Shipowners and pilots call for improved mobile communications services along Germany’s coast

Network gps navigation. Credit: Getty Images

The German Shipowners’ Association, Verband Deutscher Reeder (VDR), and the German Federal Chamber of Pilots, Bundeslotsenkammer (BLK), have issued a joint statement calling for urgent improvements to mobile network coverage in German coastal waters.

According to the communiqué, the broadband infrastructure necessary for maritime digitisation in the country’s coastal waters is still underdeveloped. For instance, it says, mobile phone reception in Germany’s 200 mile (322 km) exclusive economic zone is intermittent or non-existent. In this area, communication takes place via FM radio or satellite telephone.

“Hundreds of ships pass through the German Bight alone, every single day,” said Erik Dalege, chairman of the BLK. “In particular, there is an urgent need – for safety reasons on the highly frequented nautical “motorways” off the German coast – to ensure that in our role as pilots, we receive the mobile network coverage necessary to make use of state-of-the-art software.”

Ralf Nagel, CEO of the VDR, reports that the North and Baltic Seas are still dead zones with regards to reception, as are parts of the Kiel Canal. “Our seafarers working on those ships would be glad to have mobile telephone reception near the coastline, with at least fairly comprehensive coverage,” he added.

Maritime broadband communication in the North Sea and Baltic Sea was the topic of a symposium jointly held by the Maritime Cluster Northern Germany (Maritimes Cluster Norddeutschland e.V. [MCN]) with the VDR and the BLK yesterday.

“The VDR and the BLK have already called for an improvement in the necessary infrastructure on a number of occasions in the past. Now it is high time for this subject to be tackled with concerted action, such as in a working group at federal and state level,” said Dalege.