Shipboard Connectivity Still Insufficient for Big Data Revolution?

Image Courtesy: FTA

Is the shipping industry ready for the big data revolution when more than 70% of the world fleet is still using L-Band?

This question was raised by Malcolm McMaster, Globecomm Maritime President, while speaking at the International Shipowning and Shipmanagement Summit on the opening day of London International Shipping Week being held from September 11 to 15.

Strong competition and technological advances mean that the costs of good shipboard connectivity are falling dramatically, McMaster said.

“Is 1% to 2% of operating expenditure too big a price to pay?” McMaster questioned.

McMaster said companies should pay heed to Nautilus International’s research into the problems faced by seafarers in getting good internet access. According to this research, barely six percent of seafarers have sufficient internet connectivity for video calls when at sea, despite often being away from their homes for months. The report also found that despite nearly 88% of seafarers having some form of internet access at sea, most of them have very limited speeds and at high costs.

“The crew are going to be the real drivers of big data. They are all wired up to social media and things like fitness apps and are going to demand the same sort of access at sea as they get ashore.”

It is difficult to provide evidence to show the return on investment from improved crew connectivity, he admitted, but the union’s survey had shown that around one-third of seafarers would change to employers who offered better shipboard communications, and “it is only when employers and managers start to feel the pain of losing crew that they will begin to see the return on investment case.”

Mark Woodhead, Senior Vice-president with KVH Industries, said there was evidence to show the benefits of providing good onboard communications. One company had half of its fleet with VSAT and seafarers were far more willing to sign up to serve longer contracts on these ships, he added.

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