Singapore provides a launchpad for the satellite services driving shipping’s digital transformation
Inmarsat launched its new fully managed crew wifi portal, Crew Xpress, at this year’s Singapore Maritime Week.
The new service package serves crew demand for connectivity, but also harnesses that demand to encourage engagement by a key owner and ship management group with higher speed broadband services.
Inmarsat Maritime president Ronald Spithout said “Certain ship managers seek fully managed wifi connectivity that crew can use on a self-service basis but do not yet have the business data needs that require, for example, the sensor-driven equipment maintenance or IoT-based route planning enabled by Ka-band.
“Crew Xpress allows them to offer a managed, high-speed crew internet solution while staying on an allowance plan that could migrate at any time to full-scale Fleet Xpress.”
Crew Xpress includes a separate, managed wifi fleet hotspot, a leased 60-cm Fleet Xpress antenna and a 6-GB business allowance plan. Usage can be paid for through credits or by top up payments by crew, so the package could yield a revenue stream for managers.
In addition, Mr Spithout said a regional ship management company had been among the first to commit to Inmarsat’s new Fleet Data service, developed to support application-based vessel management efficiencies.
Inmarsat’s service overcomes the delay between data capture at sea and data availability on land, that shipowners cite as frustrating their ambitions for digitalisation. In a survey of 125 shipping companies, 51% said the time lag was making their IoT-based solutions sub-optimal – 11% ahead of any other explanation.
Developed with Danelec Marine, Fleet Data uses a vessel remote server that pre-processes ship data and uploads it to a secure cloud-based platform with a dashboard and an application program interface (API). Through the API, ship managers can access and analyse the data they need to enhance vessel safety, efficiency or environmental footprint, or make it available to third party applications.
The unspecified ship manager committed to use the service after inservice fuel monitoring management trials on board two ships over a six-month period, Mr Spithout said.
Mr Spithout said it was fitting that the debut of Crew Xpress and the first commitment to Fleet Data should be announced in Singapore – home to Inmarsat’s Asia Pacific headquarters, with its own ‘solutions lab’ and training facilities, as well as an energetic ship management community.
Tanker and container ship owners could be missing out on a lucrative opportunity by overlooking shallow-draught vessels.
Focal Marine & Offshore general manager Shu Jun explained that owners have been wary of these types of vessels in the past as they perceive the operating expenditure is high. However, Mr Shu believes this overlooks savings on operational expenditure per unit of cargo.
“Most of the time for shallower water they use a standard size vessel and partially load it to satisfy the draught limitation.”
“Actually this is very inefficient,” he said, citing the example of a medium-range tanker operating in shallow waters, noting such vessels may carry only half of their normal capacity.
However, an owner needs to be willing to step up and take advantage of this opportunity, he said, adding that shallow-draught design brings considerable efficiencies.
Elsewhere, Mr Shu still sees some level of demand for offshore support vessels such as emergency response and rescue vessels, which the company has experience designing and local regulatory regimes require for operations in the North Sea.