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VSAT solutions are essential to the shipping industry

Placed at: 00:00 by Karel Kuijpers


With increasing demand for connectivity it  is apparent that a VSAT solution is not just about the antenna and hardware. Initially, the VSAT network had limited maritime coverage because it was developed for land-based industries such as the mining sector, where it was very difficult to have good communication. There was good coverage on land but not at sea.

This has changed considerably over the last couple of years , with several satellites now covering the oceans. In 2010, a satellite was launched to cover the busy sailing route between Europe and the US.

And although there are still gaps in the coverage, there is increasing interest in VSAT technology from large and small shipping companies alike, as they recognise that it can lead to several cost efficiencies and it can also help them recruit people to their business. This is vital with the increasing shortage of people choosing to enter the maritime industry.

Crew welfare

VSAT makes an important contribution to crew welfare too. The big difference of course, between VSAT and Inmarsat is that companies are paying for what they use with Inmarsat, whereas with VSAT they can use as much as they please and pay a fixed amount per month. Every ship can have unlimited broadband Internet access.

With Inmarsat, shipping companies are often very careful about allowing their crew access to the Internet because it costs them more. Often potential employees will look at what type of equipment is onboard a ship and naturally, they will favour vessels with VSAT. They can Skype, use MSN etc to keep in contact with their families, so with the recruitment shortage it can really help attract people to a certain ship.

Quick, reliable service

Increasingly, companies are also switching to VSAT because they are recognising that even though the system may be slightly more expensive in the beginning, the investment pays off quickly.But of the many suppliers of VSAT equipment, not all of them are knowledgeable about the maritime industry and its specific demands.
This is when a total solution provider, like Radio Holland (an Imtech Marine company)  with knowledge and experience in the industry, can really add value.

Shipping is  the core business of Radio Holland, therefore the company knows that a vessel may only be in port for a couple of hours, so if something is wrong it has to provide a quick, reliable service. Suppliers of connectivity must have equipment in their warehouses and must deliver spare parts from their own stock and employ qualified engineers to do the installation and maintenance as quick as possible.

Optimal fuel usage

There are many advantages of switching to a Global VSAT network For instance, VSAT can be used to optimise fuel usage. This alone makes it a vital addition. The fuel optimisation process already starts when the ships are in port. The crew can implement information about when the vessel should arrive at its next port and the system will calculate what the optimal speed should be by looking at the weather, the wave height etc. Then it calculates the best route. Via the network, the system can constantly calculate the best route, changing course and speed if necessary. This means that very quickly there is a return on the investment in the system.

Suppliers can set the network up in such a way that clients have their own portals and they can see the performance of their own network, where the ships are and see the telephone usage. Clients can monitor their own networks, PCs and servers onboard and fix them remotely from ashore if necessary. This leads to large cost savings, especially when considering that a  technician would have had to fly out to the problem in the past.

Engine monitoring can also be carried out so clients can supply the right information directly to the engine manufacturers. For example, they could  indicate at the next  port that it will be necessary to carry out preventative maintenance.

Another advantage of using a Global VSAT network is  that ship owners can opt for a private VSAT network;  then they are not sharing the connection with other shipping companies. And if one vessel in the owner’s fleet needs more capacity, then spare capacity will automatically go to another vessel in the network.

The vessel essentially becomes an office, sharing a closed, secure network. International shipping company Spliethoff, which has a fleet of 50 vessels, is one of the shipping companies that bought a Radio Holland Global VSAT Private network solution after testing four antennas for more than a year.

Shipping companies are using applications onshore such as how to load vessels, fleet applications, telemedicine and several others, discovering that it proves a vital tool and one that can save them a lot of money.

In short, global VSAT solutions are essential to the shipping industry.