Container shipping companies have turned to VSAT and tightened cyber security for operational connectivity and crew welfare
Container ship managers and owners are upgrading satellite communications on fleets of ships to improve connectivity for operational use, container monitoring and crew welfare. Maersk Line has upgraded its ship connectivity with larger data packages over VSAT. It has renewed contracts with its previous satellite communications provider, which it has not named.
Marine Electronics & Communications spoke with the president of the VSAT service provider to Maersk Line during an event at the Posidonia exhibition in Athens, Greece on 6 June. He said that around 300 ships will have faster bandwidth and higher data packages over Ku-band with L-band set as a back-up service, which will be achieved without changing the VSAT antennas or cabling, but through upgrades to the below deck equipment and software upgrades.
Rival container ship operator Zodiac Maritime was more forward in discussing its VSAT upgrade and cyber security. It has extended a satellite communications agreement with Satcom Global for a fleet of more than 80 ships. Satcom Global’s Aura VSAT is being installed this year on Zodiac-managed vessels, which also include tankers and bulk carriers, with at least 40 systems already installed.
Satcom Global is installing Intellian v100 Ku-band antennas and Iridium Pilot L-band backup terminals across this varied fleet. It is using ports across Europe and Asia for the installations when Zodiac’s ships are loading and unloading cargo.
Zodiac has also implemented a policy to prevent infection of bridge systems from malware. It has a rule that prevents seafarers from taking USB memory sticks or devices on the bridges of the ships it manages. Zodiac manager for quality, health, safety and the environment Capt Karl Meher-Homji said this included banning the use of USB devices for updating electronic navigational charts (ENCs) into ECDIS.
He said ECDIS updates were conducted using CDs or over a secure internet link, which is provided by VSAT. If that is not available and ENC update CDs cannot be sent in the post, then a local supplier will be used to provide the required charts.
Agile VSAT plans
Another international shipmanager, Nordic Hamburg, is investing in VSAT for a fleet of feeder container ships. It has contracted KVH Industries to provide AgilePlans subscription-based VSAT for its vessels.
By 20 June, VSAT had been installed on 13 vessels. There are plans to deploy VSAT on another 12 ships through the rest of 2018 by installing KVH’s TracPhone V7-HTS antenna equipment and CommBox network devices on the ships.
Nordic Hamburg operations and insurance manager Jacobus Varossieau said VSAT delivers fast data speeds and better crew welfare services. He said there is exceptional value and connectivity for shipowners, which “applies to both our operational efficiency and offering our valued crew fast, effective, and reliable communications”.
Services included in AgilePlans include NewsLink TV for news, sports and entertainment content and e-learning programs provided via KVH’s IP-MobileCast content delivery service, which uses Ku-band VSAT.
KVH’s TracPhone V7-HTS is a 60 cm Ku-band antenna that uses high throughput satellite technology linked to a CommBox modem and network management unit. KVH can provide download speeds up to 10 Mbps and upload speeds up to 3 Mbps.