Faced with enormous efficiency and compliance challenges, the shipping industry is increasingly turning to digital tools and services to help balance the complex needs for performance monitoring, meeting regulatory requirements and commercial agility.
The capability of traditional satellite networks to meet these demands is being tested, leading to the emergence of hybrid networks that combine a high degree of service flexibility with guaranteed bandwidth and security, according to Tore Morten Olsen, president of maritime at smart network group Marlink.
“There has been a noticeable acceleration in the adoption of digitalisation among shipowners, operators and managers,” Olsen tells The Naval Architect. “We see a lot of effort going on right now, particularly with some of our larger customers. They have decided to invest in digitalisation because they understand that increased data capture and analytics helps vessels to operate more efficiently and economically, while also helping to significantly reduce the carbon footprint.”
More cloud-based applications are finding their way into the IT infrastructure of maritime customers, he adds.
Olsen points to two such clients, MSC and Scorpio Ship Management, as cases in point. Marlink has been a long-term partner of MSC, the world’s largest container shipping line, supporting the organisation’s ambitious digitalisation goals through its hybrid network solutions and secure IT management.
Marlink deploys a fully managed hybrid network solution, bundling its VSAT connectivity with L-band backup and global 4G connectivity to a fleet of 127 vessels, providing MSC with “seamless, secure connectivity” to run its critical business and crew applications.
This hybrid network solution is fully secured by Marlink’s Cyber Detection Service which scans real-time outbound and inbound network traffic for targeted cyber threats and takes immediate countermeasures to remediate incidents. “In this way, MSC can keep its remote vessels securely connected,” says Olsen.
The latest phase of MSC’s digitalisation strategy has seen the roll-out of Marlink’s ITLink management solution across the fleet. “MSC has moved decisively to increase the standardisation of its onboard IT systems and to meet IMO requirements, enabling fleet managers to monitor operating IT systems and software from shore,” Olsen says.
He adds that ITLink enables MSC fleet managers to remotely access their onboard IT networks for monitoring and troubleshooting in a secure environment and allows software updates and patches to be applied fleetwide, a major efficiency gain for MSC.
New approaches and procedures
Recent advances in its digital strategy have seen tanker and bulker ship manager Scorpio Ship Management adopt new approaches and procedures for its operations, embracing video, data sharing and remote access to IT and OT networks for monitoring, maintenance and real-time decision-making. This need drove the company to upgrade the Marlink VSAT network solution on all vessels in its fleet, adding fresh bandwidth to enable more data, L-Band and 4G, new applications and enhanced reporting.
To meet Scorpio’s needs, Marlink applied its ‘Network of Networks’ approach to create a solution optimised for the maritime environment. “In this case, the network was constructed with service layers and solutions designed to connect Scorpio’s fleet of ships, operating globally and all requiring a consistent quality of service,” Olsen says.
The service extension provides Scorpio with higher bandwidth services to meet an increasing level of business need for higher data rates and usage volumes, according to Olsen. Scorpio’s managed fleet will be able to satisfy current and future requirements from charterers and regulators, while also providing cost-efficient crew communications, he adds.
“Meeting this kind of demanding scenario requires a deep integration with the customer so that the solution provided has the functionality and scalability it needs, with an eye on future proof operations too. Marlink’s hybrid network solution enables Scorpio Ship Management to gain the benefits of digitalisation with the connectivity to support its business now and give it room to grow as demands for higher performance and greater efficiency increase,” Olsen concludes.