Shipping companies are raising their interest in providing connectivity and welfare services to seafarers as they become increasingly isolated due to the global coronavirus outbreak
According to KVH Industries executive vice president for mobile connectivity Mark Woodhead, vessel operators have asked for higher bandwidth and daily news. “There are a lot of requests for increasing connectivity and welfare for seafarers, so they can keep in touch with home,” said Mr Woodhead.
“We at KVH are working around the clock to support customers and crew to provide our welfare services,” he told Maritime Optimisation & Communications.
“There are more requests from crew who are becoming increasingly isolated on vessels due to coronavirus and worried about loved ones at home,” he explained.
However, KVH is finding it increasingly difficult to service vessels in ports in the worst infected countries, such as China, Italy and Panama.
“We want to assist existing and new customers. But there are some restrictions being introduced in ports for shipments and getting field engineers on to ships for installation and servicing,” said Mr Woodhead.
“We are finding ways to work around these confines we find ourselves in to install VSAT and service vessels.”
Many vessels can avoid ports with restrictions, but more countries will impose restrictions in the coming weeks.
Some VSAT installations are on smaller vessels after KVH introduced a regional version of its global AgilePlans connectivity-as-a-service VSAT in February.
Vessel operators can use bandwidth of up to 5 Mbps on the downlink from the satellite and 2 Mbps on the uplink by using KVH’s TracPhone V3-HTS antenna and AgilePlans Regional service.
“We have seen more demand from smaller vessels, workboats and coastal vessels for our AgilePlans Regional,” said Mr Woodhead. “It is cost effective at less than US$500/month for installation, shipping, airtime, warranty and servicing.”
Media content on ships, including daily news, sport and films, is multicast from one source to vessels worldwide and can be viewed onboard using KVH Link and Link Hub servers. “We have heard feedback from customers that such entertainment and news content keeps seafarers feeling connected and helps minimise boredom, whether they are viewing the content in shared spaces or on their personal devices,” said Mr Woodhead.
AgilePlans Regional connects to high-throughput Ku-band and wide-beam satellites in four regions. There is coverage over North America and the Caribbean, South America, western Europe and Africa, and Asia Pacific.
KVH’s AgilePlans Global service is paired with the 60-cm diameter TracPhone V7-HTS, with data speeds as high as 10 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up, with global coverage. For higher bandwidth, vessel owners can use AgilePlans Global with a TracPhone V11-HTS, with a diameter of 1 m, to obtain data speeds as high as 20 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up to the satellite.