shop online.

Source2Sea is changing this to give crews a simpler and more reliable way to order and receive the stores and provisions they need to maintain health and safety onboard. The digital sourcing platform eases daily purchase processes and reduces the risk of wrong orders and tiresome reordering for crews and purchasers. It also encourages digital skill development and training, creates new job opportunities, and boosts job satisfaction and employee retention.

Seafarer welfare supported by digitalization will be increasingly important to us all

As world trade grows and the shipping industry faces mounting shortages of certified officers, the wellbeing of crews will become increasingly critical to us all.

Shipping companies that harness the power of connectivity to improve the lives of their crews will win more than happier employees. They will gain competitive advantage in attracting and retaining talent because they provide crews with not only better ways of staying connected to their loved ones ashore, but also better working conditions, better meals, and better access to the things they need to procure to keep vessels moving.