The following is the text of a news release from KVH Industries Inc.:
(MIDDLETOWN, R.I.) (Feb. 27) — Crewtoo, the world’s largest online network dedicated to seafarers, has surpassed 100,000 members just 16 months after it was founded by KVH Media Group, part of KVH Industries Inc., (Nasdaq: KVHI). The online network gives seafarers a way to post comments and photographs from their vessels, chat with colleagues on other ships, take part in seafarer-related polls and votes, and keep up with maritime news.
“Our original aim when we started Crewtoo was to have 6,000 members by the end of 2012, and we ended up with more than 22,000. Now, just one year later, we have 100,000 members, and more seafarers are joining every day,” comments Mark Woodhead, managing director of KVH Media Group, which has offices in Liverpool and Leeds, U.K. “The shipping industry has never seen anything on this scale before. It’s particularly satisfying to us that the members range from captains to able seamen, with nationalities that span the globe.”
The rapid growth of Crewtoo makes it clear that seafarers are turning to social media as a way to address the isolation of working at sea. It also coincides with initiatives within the shipping industry to make Internet access more readily available to crew members. An international regulation called MLC-2006, for example, was implemented in 2013 and recommends, among other things, that maritime operators provide access to email and Internet for their onboard crew members.
KVH calls the Crewtoo site “the voice of the seafarer” and uses the brand to support initiatives to improve the lives of the world’s seafarers. Last year KVH donated more than 700,000 minutes of free calling on its mini-VSAT Broadband satellite service to enable Filipino mariners to call home following Typhoon Haiyan, and sponsored International Seafarers Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) events where author Rose George spoke on the difficult conditions faced by the world’s seafarers.
KVH Media Group also produces the maritime industry’s familiar NEWSlink digital newspapers, which played a key role in the birth of Crewtoo. NEWSlink is a daily news and information service customized for seafarers, with more than 75 publications in 17 languages delivered by email to vessels around the world. Starting in late 2011, “Crewtoo” poll questions were printed in NEWSlink onboard newspapers to gauge mariners’ interests and opinions on varied topics. As replies rolled in to the NEWSlink offices, the poll results and a selection of comments were printed in subsequent issues of NEWSlink, and seafarers were offered the option of signing up individually to receive the Crewtoo poll questions and answers by email. Because of the limits of many vessels’ satellite communications systems, those emails had to be less than 3,000 characters of plain text, so NEWSlink moved to printing a weekly Crewtoo newspaper to contain more members’ comments, opinions, and jokes. With the desire to find an outlet for even more comments to be shared, the Crewtoo online network was born.
To date, there have been more than 545,000 unique visitors to Crewtoo.com. Of the more than 100,000 Crewtoo members, there are 2,365 members who still receive the plain text emails and interact with Crewtoo in that manner. Crewtoo also has an active presence on Facebook, with 85,000 followers there.
Crewtoo continues to ask its members their opinions about seafaring life. One request that has been voiced many times is a way to learn more about the latest maritime jobs. To that end, Crewtoo is currently developing an online maritime job board, which is expected to launch next month. “First Crewtoo grew its audience, and now we plan to expand services based on what seafarers say they want,” says Woodhead.
In addition to Crewtoo and NEWSlink, KVH Media Group has a number of other services aimed at improving crew welfare. MOVIElink, TVlink, and TRAININGlink provide commercially licensed movies, television programs, and training films for onboard viewing by seafarers, delivered in a range of formats from hard-copy DVDs delivered directly to ship agents anywhere in the world to fully digital services. SPORTSlink provides daily video clips of sporting events.
KVH provides maritime broadband connectivity to vessels worldwide through its TracPhone V-IP series terminals and mini-VSAT Broadband network. In addition, KVH is introducing IP-MobileCast, a content delivery service that enables MOVIElink, TVlink, SPORTSlink, TRAININGlink, NEWSlink, and MUSIClink premium licensed entertainment content to be delivered via multicasting technology to subscribing vessels, over the top of the mini-VSAT Broadband network.