Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Text Messaging Facility Launched for Seamen

Already in the service of millions of expatriate Filipinos, Chikka Asia, Inc., the company that opened the popular gateway to texting any mobile phone in the Philippines from any computer in the world, announced the launch of a new communications facility especially for seamen.

“Txt2mail” has actually been used by ordinary email users ever since its launch last year, but was only recently set up for those who go on-line “via satellite” in the open sea. Chikka developed the system for “crew mail” that is transmitted over the INMARSAT, a popular maritime communications and positioning system.

“It did not take long to realize the necessity of Txt2mail at Sea. Voice calls cost a few dollars per minute from the open sea. Email is available but the Filipino seaman’s family on-shore does not typically have PC or Internet access. What we have instead are cell phones!” said Dennis Mendiola, chief executive officer of Chikka Asia. “We hope by enabling Txt2mail over INMARSAT, to help make life at sea a little more bearable.”

A Txt2mail message from a Philippine mobile phone costs the standard value-added service (VAS) rate of P2.50 and is received as email aboard the ship. Email from the ship is meanwhile conveniently received and replied to, as ordinary text messages by family members on their GSM phones.

On embarking on a ship, seafarers may spend weeks on end in the high seas before disembarking once more in international ports whether at Rotterdam or Singapore, Busan or Vancouver and such. Shore leave is enjoyed for a few days before they head out to sea again. There are an estimated 1 million workers out at sea at any given time and Filipinos make up 30% of these seafarers. Other countries that produce seafarers include China, India, and many Eastern European countries such as Poland and Croatia.

“We understand that Filipinos coming from an archipelago of over 7000 islands are historically, seamen who have always lived close to water. But the fact is we are also some of the most family-oriented of peoples – who have recently developed a mean texting habit!” Mendiola added.

Chikka Asia Inc., created “Chikka Txt Messenger,” the world’s first mobile-centric Instant Messenger marrying the popular Instant Messaging platform with its counterpart in the wireless world, SMS (short message service on GSM networks). “Chikka,” which is the Filipino slang for “small talk” was then launched in the country, with the highest propensity to text per capita.

“Txt2mail at Sea is yet another step towards fulfilling Chikka Asia’s mission: to bring communities heretofore separated by geographical and technological barriers, together,” said Mendiola.

Chikka Txt Messenger and Txt2mail may be accessed at www.chikka.com.