Ships require considerable support from IT teams ashore because there are no experts on board. Some seafarers have some knowledge of computers and bridge equipment, but there is no dedicated IT expert on a ship. This was highlighted by Ericsson business director Douglas Watson during a seminar, co-hosted by Riviera Maritime Media and Speedcast International, in Norway at the end of May.
He said that one of the biggest challenges ship operators face is managing onboard IT networks when there are no IT experts on ships. “The complexity of IT on vessels means crews need shore-based operating staff to support them, and tasks are pushed back to shore, to suppliers or company IT support,” he explained.
Ericsson’s biggest maritime customer is Maersk Line, which operates more than 400 container ships. Mr Watson said Maersk has 1,300 IT professionals, but no IT person on the vessels. Ericsson manages the infrastructure, IT networks and communications, using VSAT and L-band connectivity.
Maersk Line is collaborating with IBM to use blockchain technology to help transform the global, cross-border supply chain. This involves the digitalisation of supply chain processes to enhance transparency and security. Mr Watson welcomed the initiative, adding that blockchain technology could be used to prevent non-authorised people from making changes to online documents.