Maritime enterprise: Evolving from the digital dark ages

by Staff Reporter | March 3rd, 2013

Jim Dodez, VP of Marketing and Strategic Planning

Communications capabilities are more important to the financial success of a maritime enterprise than communications costs and the challenge for vessel owners is to select the best solution to optimise connectivity ROI, say Jim Dodez, VP of Marketing and Strategic Planning, and Rick Driscoll, VP of Products and Services, Mobile Broadband Group, KVH Industries Inc.

“Modern networked enterprises are unconstrained by physical and geographic separation, and why should the maritime industry be any different? The challenge lies in choosing the service offering the best ROI and not compromising on capabilities to minimise communications costs”

The digital revolution in commercial maritime markets is hindered by high communications costs, say Jim Dodez, VP of Marketing and Strategic Planning, KVH and Rick Driscoll, VP of Products and Services, Mobile Broadband Group, authors of a presentation by KVH industries Inc., on the benefits of maritime satcom for the enterprise.

“The economics of the internet fall apart when you’re paying USD 10 to USD 20 per Mb. Fortunately, competition is driving costs down. Maritime VSAT services are on an average less costly than legacy L-band service and communications costs are typically less that 0.3% of the total operating costs of a vessel, “ affirm the authors.

Maritime VSAT services are on an average less costly than legacy L-band service and communications costs are typically less that 0.3% of the total operating costs of a vessel

The growing need for connectivity, say Dodez and Driscoll, is undeniable and enhanced connectivity will create a ‘ripple effect of productivity and efficiency through an enterprise’.

“The challenge is meeting the growing need for connectivity across the current maritime sector. The indisputable fact is that broadband connectivity provides maritime businesses with a competitive weapon to reduce costs, enhance revenues, and drive profitability.”

While new maritime regulations are being enacted that will create new requirements for onboard IT capabilities, Dodez and Driscoll believe that a communications system designed only to meet a company’s prior year requirements will be inadequate the day it is installed.

“The new maritime digital revolution should aim to empower an organisation with enhanced connectivity. Modern networked enterprises are unconstrained by physical and geographic separation, and why should the maritime industry be any different? The challenge lies in choosing the service offering the best ROI and not compromising on capabilities to minimise communications costs.”

Rick Driscoll, VP of Products and Services, Mobile Broadband Group, KVH

Information logistics – managing your IT&C resources

The authors believe that the high cost and slow speed of legacy L-band connectivity has resulted in fragmented, inefficient operations at many maritime organisations. The answer lies in being proactive with regard to information technology and communications (IT&C) management and deploying advanced satellite services offer bandwidth management tools to enhance the enterprise’s overall network performance.

“Modern maritime VSAT services reduce cost of connectivity while providing the critical capabilities enterprises will need to remain competitive. Like any other valuable onboard resource, bandwidth needs to be managed and optimised. Proactive IT&C management will keep costs under control while assuring high quality connectivity for mission critical applications.”

Optimising voyage planning

Enhanced navigation data empowers the captain to make better decisions, say Dodez and Driscoll.

“Connectivity provides real-time access to weather, currents, and sea condition data. In addition, being connected allows for interactive collaboration with shore-based route planning specialists. This would help towards better planning in terms of working through route congestion and improving accuracy of port scheduling.”

Underlining the advances made in satcom technology, the authors state that connectivity optimises overall vessel performance.

“New sensor technology enables improved monitoring of hull, propeller, bunker consumption, and engine performance. Moreover, data can be transmitted onshore for expert analysis of the performance of not just the captain, but that of the vessel and the fleet”

“New sensor technology enables improved monitoring of hull, propeller, bunker consumption, and engine performance. Moreover, data can be transmitted onshore for expert analysis of the performance of not just the captain, but that of the vessel and the fleet.”

Compliance with regulations

Significantly, connectivity helps vessel owners to comply with regulations.

“For instance, the electronic documentation submission to speed arrivals/departures such as the Electronic Notice of Arrival and Departure (eNOA/D) submissions for the United States Coast Guard (USCG) and electronic submission of documentation for cargo, vessels, and/or crew. In addition, improved voyage planning owing to better data connectivity will help vessels comply with the new MARPOL Annex IV regulations regarding sewage disposal, among other requirements by the international convention for prevention of pollution from ships.”

The authors add: “Better data enables reliable voyage planning thus helping to avoid faster than necessary voyaging followed by loitering to wait for scheduled port time or cargo availability. Slow voyaging offers a significant opportunity to save valuable bunker fuel. While fuel consumption is primarily a function of vessel size and speed, on a typical container-ship, fuel consumption above 14 knots increases exponentially with increased speed.”

Controlling vessel manning costs

Connectivity, say Dodez and Driscoll, reduces turnover by improving crew morale.

“Connectivity allows crew members to stay in touch with family, friends, and their lives ashore. Lower turnover saves on recruiting and training costs. Connectivity helps vessel owners meet the regulatory requirements for MLC 2006 (Maritime Labour Convention 2006). Enhanced communications can be provided through affordable VoIP calling, email, and access to social networks and entertainment and access to news can be provided via internet café service.”

Connectivity helps vessel owners meet the regulatory requirements for MLC 2006 (Maritime Labour Convention 2006)

Connectivity helps reduce training costs required by International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) of 2010.

The authors clarify: “Distance learning and web-based curriculum allows any course to be delivered in any language to any vessel at any time. In addition, vessel owners can seamlessly enhance security with the use of biometrics to verify crew member identity, remote testing for drug/alcohol use and with the electronic submission and verification of crew member certifications.”

Connectivity enables remote office integration with the onboard ERP and HR systems with contemporary satcom technology allowing for dedicated isolated networks for operations and crew.

“With the ability to design efficient synchronised databases and cloud-based applications, and move onboard administrative tasks to less costly and centralised shoreside personnel, connectivity helps eliminate redundant data entry,” say the authors. They add, “Onboard logistics planning improves with vessels directly ordering parts and supplies and coordinating delivery at the next port.

“Onboard logistics planning improves with vessels directly ordering parts and supplies and coordinating delivery at the next port”

Lastly, in line with upcoming regulations, the need to physically deliver and load CDs will give way to the efficient, virtual delivery of Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS) chart updates.”

 Reduce maintenance and repair cost

Dodez and Driscoll reiterate that connectivity on vessels, among other benefits, enables onshore support to remotely monitor onboard equipment.

“Critical tasks such as tracking maintenance schedules and diagnosing signs of equipment failure through condition-based monitoring/alarms are enabled. Connectivity facilitates early repair to avoid catastrophic failures, cutting costs and down time. In addition, the cost of maintaining bulky paper systems in multiple locations is reduced with electronic access to e-documentation (such as Shipdex, a maritime standard protocol for production and exchange of electronic data between equipment makers and ship owners) thus providing faster and easier electronic access to specific data.”

“The cost of maintaining bulky paper systems in multiple locations is reduced with electronic access to e-documentation (such as Shipdex, a maritime standard protocol for production and exchange of electronic data between equipment makers and ship owners) thus providing faster and easier electronic access to specific data”

Moreover, remote access to onboard PCs and other IT equipment allows for remote updates and repairs including software and virus protection updates. Lastly, onboard connectivity ensures enhanced security on vessels. The authors explain: “Better monitoring and management through remote surveillance/ CCTV will result in reduced insurance costs and minimise expenses around security breaches. Vessel safety is enhanced through ongoing virtual consultation between security managers and vessel captains for route planning and liaison with maritime security organisations for latest threat information. Better crew healthy is ensured through video conferencing consultation with shoreside doctors to treat injuries or medical problems.”

Going beyond connectivity and its obvious advantages, Dodez and Driscoll believe that connectivity can be a key differentiator for fleet owners by offering better visibility to customers.

“Vessel tracking and reporting with real-time updates helps customers manage their supply chain and keep track of their shipments. Fleet owners can emphasise their MARPOL compliance efforts thus offering customers “green” shipping as part of their “green” supply chain.”

Overall, Dodez and Driscoll believe that every significant operating cost can be reduced by improved connectivity and that communications capabilities are more important to the financial success of a maritime enterprise than communications costs.

Excerpts from the Satcom 101 Webinar Series by KVH Industries, Inc

 

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