New Satellites Expand Maritime VSAT Capabilities, Experts Say

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A panel of vessel fleet information technology (IT) experts provided insight into applying advanced satellite communications during Riviera Maritime Media’s Maritime VSAT’s expanding capabilities webinar. This event was held 17 March 2022 during Riviera’s Maritime Communications Webinar Week.

Providing connectivity to the fleet

Euronav fleet IT manager Fotis Tsitsirigkos said challenges with providing connectivity to the fleet were growing due to increasing crew welfare and operational needs. “Our total monthly fleet consumption is 90 terabytes, which is 150 GB per vessel, with the majority of this for crew welfare,” he said.

Euronav operates a fleet of 59 tankers, including 33 very large crude carriers (VLCCs), 24 Suezmax tankers and two ultra-large crude carriers, plus two floating storage and offloading ships. Euronav also has three VLCCs and three Suezmax tankers on order from shipyards.

We are developing internet of things (IoT) applications using the benefits of connectivity,” said Mr Tsitsirigkos. “We are planning to offer near to shore-office experience on our vessels.”

This would enable more remote support and video conferencing using applications such as Zoom. “This is still difficult today with current tools, but we hope to have this in future.” Classification societies can use VSAT connectivity to undertake remote inspections and it could be used to monitor Euronav’s fleet in real time, if ongoing issues can be overcome. Cyber security is one of these challenges, as shipping companies face more remote access requests and social engineering threats.

Increasing cyberthreats

Mr Tsitsirigkos said ships are becoming more connected, so they are more exposed to cyber threats and less isolated from online applications. “We need sophisticated systems and better monitoring,” he said. “We need to keep crew aware of the risks they may face from social engineering attacks, which are becoming more common.”

VSAT coverage remains challenging for always-on services. “Hardware redundancy is important for stability of services,” said Mr Tsitsirigkos. “Latency is a big problem for cloud-based applications, shoreside remote support and access-oriented applications.”

Euronav will need faster connectivity and lower latency for the applications it is planning. “Our IT and communications systems need to be synchronised to optimise data in the most convenient way,” he continued. “Several cyber-security layers need to be applied.”

A consequence of higher connectivity is the increasing isolation of seafarers as they use their own devices in their own rooms instead of socialising with the rest of the crew. “We need to find the right work-life balance for crew members,” said Mr Tsitsirigkos.

Enabling new applications for IoT

P&O Maritime Logistics head of IT Kris Vedat spoke about the expanding capabilities of VSAT for enabling new applications for IoT, predictive maintenance and video conferencing on vessels.

He said existing VSAT provides email and internet access on vessels for advanced applications. “We are now looking at social media, video calls and IoT,” said Mr Vedat. “In the future, we will be looking at live-stream TV and other technologies.”

Demand for bandwidth on offshore support vessels has accelerated during the two years of the Covid-19 pandemic. This demonstrated the need for different connectivity technologies to operate in parallel with VSAT. Low earth orbit (LEO) and 5G networks can augment VSAT.

We are looking at 5G and LEO to see how we can enable more broadband on vessels,” said Mr Vedat. “Technologies are evolving quickly as demand is increasing at a rapid rate.”

Connected vessels are increasingly communicating AIS, telemetric, IoT and client data. This includes information on crew and cargo, fuel consumption data and insights into the health of onboard machinery.

We are looking into having predictive and condition-based maintenance models,” said Mr Vedat. “VSAT is essential to do this.”

Dashboard for benchmarking activities

P&O Maritime Logistics operates a diverse fleet of more than 400 offshore support vessels and tugs, with different connectivity and applications. All of these vessels feed into a suite of programs to capture and analyse key performance indicators (KPIs). “All fleetwide KPI data goes into an integrated management system,” said Mr Vedat.

Data autonomously creates a dashboard for benchmarking activities and more informed decision-making for greater transparency for our clients.”

Data can be used for managing equipment maintenance, drydockings, procurement, documentation, quality, health, safety and environmental performance. “Data is key. Using data we can unlock value for operations,” said Mr Vedat. “Getting data from vessels through VSAT communications is critical to add value to clients, vessels and crew.”

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Source: Riviera Maritime Media

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