The global coronavirus pandemic and the resulting travel restrictions, as regions face new waves of infections, have driven development of maritime digital applications and smart shipping technologies
More owners are using applications such as videoconferencing, telemedicine, crew internet, email management, optimised data transfers and robust cyber security.
“Maritime across all sectors is embracing digitalisation and VSAT-enabled smart ships,” says IEC Telecom group chief executive for Asia, Middle East and CIS Nabil Ben Soussia. IEC has developed OneGate for maritime connectivity, network management and cyber security.
“Shipping is increasingly depending on data for decision-making, and this is reflected in the advanced demand for onboard connectivity solutions,” says Mr Soussia.
“Vessel operators are no longer focusing on purchasing just connectivity. Instead, they are seeking flexible solutions and fully customisable applications which enable all the services necessary on board their particular vessels.”
Owners want applications enabling data analytics, optimising workflows and reducing operating costs. They are increasingly using IoT and cloud-based applications through VSAT, says Tototheo Maritime head of efficiency and optimisation solutions Navneet Singh Rainu. He says cloud services enable fleet optimisation by providing facilities for big data analytics and IoT applications. Satellite connectivity enables telemetrics for managers to “view smart analytics, key performance indicators (KPIs) and fuel consumption” says Mr Rainu.
Owners can “set alarms and monitor when vessels go into emission control or piracy areas, to avoid fines or critical situations”. Or they can use data “to identify issues quickly and benchmark KPIs” says Mr Rainu.
VSAT also enables voyage optimisation applications, using weather information to plan optimised routes. Applications also facilitate fuel reduction during voyages.
“During the voyage, alarm monitoring, deviation monitoring and compliance with charter party terms can all play important roles in optimisation,” says Mr Rainu, noting that “data collection is very important for the inevitable claims that arise from any voyage under charter”.
Sector consolidation in VSAT
Several VSAT service providers have been acquired over the past year in an intense period of consolidation.
In January 2021, Marlink Group, backed by Apax Partners in France, agreed to acquire offshore satellite communications provider ITC Global from Panasonic.
This corporate deal will expand its satellite communications presence in energy and enterprise markets and Marlink will use ITC Global to diversify and strengthen its commercial operations in the US, the UK and Australia.
At the end of 2020, Castor Marine stepped in to save SeaVsat, which provides satellite internet access to offshore vessels and rigs, through an acquisition from administrators. Netherlands-headquartered SeaVsat was declared bankrupt on 23 November, leaving customers at sea uncertain about their connectivity and voice communications.
Castor’s SeaVsat acquisition provides continuity of internet and data services to vessels and rigs as it will support all SeaVsat airtime and connectivity contracts.
In December 2020, satellite owner Viasat announced its agreement to acquire RigNet Inc in an all-stock transaction that valued RigNet at an enterprise value of approximately US$222M.
This corporate deal will help to further accelerate Viasat’s strategy to provide broadband connectivity and communications in the offshore energy industry and remote rig sites. It will enable Viasat to quickly expand into new adjacent industries including energy, shipping, maritime, mining and additional enterprises.
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