Drivers for more robust ferry connectivity include cost savings, safety, security and sustainability pressures
Inmarsat has published a new report on attitudes to digitalisation in the ferry market, drawing on interviews with 10 ferry owners by consultancy JG Maritime Solutions.
The Global Status of Ferry Digitalisation Report - Uncovering the Passenger and Operational advantage, authored by Ogilvy, also includes passenger ship findings from Digitalisation Uncovered - the Inmarsat-sponsored research project into digitalisation in global shipping launched in December 2020.
The new report’s findings provide insights into the distinct pressures driving ferry digitalisation and an assessment of why and how higher-capacity satellite services can help control costs, create revenue, improve the passenger experience and help restore confidence in a sector severely affected by Covid-19.
“Previously, bandwidth limitations meant the full potential of satellite technology had not been realised in the ferry sector,” said Inmarsat director of market development - yachting and passenger, Les Shortall. “This report demonstrates there are good reasons for owners to evaluate the flexible and affordable broadband services already serving tens of thousands of vessels worldwide and providing operational and safety benefits such as real-time situational awareness. Continuous connectivity and unlimited data are the keys to unlocking further cost reduction, enhancing the passenger experience and boosting revenues.”
Digitalisation Uncovered found that 25% of passenger ship owners said new revenues were a top three reason for digital investment, against a lower 17% for all shipowners. Similarly, 18% of passenger ship owners see creating new value for customers as a number one reason for digitalisation, versus only 13% of all owners. Furthermore, while 30% of all shipowners value digitalisation as a means of supporting compliance with regulations and certification, the figure for passenger ship owners is much higher at 43%.
40% of the owner/operator interviewees in the report mentioned revenue generation as a primary investment driver.
Interest is also high in how broadband capacity can be used to enable situational awareness to transform ferry safety and move from simple reactive distress reporting to real-time proactive safety services. The in-depth interviews also highlight networked cyber security as a priority and welcome the introduction of IMO 2021 Cyber Security regulations. Meanwhile, interviewees recognised drivers to utilise digital solutions in implementing new Covid-19 protocols and inspire confidence with ’biosafe’ contactless transactions. In addition, customers returning to sea post-pandemic now have very different connectivity expectations.
“Staying connected is not a nice-to-have, but a must-have,” the report said, with poor or patchy connectivity now having the potential to damage a ferry operator’s brand. Today, “passengers will likely expect ferry operators to match the onboard experience they receive in the air or by rail or bus”. If digital solutions enhance operational efficiencies, meanwhile, “these same solutions can help grow much-needed revenue via heightened passenger loyalty and boosting ancillary revenues”, the report added.
“Inmarsat knows from its aviation experience that some passengers prioritise wifi access over inflight meals or entertainment when choosing airlines,” Mr Shortall continued. “Digitalisation can create new revenues but also expedite customer loyalty to help ensure ferries remain a preferred transport option. Robust new satellite technology and the advent of digital platforms can enable ferry operators to become leaner, and increase their agility to deliver a safe travel experience and secure the opportunities offered by ancillary revenues.”
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