Meet AIS Partner Andrew from Vancouver, CA

in AIS Station Update, Community by

A software developer voluntarily supporting seafarers

The home office of AIS Partner Andrew. In the background, you see the port of Vancouver and the FleetMon AIS antenna on the left.

Applying to become an AIS Partner was super easy. I just filled out the form, and shortly afterwards an AIS support member reached out to me. I sent FleetMon my shipping address, picked up the station from the post office, and connected all the components. My office has a high elevation and line-of-sight to the harbour, so I just mounted the antenna, plugged the antenna into the AIS receiver, and then plugged the receiver into my router.

Andrew, FleetMon AIS Partner from Vancouver, CN

Technology as a passion

My name is Andrew Odri, and I am a software developer based in Vancouver, Canada. I’ve had an interest in technology as far back as I can remember. After school, I have developed a career in software development. However, it wasn’t until recently that I really started developing my interest in electronics and radio, and eventually, the maritime world. My job as a software developer enabled me to spend some extra time and money on other interests. I always wanted to experiment with SDR cell-site simulation, so I bought a bunch of gear and just started learning. After receiving my basic amateur radio operator’s certificate, I studied for the advanced one, which then delved into electronics and the Automatic Packed Reporting System (APRS). Then I obtained my maritime and aeronautical radio licenses as well. The marine radio license gave me a glimpse into the maritime world, and I started to understand the seafarers’ situation on board. But it was my father who inspired me to help other people. I began working with seafarers and their families around a year ago.

Spiritual support for seafarers

I think it’s hard to understand the work I do without first understanding the seafarers’ situation: The crew on these vessels come from a very diverse set of backgrounds. I’ve had the opportunity to meet people from the Philippines, India, China, Korea, Bangladesh, Greece, Croatia, The Netherlands, and just about every other country. Unlike some workplaces where many employees have a similar socio-economic situation, even a small crew of 15 people can have a pretty wide gap between the captain and the mess-man. This means that many crew members may be the only ones who speak their native language, being on board an ethnically diverse vessel. Even on a ship where most officers and the crew are from the same country, e.g., from the Philippines—there are usually crewmen from parts of the country where the language and culture they are comfortable with are different from the rest of the crew. In addition to this, the majority of crewmen are on contracts that are ten months long. The result is that many seafarers feel very isolated and alone. Often, the ones who feel the most isolated are the ones that present the greatest challenge to communicate with, as they often speak a relatively obscure language.

While there are many organizations out there that do a fantastic job at providing material support and services to seafarers, I try to focus on providing emotional and spiritual support. I am especially attentive to those mentioned above, who may have a mother tongue that is not widely spoken. They may not have access to anything in their language for the duration of their voyage. Many seafarers come from very spiritual families and backgrounds, and their spiritual needs may go unsatisfied. I guess the obvious question is, how am I able to communicate with them in their native language if not even their crew can? Here are a few things that I like to do:

Before visiting a vessel:

FleetMon’s data helps me to determine which vessels will berth at the terminal, and when they are expected to arrive and depart. Other services help me to identify the nationality of the crew. Our Christian website has information available in 1,020 languages (videos in 975 languages!), which is more languages than Wikipedia offers. I prepare my visits by downloading videos in every language encountered in the previous year, in addition to downloading videos in every indigenous language available for the nationality of every crew member I could meet that day. Here my software background comes into play… I managed to automate this fairly tremendous process. I put encouraging videos, books, and apps on a device that allows seafarers to download them to their phones, without an internet connection.

While visiting a vessel:

If invited onboard a ship, I’ll typically sit in the crew mess or crew recreation room. The crew is usually very polite and welcoming to visitors, allowing me to converse with them without making them feel pressured into talking. The crew works very hard, and on some vessels, the officers may be quite demanding. They often have only limited break time. Whether a crew member is working or on a break: I usually let them know that I have a short Bible-based video they can watch if they would like. I invite them to stop by to talk and get some materials in their mother languages after they have finished their coffee or meal. Some seafarers would like to stay in contact with me and ask for a visit the next time they are at port.

Motivation to support seafarers

There is one particular example that comes to mind to emphasize my motivation in visiting the seafarers. It happened when I set up all of my equipment for every language that I could potentially encounter that day for the first time. As part of my preparation, I had downloaded many videos in every language I could find in the Philippines. One of them was Wáray-Wáray, which is a regional language of the Eastern Visayas in the Philippines. I was on a vessel where the crew was very friendly and gregarious. The crew members I was chatting to called a timid young man over. The other crew members were joking around with him, but he hardly responded. One of the others said: “Ahh, he speaks a different language than us, Wáray-Wáray.” When I mentioned I had videos, books, and a Bible in his language, he didn’t believe it. When I showed him a video, he lit up; he wanted copies of everything I had – it was awesome. There have been many instances where sailors have started crying, just seeing and hearing some positive and upbuilding information in their mother tongue.

AIS partnership with FleetMon

I discovered FleetMon a couple of years ago. However, it was in early 2019 that I decided to become an AIS partner. My primary goal was to solve a real-world problem: That of being able to plan for the vessels arriving at the Vancouver port.
Applying to become an AIS partner was super easy. I just filled out the form, and shortly afterwards an AIS support member reached out to me. I sent FleetMon my shipping address, picked up the station from the post office, and connected all the components. My office has a high elevation and line-of-sight to the harbour, so I just mounted the antenna, plugged the antenna into the AIS receiver, and then plugged the receiver into my router. It took about 20 minutes in total. There were a couple of other steps connecting the receiver to my account. The AIS Support Team kindly walked me through those.

I’ve never had any technical problems with the AIS station. If it has an internet connection, it’ll send its data. While I’ve received fantastic support whenever I’ve had a question, I actually haven’t required any technical support for the AIS station. For me personally, FleetMon really seems like the only win-win solution out there: I can obtain beautifully formatted data proportionate to the data the stations are collecting, without investing in IT infrastructure. And FleetMon receives local data for its business intelligence services in return.

Cover your area

Regardless of whether you are a ship enthusiast or you are in the maritime business: becoming an AIS Partner will improve your activities. Represent your area on FleetMon, make more maritime information available to the public domain and help us to expand our terrestrial AIS coverage worldwide.