VSAT can be used to manage onboard IT networks and remotely monitor equipment performance during the pandemic lockdown
Owners, managers and vessel operators can ensure their assets are cyber secure and improve uptime by outsourcing IT network management.
Remote monitoring, diagnostics and intervention become increasingly critical as engineer visits to ships are restricted due to coronavirus rules. With ship visit clampdowns, there is rising demand for remote support to seafarers and distance diagnostics services.
VSAT providers are diversifying to provide remote IT management and equipment condition monitoring services to assist shipowners during these challenging times.
Marlink has introduced ITLink for managing onboard IT, and BridgeLink open platform for unifying onboard equipment and sensors with network infrastructure and satellite IP connectivity.
Marlink president of maritime Tore Morten Olsen says ITLink enables shipowners to prevent issues with onboard networks and ensure their software and security is updated. This will help owners implement changes to vessel safety management systems as required by amendments to IMO’s International Ship Management (ISM) Code, which comes into force in January 2021.
“Big shipping companies and owners have this under control, their people are aware and competent to deal with this,” says Mr Olsen. “But smaller, family-owned shipping companies have small fleets and are finding implementing IMO Cyber 2021 challenging,” he explains to Maritime Optimisation & Communications.
With ITLink, Marlink’s experts can monitor and diagnose shipboard IT networks and update software remotely to ensure they have the latest security settings.
“The cyber security aspect we have added – for example our cyber operations centres – can clean networks remotely,” says Mr Olsen. “This would be complex for small and medium shipping companies – so we are able to make it easy for them to meet IMO Cyber 2021.”
Through BridgeLink, this is taken further by enabling data from operational technology (OT) to be accessed, collected and shared in a single interface and monitored remotely. Shipowners can use this information for proactive maintenance of OT.
Marlink subsidiary Telemar will leverage this link for smart maintenance applications, to diagnose issues with shipboard equipment and support service technicians. “This new service enables shipowners to reduce potential downtime and increase the efficiency of their bridge electronics hardware and associated software,” says Mr Olsen.
“More repairs can be performed remotely, and first-time fixes increased for a more efficient service when field engineers visit customers’ vessels.”
Shipowners can streamline troubleshooting, while data collected can be used for site surveys, to optimise asset lifecycles and deliver further efficiencies.
Altera Infrastructure (formerly Teekay Offshore) is using Marlink ITLink to streamline and improve fleet IT management on its fleet of shuttle tankers, ALP towing vessels and floating production storage and offloading units. Marlink technicians can remotely monitor vessel networks and diagnose any IT issues.
For Altera, ITLink also maintains the compliance and resilience of vessel IT networks with automated software updates and remote access for troubleshooting. It also ensures IT networks are cyber-secure and Altera is ready for fleet expansion and IMO 2021 cyber security guidelines.
Altera vice president for operations Regis Rougier says Marlink provides a single interface between vessel IT and communications infrastructure. “As our operations become ever more sophisticated, we are encompassing shore-based remote monitoring of onboard systems,” he says. “It is vital for us to know that the digital foundation between vessels and from shore to ship can be relied upon without question,” Mr Rougier says.
KVH Industries provides VSAT connectivity for remote IT diagnostics and for internet of things (IoT) monitoring. KVH Watch IoT connectivity is used for transferring operational data from onboard machinery sensors to shore for monitoring, predictive maintenance and remote intervention.
“Ships are seen as remote offices,” says KVH executive vice president for mobility connectivity Mark Woodhead. “Owners are benefiting from applications for providing onshore expertise to support crew on board,” he explains.
Commercial benefits include remote trouble shooting and diagnostics and “providing better advice to crew quickly and cost-effectively,” Mr Woodhead continues. “Officers can get the information they need to tackle challenges on ships.”
Remote troubleshooting reduces field service engineer visits to ships and maintenance costs.
“Shipping companies can improve reporting and provide real-time data and information from their vessels,” says Mr Woodhead. KVH Watch enables shipping companies to introduce predictive maintenance. “It makes a huge difference as it means equipment is maintained when this is needed,” says Mr Woodhead.
If service engineers are unable to attend ships, KVH Watch enables technology experts to assist from shore. “We can open the connectivity for remote workers to assist seafarers with high-level skills and expertise from shore,” he explains. KVH hardware enables two channels of information to run simultaneously with a high-speed data channel for vessel communications and a “low-speed channel for carrying a steady stream of data from the sensors on board the vessel to shore-based analysts and experts”.
GTMaritime unveiled GTDeploy in Q1 2020 to provide critical software and security patches to protect shipboard systems before threats emerge. It designed GTDeploy to make patch management integral to the maritime IT environment, says GTMaritime head of operations Jamie Jones.
“As the number of onboard systems multiply and complexity grows, so does the urgency and resources needed to maintain them,” he says. GTDeploy cuts delays in pushing out urgent software and security patches vital to cyber-risk management.
GTDeploy allows applications to be managed through an intuitive drag-and-drop dashboard interface. It supports automatic updating and can refresh or re-install security updates, patches or entire applications.
Wireless sensors unveiled for remote monitoring
Wireless sensors will enable more efficient automatic and remote ship machinery monitoring by removing power and signal cabling. In Q1 2020, SKF introduced its SKF Enlight Collect IMx-1 wireless sensors for measuring vibration and temperature of rotating machinery.
SKF product line manager Chris James says these sensors mean operators can “access automated predictive maintenance and reliable rotation on their operating budgets”.
These sensors are powered by long-lasting batteries. They can be mounted to a bearing housing and send collected data wirelessly to a host computer network. Data is then forwarded to cloud-based analysis services at SKF centres.
“These highly accurate, robust sensors allow data to be collected more frequently – over hours and days, instead of weeks and months – from locations previously inaccessible,” says Mr James.
SKF’s system relies on a mesh network relaying data between sensors to the computer. Data can be routed around radio obstacles, such as pipework and liquid storage vessels, that create signal blocks for conventional line-of-sight communications. Data can be sent over greater distances than would be possible using a single device.
“The mesh network is self-forming, which makes it easier and quicker to deploy than other wireless communications technologies, wifi or Bluetooth,” says Mr James. “It is also innovative in the way it manages available bandwidth and the power consumption of the sensors.”
SKF Enlight Collect IMx-1 is designed with a tough ingress protection rating of IP69K, ensuring sensors will work reliably when exposed to dust, dirt, oil, grease, contaminants, flying debris, temperature changes, wind, rain, high-pressure and hot water washdowns.
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