Seafarers are frequent travellers who love their mobile phones – the vital tool which helps them to connect to their family anytime, anywhere!
We asked a couple of our seafarer friends as to what is the one thing they never forget when they leave for sailing, and “mobile phone” is the answer we received from every single one.
One of the seafarers answered, “To be honest, a mobile phone is one equipment which helps to restore our sanity onboard ships when all other equipment is giving us a tough time.”
We can’t agree more!
Life on the ship is not exactly the same as advertised on social media. The allure highlighted by social media is just 10% of the life on the ship whereas the rest 90% is boredom, monotonous life and a journey with the risk of life-threatening accidents.
Some ships have Wi-Fi facility whereas others don’t. In real case one out of every four ships has Wi-Fi connectivity and even rare chances of phone signal, so the crew on ship cut off completely from society and friends.
During this long period of their voyage, seafarers have to go through the same faces and surroundings for certain months or even a year. For ships without Wi-Fi connectivity, SIM card with internet connectivity becomes a primary need so that seafarers feel closer to their friends and family not only in holidays and on port but on board too, a number of SIM cards are developed by a number of companies with different value plans.
So the question is – Which mobile SIM cards do seafarers use? Do they buy a new SIM card at each port or Do they activate international roaming on the number they use on land (Which is outrageously expensive!) or buy a global sim card?.
We received a number of different answers. Some said that they buy SIM cards at the ports, which are to be frequently visited by their ships; whereas some prefer to buy mobile cards in those ports wherein the calling rates are the lowest.
Some uber-social seafarer even activates international roaming on their local numbers or take a Global sim card which will allow them to have the same phone number around the world. However, they mainly use such services to receive text messages (which is usually free!) and to make urgent calls.
Considering the importance of mobile SIM cards/ international calling cards that seafarers have in their lives, we decided to make a list of the most commonly used global sim cards (those which will allow them to have the same number wherever they go).
Note- There are hundreds of international SIM cards providing companies in the world and it would be difficult to accomodate all of them in this article. Thus, we are starting with the list of cards that are used by Indian Seafarers or those that provide their services in India. This is NOT a sponsored article!
Though we have personally used a few of these cards, we haven’t tried all and thus cannot comment on them. Kindly use at your own risk as some of our seafarer friends have complained of unimaginable bills, especially on international roaming.
Which Mobile Sim Cards Seafarers Use – The Real Problem
International roaming SIM Cards or global data cards: Among these SIM cards, international roaming SIM cards top the order on the basis of quenching the need for connectivity during the voyage and on ports.
But owning these SIM cards is a problem in itself this is due to the fact that when we travel from one country to the other, we have to keep roaming mode on. As in roaming mode network from an overseas network provider is used which has hefty roaming charges on texts, calls and data as well.
These international SIM cards provide internet services with reliable uploading and downloading speed but the rates are quite expensive. These high charges make the calling balance to vanish within some seconds or minutes.
Different ports have different SIM card network accessibility. So one must have to replace his SIM from one to the other port which give him/her an extra burden of purchasing local SIMs at different ports.
Also sometimes the shops for these local SIMs are not available in the vicinity so the seafarer has to travel a long way to purchase costly local SIM cards. Not only this but also buying a SIM card in another country requires a great paperwork and important documents and passport.
Port is the best place to enjoy the newly established internet by the SIM cards purchased by the seafarers but it is not possible for a seafarer to remain always on port, he has to board the ship. This is due to the reason that he has to serve many job orders assigned by his officials on a ship.
Different SIM cards used by seafarers: This huge importance of connectivity necessitates the development of a not only a number of SIM cards but also SIM cards which can be used as global SIM cards by the seafarers.
12 SIM Cards For Globetrotters
These global SIM cards will allow the seafarer to connect to anyone throughout the world from the same number, no matters wherever he/she is. Some commonly used SIM cards by the seafarers are briefed as below:
1. Three UK SIM card: In March 2003, three UK was launched. This is a service provider which allows both telecommunication and data connectivity as well. It is self-sufficient in providing both 3G and 4G network services. But the extent of these SIMs developed by three UK was limited to the UK only.
In 2009 with peak advancement and by reducing charges it launched a better version of SIMs with cheaper rates of calls, texts and data. About 71 countries enjoy the services of these three UK SIM cards without additional roaming charges.
These SIM card services when used in countries other than these 71 countries, additional roaming charges will be incurred over call, data and text. Different policies are there in different countries regarding telecommunications and also it is not easy to penetrate your network in different countries.
So, this is a great achievement in maintaining network homogeneity in 71 different countries. These countries are from Europe and the United States and referred as go roam countries. This advancement allows unlimited net surfing or browsing to its user without fearing of hefty roaming charges.
2. iVitta: Special SIM cards developed for seafarers for establishing their connectivity to the world outside the board. The general features of iVitta SIM Cards are as follows:
- Easy top-up can be ensured quickly by online transactions.
- A large number of seafarer centres around the globe, make these SIM cards available to their users.
- It provides hassle-free and quick sign up process.
- Compatible in wrist watches along with cell phones.
- Allows phone calls, texts and data usage at regular charges over hundreds of countries. So, no burden of expensive roaming charges.
The iVitta Sim Cards are specially crafted for seafarers, considering the communication issues they face. They are available at several seafarer centres around the world and “top-up” can be done online from anywhere.
3. Reliance World SIM: There are thirty countries which allow free incoming calls to the person having Reliance World SIM and ensure their connectivity to the people in about 160 countries around the globe by international roaming services. The general features of Reliance World SIM are as follows:
- Unbelievable low rates for SMS and calls
- Connects more than two hundred countries.
- 3G and 4G high-speed data without any monthly contracts. It implies a wide variety of plans are available with this SIM card in which you have to pay only for your usage.
- You can use a single number wherever you go so there is no need to return this SIM at different locations after the end of the voyage.
- It also allows free CUG services through which you can connect to your shipmates free of cost.
The Reliance World Sim card claims to offer international roaming services in more than 160 countries with free incoming calls in over 30 countries. The service providers assure of 70% less on the bill than what you would pay by activating roaming services on your own number.
4. One SIM Card: An International SIM card provider named One SIM Card allows roaming services in 190 or more countries at reasonable rates. Other important features of One SIM card are as follows:
- This network provider has a wide span of free incoming calling over about 150 countries whereas messaging facility is free of cost around the globe.
- As per its name indicate it is a single permanent SIM card which can be used throughout the world.
One Sim Card is an International SIM card provider which offers international sim card roaming in more than 190 countries at affordable rates. It offers free incoming calls in more than 150 countries and free text messages worldwide.
5. Matrix: Prepaid, as well as postpaid SIM cards, are provided by an international SIM card provider named Matrix. Other salient features of these SIM cards are briefed below:
- These SIM cards allow easy and quick online top-ups. These top-ups can be done from any part of the world.
- These are the travelling cards siphoned with exiting initial data package offers.
An international SIM card provider which offers both postpaid and prepaid SIM cards. These travelling cards also come with a data package offer and can be recharged online from anywhere in the world.
6. Airtel World Calling Card: Airtel world calling card has comparatively shorter span international roaming services only in 95 countries but there is no processing fee or hidden fee for these SIM cards
Airtel World Calling Card – Airtel world calling card offers international roaming services in more than 95 countries. The card doesn’t require any additional deposits or processing fee.
7. Clay SIM Card provider: It is an Intercontinental SIM card provider which facilitates free incoming in 40 countries. Other features of clay telecom SIM cards are as follows:
- It facilitates 24*7 customer support.
- It provides data cards, prepaid SIM cards and postpaid SIM cards and e-mail services.
- There are available unbelievable deals at local rates with these SIM cards.
- It provides same number facility round the globe.
- Cheaper country-specific and global data cards with great network speed.
8. Uniconnect: It was established in 1996 and became the first Indian company to receive DoT license. Other features of Uniconnect International SIM cards are as follows:
- These are the first choice for regular travellers.
- They make any local country SIM card available to us online by applying to Simple forum.
- Least paperwork and no hidden cost.
- The online top-up facility is also available with Uniconnect.
- Both pre-paid, as well as postpaid SIMs, can be provided by Uniconnect.
9. Euro Calling Cards: These are a sort of calling cards which are recharged for special plan in advance to serve the needs of seafarers.
10. BNE SIM- Global Data SIM Card: It is a cost-effective SIM provider with 95% cost saving as compared to other global SIM cards. There is no roaming fee with these SIM cards. Other features of these SIM cards are as follows:
- These are used in about 170 small or big countries throughout the world today.
- BNESIM users can enjoy free calling and messaging to the other BNESIM user.
There are several other companies which offer international sim cards for seafarers/ frequent travellers in India. It is extremely important to go through the terms and conditions, call rates and other important information before buying an international sim card from any service provider.
11. Poginet SIM: The service providers claim it to be the best SIM card for a seafarer. It is advanced and developed in Europe, America, Africa, Asia & Pacific. Important features of Poginet SIM cards which make them global choice are as follows:
- A single SIM card can be used efficiently at a number of destinations.
- These provide excellent and easy to use SIM cards.
- Reasonable data and calling packs with bonus initial credit at purchase.
12. Planet Roam Seafarer SIM: These are specially crafted global SIM cards for seafarers only. These SIMs have lifetime validity and available with a single number starting from +44. In almost all the countries these SIMs allow free incoming calls and free intergroup calls on the ship. The rates of these SIMs and their plans are the same throughout the world.
Connectivity is the basic need of every person in the world and becomes most important for a seafarer who lives far from his /her house for months or year.
To quench this need of connectivity and pacify the overseas relations of seafarers with family and friends, telecommunication is the only way. For telecommunication all we need is a SIM card and network connectivity. There are different SIM cards and data cards available in the market to serve the seafarers around the globe.
Some of them are Poginet SIM; BNE SIM; Planet Roam seafarer SIM, Clay SIM, Airtel World SIMs; Reliance global SIMs; Matrix SIMS; One card SIMs and many more.
Many of them allow free incoming calls and text messages throughout the world. Different ports have different SIM card network accessibility. So one must have to replace his SIM from one to the other port which gives him an extra burden of purchasing local SIMs at different ports.
But, today with the advancement of technology even a single number can be used all around the globe. The network penetration of these SIM cards from one country to the other is commendable. These internet connectivity and calling facility make the world of a seafarer to converge.
Over to you…
Which global sim card do you use while sailing? Do you use one or do you prefer buying local sim cards at the ports you visit? Let us know in the comments below.
You may also like to read –
- 10 More Free Smartphone Apps Seafarers Must Have
- What is Seaman’s Service Book?
- What are Cruise Credit Cards and How to Get One?
- What is Maritime Mobile Service Identity?
Disclaimer: The authors’ views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Marine Insight. Data and charts, if used, in the article have been sourced from available information and have not been authenticated by any statutory authority. The author and Marine Insight do not claim it to be accurate nor accept any responsibility for the same. The views constitute only the opinions and do not constitute any guidelines or recommendation on any course of action to be followed by the reader.
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Raunek Kantharia is a marine engineer turned maritime writer and entrepreneur. After a brief stint at the sea, he founded Marine Insight in 2010. Apart from managing Marine Insight, he also writes for a number of maritime magazines and websites.