Acquisitions and partnerships have resulted in the services available through Ku-band VSAT connectivity increasing; they now include data monitoring and fuel efficiency applications
Providers of very-small aperture terminal (VSAT) technology are combining performance monitoring solutions with broadband connectivity for use on commercial vessels. Some of these suppliers are acquiring the capabilities through purchases, while others are forming partnerships with application providers.
NSSLGlobal is an example of a VSAT service provider that has bought in a monitoring solution. In June 2018, it acquired UK Electronic Solutions and its Oceanic Dynamics technology, an all-encompassing motion- and impact-monitoring system designed for the offshore wind energy market.
This has been deployed, in combination with FusionIP VSAT, on support vessels built to transferring crew to offshore windfarms. Indeed, NSSLGlobal owner Wind Energy Marine is committed to deploying integrated VSAT antennas and the Oceanic Dynamics monitoring suite on a fleet of new crew transfer vessels.
NSSLGlobal global maritime sales director and chief executive Henrik Christensen explained that FusionIP VSAT is an integrated hybrid communications product, featuring an antenna for Ku-band and an antenna to link to 4G and 3G mobile phone networks in one radome. It also has one cable connection to below-deck equipment.
“Information on the condition of onboard systems can be transmitted over satellite to shore, where it can be analysed to identify performance issues or potential problems”
“We developed this in-house and were able to modify the antenna without affecting the radio frequency performance,” Mr Christensen said. “We spent a lot of time testing our integrated VSAT antenna.”
Bandwidth available over FusionIP VSAT is around 20 Mbps for communications, data transmissions and internet access. “Near the coast this switches to 4G and this can go up to 40-50 Mbps,” said Mr Christensen.
Wind Energy Marine managing director Andrew Bagshaw said: “Oceanic Dynamics will be indispensable in terms of ensuring efficiency and consistent quality of our services, whilst the FusionIP terminal will allow us to stay fully connected to our shipping network at all times.”
Wind Energy Marine will use NSSLGlobal’s Ocean Dynamics system to monitor engine data, route information and GPS positioning for fuel efficiency. “Ocean Dynamics monitors vessel motion and impact and then returns this data to shore over VSAT or 4G or 3G, depending on what is available,” said Mr Christensen. “
Elsewhere, Marlink has partnered with Dutch start-up We4Sea to monitor fuel consumption and emissions from vessels using satellite communications. Together, they expect to deliver smart fuel-efficiency solutions for owners that commit to Marlink’s Sealink VSAT.
Marlink Sealink VSAT can be used for streaming operations data from ships
VSAT will be combined with We4Sea’s data analytics and digital twin technology to test, develop and mature these fuel-efficiency solutions as part of Marlink’s smart connectivity strategy.
“This agreement will allow us to offer a highly intelligent and cost-efficient solution based on big data technologies,” said Marlink president for maritime Tore-Morten Olsen. “This will support shipowners’ ambitions for greener, more environmentally friendly shipping.”
We4Sea’s technology monitors fuel consumption and emissions, while its digital twin combines vessel position and speed data with weather information and cargo data. This information is presented in a web platform for shore-based managers and vessel captains to visualise actual fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.
This information can also be used for online reporting that is certified to comply with new EU legislation on cutting greenhouse gas emissions and other regulative regimes.
Mr Olsen sees more partnerships between service providers and equipment manufacturers in the pipeline: “Engine and bridge equipment suppliers want connectivity for remote diagnostics and software updates.” With this mind, information on the condition of onboard systems can be transmitted over satellite to shore, where it can be analysed to identify performance issues or potential problems.
Equipment manufacturers can use the information to predict when systems may be getting close to a failure and alert owners, or they can provide advice on maintenance, or how to improve performance and efficiency.
“We are at the start of this process and will be developing tools for shipmanagers using our XChange Cloud that we recently launched,” said Mr Olsen.
Tore Morten Olsen (Marlink): Sees a clear demand for fuel efficiency solutions
“We will work with more start-ups and other players in the market to help people with ideas reach their potential,” Mr Olsen continued. “We are helping the market understand how they can benefit from technology.”
Marlink is in discussions with at least 10 other companies that have potential services for real-time monitoring and information provision over satellite communications, both maritime-wide and in specific segments.
Mr Olsen cited the example of satellite communications being installed on fishing vessels, where VSAT enables the streaming of security videos so owners can observe their crew and authorities can view the catch.
The offshore support vessel sector will also benefit from bespoke applications, allowing owners and oil company clients to monitor onboard systems and oilfield operations.
KVH Industries provides seafarer training and weather information over its mini-VSAT and IP multicast services. KVH co-founder and chief executive Martin Kits van Heyningen said data can also be transmitted from ships to monitor key performance indicators and condition.
“We have technology for real-time data transmissions across our terminals to view service performance and identify issues and do diagnostics,” he said. KVH is developing maintenance tools for its own VSAT hardware and services to troubleshoot problems.
Martin Kits van Heyningen (KVH): “Real-time data transmissions allow us to view service performance, identify issues and do diagnostics”
“We can advise customers and sort out blockages,” said Mr Kits van Heyningen. “We use the internet-of-things (IoT) ourselves to improve our products.” KVH’s Ku-band VSAT comes with flexibility plans to enable users to manage their broadband expectations.
Speedcast International launched four VSAT service packages for maritime services after announcing its intention to acquire rival Globecomm Systems for US$135M in August this year.
These new VSAT plans will increase bandwidth access to shipping for communications, data transmissions and crew welfare services, said Speedcast executive vice president for maritime Athina Vezyri.
“Shipping companies [are getting] more access to data and different applications, which is driving maritime connectivity,” she said. “Shipping is realising the benefits and the technology is moving faster.” Speedcast’s onboard services are managed by the Sigma Gateway, which provides a portal for data transmissions between ship and shore.
Furuno develops remote monitoring gateway
Furuno Electric has launched HermAce gateway to provide remote monitoring and diagnostics for integrated bridge systems.
The monitoring and troubleshooting platform is connected to a ship’s communications systems and its bridge electronics, including radar, ECDIS, speedlog, sonar, voyage data recorders and alarms.
HermAce offers real-time monitoring of performance and bridge system conditions, according to Furuno UK area manager Paul McKenzie. He explained that if there was an issue with bridge equipment, the ship’s superintendent would be alerted and they could review the problem through a portal.
“A technical manager could view the status of the equipment and interrogate any problems,” he said. Furuno would also be alerted and would advise the shipowner on how to fix the problem.
The solution uses sensors within the integrated bridge system connected to the ship’s satellite communications, which can be either VSAT or an L-band connection.