Using satellite communications and Infinity to unlock cost efficiencies for shipping companies

Monday, January 20, 2014

In the poor market conditions that the shipping industry has been having to operate in over the last few years, squeezing the most out of every dollar spent has become more important than ever. In this article we examine how combining Infinity with the right airtime package can lead to important savings and benefits for shipping companies in almost all areas of ship operations.

To start with we are finding that more and more customers are choosing larger allowance package through Fleet Broadband, as the well known exponential increase in data requirements that both business and crew welfare applications demands continues to affect the shipping industry. By combining these larger plans with Infinity, customers are able to offset the cost of hardware acquisition and monthly fees as they are shared with users on board. For example, a company that puts the fixed fee All You Can Eat package on a vessel, can choose the rates at which crews are charged for using the internet per MB. In this way, they can recover the cost of the monthly fee and in some cases even surpass the cost of the monthly fee as crews can spend as much as they require on their internet browsing. In such cases both the shipping company benefits from the enhanced crew welfare and positive effect on crew retention, while the crew are in all cases most satisfied with the ability to browse the internet at sea. Besides these obvious cost and welfare benefits, the below section highlights some of the other areas that putting higher bandwidth on vessels while sharing the cost with crews can offer:

Crew related Savings

When one considers that the cost of recruiting, training and preparing a new crewmember or officer can reach around 20,000 USD, crew retention becomes especially important. In the modern world, seafarers expect a certain standard of life on vessels, and an important part of this is internet access. By keeping crews happy at sea, the shipping company is helping to ensure that their crews remain with the company for the long term and avoiding these costs.

IT Support

Another of the huge benefits of providing vessels with higher bandwidth packages is the availability of remote IT support. With the possibility of connecting to a vessels computers from shore remotely to troubleshoot, upload and update files, the need for sending IT support personnel onto ships is greatly reduced. This important saving means that most problems can be solved with a few clicks from the office and at much less cost than for someone travelling to a ship often to fix what are often fairly simple problems on a vessels PC.

Technical surveillance and remote training

Related to the IT support benefits are the benefits of being able to see things onboard over video or photos sent through email. By selecting a large allowance package the cost of doing so is today greatly reduced, and means once again that the need to send people out to ships is greatly reduced, and need only be done in circumstances that absolutely require it. Similarly, training of personnel on board can be done using the same technology, negating the need to send a trainer onto the ship and thereby removing the associated costs.


Operational Benefits


When a vessel has access to greater bandwidth at reasonable cost, several operational benefits also arise. Besides the advantages to IT departments, chart updates and file sharing between office and ship, there are also important savings to be made thanks to improved route planning and the implied fuel efficiency factors. Weather advice and piracy updates through NAVFOR, the ability to ease suppliers access to and from the vessel all add up to save time and money, turning the vessel into a modern, well prepared hub of activity. Even remote medical assistance becomes possible, meaning that any accidents on board can be diagnosed and treated quickly and often without the need for other medical assistance to be sent to a ship.

In conclusion, while satellite communications represent a small amount of the overall costs of running a modern vessel, the exponential benefits to be gained by an increase in bandwidth make satcoms an ever more important and critical part of a ships operations.