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Maritime Industry in Transition: Smarter and Greener Ships

Written by Teeratat Kerdchouay, General Manager Mobility Services at Thaicom

Maritime Industry in Transition: Smarter and Greener Ships

The transition towards digitalization and automation is speeding up in the maritime industry. Cutting-edge technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Big Data Analytics (BDA), Cloud Computing and Internet of Things (IoT) are already influencing the industry, projecting a new operations paradigm and introducing new types of vessel, smart ship and autonomous ship. Digital technologies and solutions are being used to enhance operational efficiency, increase competitiveness and enable a collaborative environment among crew and officers ashore. In addition, they are being implemented to propel the industry along the decarbonization path to develop a more sustainable ecosystem. This new era of maritime digitalization cannot be realized without fast and reliable internet connectivity.

The Constraints Holding Maritime Operators Back

Out of over 400,000 vessels globally, only less than 100,000 are broadband enabled SATCOM vessels. Lack of bandwidth and cost have been quoted as major constraints for ship operators to adopting satellite connectivity solutions while many of them still rely on 4G/LTE services with limited near shore coverages. However, the adoption rate is rising much faster since the introduction of VSAT and High Throughput Satellite (HTS) systems that provide ship owners and ship operators with significant improvements in connectivity at sea, technically and financially. And the revolution of low latency satellite constellations could bring a greater impact on the industry.

Ships are Getting Smarter

Ships are more connected and getting smarter. Ship operators need high-speed, reliable and secure connectivity everywhere at sea to support efficient and competitive vessel operations not only for day to day activities but also for strategic decision making.

Voyage related and operational communications are the two main categories of maritime communications, whereby the later requires much more data flows between ship and shore. In modern maritime operations, besides basic email and IP telephony (VoIP) services, digital working tools – such as collaboration platforms and video conferencing – are being increasingly adopted by ship operators, especially in the offshore support vessel (OSV) sector, to enhance teamwork and speed up decision making. The vessel is becoming a floating operations center that must maintain contact with headquarters as well as other ships at all time.

Connected vessels allow ship operators to conduct remote inspection and equipment servicing at sea, which help reducing costs and downtime, while video surveillance systems can be installed to increase security and safety for people on board the vessels, to support relevant authorities during their investigation as well as to monitor vessel navigation. In addition, there will be a great deal of monitoring systems employed and increasing requirements for cargo-related communication such as cargo hold and container monitoring.

The advancement of the Industry 4.0 technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Big Data Analytics (BDA), Cloud Computing and Internet of Things (IoT) is enabling the maritime industry to gain insights from the untapped analytics opportunity. It is estimated that there are more than 100GB of data created on board a commercial merchant ship monthly, only 10-15% is currently transferred ashore. According to the usage of our NAVA maritime broadband connectivity customers, the majority of which are offshore support vessels, on average around 60GB of data is being used per ship to support their monthly operations, an increase of 41% from 2021, and the trend is rising. This data could potentially be utilized to provide insights in multiple aspects of ship operations that can be used to make better decisions such as improving efficiencies, unlocking competitive advantages or proving regulatory compliance.

More Automated

Autonomous vessels operate without or limited human interaction. Similar to a self-driving car, smart sensor technologies allow Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS) or unmanned ships to see via cameras, radar as well as thermal and laser imaging, providing precise positioning information and situational awareness around the vessel. A few years ago the first autonomous ship was just put into service, now many more are launching and in the planning phases. Although they have potential to reduce human-based errors, remote and autonomous vessels will still require human input and monitoring from land for safety and security purposes, making connectivity between the ship and the control system ashore crucial. The growing MASS market has seen a number of exciting developments. It is not something that will happen tomorrow, but more will certainly come.

Decarbonization Path to a Green Future

In 2018, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) set key ambitions to seek a minimum of 50% reduction in marine greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and a 70% reduction in the carbon intensity of emissions from the shipping industry by 2050, compared to 2008. New decarbonization regulations, including the Energy Efficiency Existing Ship Index (EEXI) and the Carbon Intensity Indicator (CII), are being introduced and will enter into force in 2023. A vessel’s rating could become its license to trade internationally. Shipping companies, therefore, need to find their zero-emission route and have added decarbonization into one of their top agendas.

Achieving the IMO ambitions will rely on an industry-wide approach to decarbonization. Beyond the shippers or beneficial cargo owners, the ship owners, ship operators and charterers are the most influential actors not only on the marine fuel and ship building pillars but also on the operational efficiency one. Broadband enabled vessels and digital technology empower them with data-driven recommendations. All types of IoT data relevant to ship management can be collected, transferred, analyzed and made available to ship operators for measuring current ratings, streamlining processes, optimizing ship routes and preventing the wastage of millions of tons of carbon dioxide. This eventually helps propelling the industry towards a sustainable future.

The Values Satellite Broadband Technology Brings

VSAT broadband technology has proven to deliver reliable and secure internet connectivity to ship owners and ship operators in different segments globally, from commercial vessels to yachts and leisure boats. Designed to aid the maritime industry’s digital transformation, satellite broadband connectivity not only supports constant high bandwidth for operational efficiency, crew communications and personal lifestyle but also enables data streams from sensors and other sources of information to be used for decision making as well as fulfilling the decarbonization ambitions. Nowadays, maritime VSAT services are becoming increasingly flexible with non-CAPEX equipment leasing and rental models, a wide range of airtime speed and data plans with service level agreements to guarantee network availability as well as customization options to meet specific requirements of mariners. Moreover, on-board connectivity is likely to increase in speed and capacity as Next Generation of High Throughput Satellite (Next-Gen HTS) and new Low Earth Orbit (LEO) constellations reach the market.

NAVA – Global Maritime Broadband Connectivity

Launched in 2018 – from domestic to regional, and now, to global – NAVA is an end-to-end maritime broadband service platform for ship and offshore operators provided by Thaicom. As a trusted partner of choice for satellite communications since 1991, we draw on our experience in providing innovative managed satellite services to bring secure and reliable broadband connectivity to the sea, helping our customers improving onboard safety, increasing operational efficiency and enhancing crew welfare. Ship owners and ship operators can rest assured that they will receive the best services with world-class 24/7 aftersales supports through our strong teams of professionals. This year marked another significant milestone on our journey when we expanded NAVA service area globally to serve the growing demand for seamless worldwide internet access, especially in the international merchant sector.

Broadband connectivity is the key to the future maritime industry enabling much more over-the-top functionalities that will create values and help our customers thrive in the digital era. As a member of this industry, we wish to be one of the key jigsaws that empower both the customers and the industry to become more sustainable. The future vessels need to be smarter and greener. It all starts with connectivity.

Thaicom offers end-to-end satellite solutions designed to help its customers grow their markets. We go beyond to leverage data from space technology to capture new services, and we are dedicated to building on our commitment to deliver transformative social and economic impact for a better future.