Gas carrier operator installs Inmarsat Fleet Xpress on its fleet of 14 ships for remote monitoring and enhanced crew welfare
China’s largest liquefied ethylene gas (LEG) ship owner, Pacific Gas, has installed Inmarsat’s Fleet Xpress connectivity service as it expands from a regional operator to a global player.
Pacific Gas has also deployed Inmarsat’s Fleet Secure Endpoint cyber security as part of its multi-layered strategy to protect its gas carriers from cyber threats.
Fleet Xpress includes Ka-band communications over Inmarsat’s Global Xpress constellation and FleetBroadband L-band backup. This upgrade in connectivity boosts crew welfare and allows Pacific Gas to transfer more operational data between ships and shore.
“Given our business growth in international markets our bandwidth needs changed,” says Pacific Gas vice president for fleet management Captain Tao Yong.
Fleet Xpress upgrades “a local service that had regional coverage and a metered plan,” he says, into a global communications network providing Pacific Gas with seamless connectivity in all conditions regardless of where its ships are sailing.
“Our need for seamless global mobility and reliability is being met through Inmarsat’s dual satellite constellation and unlimited back-up,” says Capt Yong.
He appreciates the service’s “guaranteed performance with high uptime and round-the-clock management, monitoring and global support” for its ships’ communications requirements.
Higher bandwidth allows Pacific Gas to use connectivity to manage vessels and monitor operations remotely.
“The reliability of Fleet Xpress has allowed us to scale our digital activities and complement our new shipmanagement software we installed to help resource planning on vessels,” says Capt Yong.
Stable connections are vital for Pacific Gas to continuously monitor its ships remotely using closed circuit TV for security. This has crew safety and security at its core.
Seamless satellite communications also facilitate more data flow across the gas carrier fleet as Pacific Gas adopts company-wide digitalisation.
“With real-time data exchange, vessels become an extension to our shore office,” says Capt Yong.
“We base our operational efficiency and performance gains on continuous monitoring and real-time upgrades and assistance,” adds Capt Yong. Fleet Xpress is bringing “quicker turnaround in operational decisions as shore office and vessels are always connected” he explains, as commercial and technical demands rise with an expanding fleet.
Crew welfare services are also bolstered by Fleet Xpress installations. “Internet access at sea is also vital for crew welfare and essential to attracting and retaining talented crew,” Capt Yong explains.
Fleet Xpress is installed on all operational Pacific Gas’ ships and will be deployed on future vessel takeovers. So is Fleet Secure Endpoint for protection against cyber threats and to meet IMO 2021 cyber risk regulations. Increasing digitalisation mean ships need protecting against cyber-criminals.
“With our growing dependence on technology and providing open internet access we could be susceptible to cyber attacks,” explains Capt Yong.
“We need more than a conventional antivirus to protect our systems 24/7 from various evolving threats,” he adds.
Fleet Secure Endpoint monitors ship systems for security breaches introduced at network endpoints such as malicious software or a new crew device with no security installed.
This secure service reports a ‘rogue node’ and isolates it from the rest of the network until the issue is resolved.
“As a modern shipowner we ensure all our vessels are equipped with state-of-the-art technology and security systems that complement Inmarsat’s global, secure and reliable connectivity,” says Capt Yong.
Fleet Secure Endpoint is powered by ESET Endpoint Security providing users with a greater sense of control and awareness over their network and cyber environment. It includes a two-way firewall, web control, botnet protection, ransomware prevention, multi-engine scanning, network monitoring and asset inventory functions.
Pacific Gas operates a fleet of LEG and very large gas carrier (VLGC) ships from offices in Shanghai, Singapore and Mumbai. It carries 3M tonnes of cargo annually on a fleet of 14 ships.
This fleet includes nine VLGCs, transporting gas at temperatures of -48°C. Of these, eight were built to ABS class at Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering, in South Korea, in 2016 and 2017. The LEG fleet is five ships, built by CIMC Sinopacific Offshore & Engineering in China. Two delivered in 2018 have capacity of 17,000 m3 and three in 2019 22,000 m3.
It will open an office in Houston, US, this year and plans to expand into LNG carrier and very large ethylene carrier (VLEC) segments in the future. Jiangnan Shipyard in China is building two VLEC ships for Pacific Gas with provisional deliveries scheduled in Q4 2021 and Q1 2022. These 59,000-dwt ships will have capacity to carry 99,000 m3 of liquefied gas at a temperature of -104°C.
Pacific Gas connectivity benefits
Mediterranean fleet VSAT upgrade completed
G. Junquera Marítima has upgraded satellite communications for its regional fleet using KVH Industries’ AgilePlans Ku-band service. It has taken a year to install VSAT hardware on its fleet servicing southern Europe and north-east Africa.
G. Junquera Marítima manages the fleet for Navinorte, Remolques Gijoneses and Seamar providing a tramp business and deepsea tug operations in the Mediterranean.
In March 2019, G. Junquera Marítima contracted Aeromarine to supply and commission AgilePlans on the first vessel Cuera. Following onboard technology trials, it expanded the contract to install AgilePlans on Cornion, Amuesa and Angon, which was completed in Q1 2020.
Crew on these vessels use data connectivity of up to 10 Mbps on the downlink and 3 Mbps on uplinks to high-throughput satellites.
Solstad Offshore benefits from Ku-band VSAT
Solstad Offshore renewed its VSAT contract with Marlink in January this year to retain reliable connectivity to its fleet of 65 support vessels using Sealink Ku-band VSAT with L-band backup to ensure seamless global connectivity.
Marlink co-operates with Solstad Offshore to meet its operational and ICT requirements with flexible packages that enable the Norwegian vessel operator to select a high-throughput single or dual antenna VSAT system or to include 4G network connections.
Solstad Offshore ICT director Christian Nesheim says seamless transition between connections is essential for vessel operations.
“Reliable links with shore are vital in today’s industry to ensure operational efficiency and vessel safety,” he says, “as well as improving quality of life for vessel crews by keeping them in touch with families ashore.”
VSAT bandwidth is also important to charterers of Solstad’s offshore support vessels.
“Many of our clients work in the highly demanding oil and energy sector,” says Mr Nesheim, “and by providing them with outstanding connectivity, Solstad will continue to deliver value at every level.”
There is adaptability in connectivity. Solstad Offshore will be able up- or downgrade vessel bandwidth allocation, activate or deactivate services such as content filters, and change coverage areas.