A new service has been introduced to enhance seafarer access to internet services on ships. Inmarsat unveiled Crew Xpress to ensure there is enough broadband on vessels for seafarers to access online applications to communicate with family and friends.
This service is available with a Fleet Xpress antenna that includes high bandwidth through Ka-band complimenting a FleetBroadband L-band satellite connection.
Crew Xpress includes a wifi solution Inmarsat named Fleet Hotspot, a leased antenna, a business use data package and automated billing. There is also a usage revenue recovery scheme to incentivise ship managers to invest in crew connectivity.
Inmarsat Maritime president Ronald Spithout said this service was introduced to offer Fleet Xpress for crew welfare services, where operational communications is through FleetBroadband. “We recognise crew wellbeing as a separate connectivity imperative,” he said.
Crew Xpress enables shipmanagers to offer a managed, high-speed crew internet service, while remaining within an allowance plan that can be utilised for operational and data communications.
“There is a group of vessel owners and managers who are seeking fully-managed wifi connectivity that crew can use on a self-service basis,” said Mr Spithout. “But, whose business data needs do not yet extend to [services] enabled by Ka-band.”
The Crew Xpress package consists of a 60-cm diameter Fleet Xpress antenna and a 6-GB business allowance plan and Fleet Hotspot, which provides secure access to internet via a seafarer login. Time or data can be allocated and payments made by vouchers or by an online portal.
Inmarsat started testing Crew Xpress on ships owned by companies headquartered in Asia in January 2019. It will commercially launch the service in April and plans to have wholesale versions available before the end of this year. Mr Spithout said Fleet Hotspot could also be used to provide internet access on passenger vessels, superyachts or to provide communications to contractors on board offshore support vessels.