Shipping companies are increasingly using virtual machines, remote access and monitoring services on their vessels to manage IT systems
These services and IT instruments are accessed across fleets via VSAT connectivity, both Ku-band or Ka-band.
VSAT service providers have seen an increase in the use of virtual machine (VM) environments on ships, remote IT access and equipment monitoring, as vessels become outposts of owner networks.
Speedcast – which is emerging from US Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection with US$610M of committed finance – is providing VSAT for these advanced remote services. It will be looking to provide shipowners, operators and managers with Ku/Ka-band communications and its digital ecosystem of applications.
“Shipping companies are requesting increasing sophistication, tools and capacity to converge their systems and save money,” said Speedcast commercial maritime product director Sandro Delucia.
“It is becoming more evident that shipping companies are using the power of VMs to reduce cost by removing unnecessary hardware and simplifying IT management,” he said.
Remote access solutions have become vital to ship operations as the coronavirus pandemic has led to travel and port restrictions. “Using digitalisation to access networks and information remotely is a critical trend in today’s pandemic environment,” said Mr Delucia.
"Remote access is critical for diagnostics and troubleshooting"
Speedcast provides secure access through its Sigma Gateway platform. “Remote onboard network management has become a key enabler for the safety, crew wellbeing and success of operations,” said Mr Delucia.
These gateways give IT managers access to bandwidth for onboard services and communications, while monitoring and management networks.
“An IT manager can log into the Sigma Gateway portal and perform a Windows or Linux Server installation remotely, then continue to manage and maintain the VM remotely,” said Mr Delucia.
Resources for each VM can be carefully calibrated, and VM health monitored remotely through the portal. This environment is used for deploying internet-of-things (IoT) and shipmanagement applications.
“These can reside on powerful edge devices with extensive redundancy and back-up capability,” said Mr Delucia. “From a support perspective, remote access is critical for diagnostics and troubleshooting,” he added.
“Should the IT manager wish to access a specific device on their network, a server, workstation, switch or wifi access point can easily be configured through the portal for specific trusted networks,” said Mr Delucia.
“It is the customer’s choice as to the device, network, link, protocol and access control for remote access,” he added.
An IT manager can log into the portal, select remote access and click on the device they need to access. They enter a password and can then manage devices on the ship’s network. Using Sigma VM, multiple operating systems and applications can be installed, configured and managed remotely.
“Using similar tools, single-click remote access can be utilised by engineers to diagnose and troubleshoot connectivity issues in each device, such as a modem, switch, or router,” said Mr Delucia.
Diagnostic tools are embedded into the Sigma portal to enable IT managers to troubleshoot as if they were on board the vessel.
Remote access and monitoring are also important for managing cyber security on vessels. “It is becoming a regulatory requirement for shipowners to have protective security measures in place,” said Mr Delucia.
Ship operators need to constantly update their antivirus systems, strengthen firewalls and ready networks as the threat landscape evolves. Speedcast uses real-time threat intelligence within its Cyber Security as a Service (CSaaS) programme to address these concerns.
“Technology solutions which adapt to bandwidth demands, evolving cyber-security threats and remote-operation management demands are essential for current shipping needs,” said Mr Delucia.
Speedcast provides a remote communications network from more than 80 satellites and 40 teleports.
Ship connectivity and remote working will be discussed during Riviera Maritime Media’s Vessel Optimisation Webinar Week, from 7 September. Use this link for more details and to register for these webinars