Media and entertainment applications are increasingly important as crew deployments are extended due to Covid-induced travel restrictions and quarantine requirements
High-speed internet connectivity allows seafarers to feel less isolated at sea, with VSAT-enabled media and entertainment applications increasingly important as mariners have deployments extended due to Covid-induced travel restrictions and quarantine requirements.
The digital world can be a lifeline for lonely seafarers and offshore workers.
“Only in recent years, has satellite connectivity made video calls, familiar television shows, the latest blockbuster movies and worldwide news all accessible at sea,” says Speedcast director of wireless and cellular product management David Bunting. “While seemingly mundane, this digital access is essential to support the wellbeing of crew on board while keeping passengers entertained and connected.”
Using a reliable satellite network to power such connectivity has become essential for seafarers and shipowners. Operators can also use connectivity to support business applications, onboard maintenance, operational efficiency and crew safety.
“This requires seamless connectivity across vast destinations at sea with interchangeable remote networks from VSAT to LTE [long-term evolution] connections,” says Mr Bunting. “This continued connectivity supports all operations and cannot afford to be interrupted. It plays an important role in powering a video call with family with low latency,” he says.
“Seafarers can take full advantage of this connection, using a digital platform that serves the entertainment and social needs of those on board as a necessity for onboard morale.”
Speedcast introduced its Launch suite of personal connectivity and entertainment services in 2020. It has been deployed on more than 80 passenger and commercial vessels.
“This can make a real difference to crew happiness, wellbeing and the overall efficiency of operations,” says Mr Bunting. “Staying connected to support crew welfare is essential.”
Launch uses Speedcast’s global network platform to deliver personal internet access, entertainment – such as TV, movies and worldwide news – to remote staff and crew via a self-service portal.
It combines high-throughput satellites with LTE and L-band back-up to maintain connections for personal business and entertainment streams. These are separated from the vessel’s corporate business and networking, while onboard operations are prioritised.
Launch manages all aspects of crew and passenger usage, including payment and 24/7 troubleshooting and support. Its internet network separation protects personal and business data while maintaining connectivity for all users.
Speedcast emerged from US bankruptcy Chapter 11 protection with finance from new owners Centerbridge Partners in March 2021. Speedcast now has a clean balance sheet with no secured debt and a healthy cash balance following Centerbridge’s US$500M equity investment in the company and the sale of certain assets.
VSAT beams added
Satcom Global has increased its Aura maritime VSAT coverage, adding three beams from SES satellites.
SES-12 IOR joined the Aura network in February 2021. It augments coverage and capacity across the Indian Ocean, stretching from eastern Africa to the west coast of Indonesia and up to southern India. This provides additional redundancy, supporting high-quality connectivity for shipping in the region.
The Astra 4a Nordic Ku-band beam was introduced in December 2020 to support ships operating in European waters. This improves the performance of 60-80-cm terminals in the Baltic, Norwegian and Barents seas and raises the performance of larger Aura VSATs throughout Europe.
In November 2020, the NSS-6 satellite was added to the Aura network covering the northern Pacific Ocean.
Remote IT application
Navarino has introduced a managed IT system with reliable bandwidth and connectivity enabling onboard software to be monitored and updated remotely.
Quazar lightens the load on IT managers and helps shipping companies by supporting IT projects and ongoing maintenance across fleets.
This IT-as-a-service removes capital expenditure on hardware and software, replacing it with leasing, software licensing and monthly support fees.
Once the IT systems are deployed, a fleet of ships has a dedicated IT manager to support the shipping company’s IT administrators. They are backed up by a team of IT specialists to maintain, support and keep ship networks up to date and to implement service and support requests. All this needs continuous connectivity from shore to ship.
Quazar enables IT systems across a fleet to be standardised and has improved safety, using Navarino’s advanced security tools, policies and procedures to increase a fleet’s resilience and response to cyber incidents.
It allows advanced security policies to be implemented to safeguard a vessels’ complete digital infrastructure and devices, making systems more cyber-robust and ensuring they comply with regulations.
Offshore and fleet installations
AST Group is providing VSAT, telemetry and remote connectivity to offshore production facilities in addition to providing satellite communications to shipping.
In its latest development, AST was selected to provide a single channel per carrier (SCPC) connection to an offshore gas production platform offshore northwest Australia.
This wellhead platform connects to an onshore gas facility in the Northern Territories.
AST implemented a resilient solution that enables remote monitoring and control via a VSAT SCPC connection with redundancy on the radio frequency feed.
Teams onshore are equipped with real-time access to critical data from the platform including weather conditions and the latest system status. This supports improved response times and decision making to maintain system uptime.
In addition to the VSAT connection, an L-band back-up terminal is deployed for always-on connection that delivers telemetry from systems on the unmanned platform back to the onshore gas facility.
Marpoint has installed its Evo 2 router and communications platform on ships operated by Laskaridis Shipping Co, which support Inmarsat Fleet Xpress, Ka-band VSAT and FleetBroadband, on ships in the fleet.
In addition, this shipping group has installed Marpoint’s expandable 4G router and GSM mobile phone connectivity on its vessels. This provides higher bandwidths at lower latency to ships within coastal coverage up to 32 km offshore.
This router uses a near-shore connection from more than 100 countries globally. It has centralised control for individual connection modes – VSAT, FleetBroadband, 3G/4G and wifi, which is achieved by connecting the 4G router to the existing Marpoint Evo2 router on board.
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