Ocean of Opportunities for the Maritime Communication Industry in the Post-Pandemic World
Vishal Patil, Consultant, Euroconsult
The maritime industry was resilient to the prolonged effects of the pandemic through 2021 except for the passenger ship segment including ferries, cruises, and leisure vessels. The persistence of the pandemic impacted the cruise industry the most as vacationers seemed reluctant to take cruise vacations due to lost confidence in the industry. The pandemic impact on long-haul air travel also impacted the passenger ship industry to a certain extent. As 2022 brought cheer to passenger traffic and long-haul travel regained its momentum at least in some parts of the world, cruise operators started deploying their cruises cautiously globally. The passenger occupancy per cruise is improving constantly. The European cruising market which was less active during the last couple of years as compared to the market in the Americas is expected to have seen the maximum cruise deployment in 2022. Around 150 cruises from more than 30 cruise operators are expected to be deployed in the region and the number are growing as we enter 2023. The Middle East and Indian Ocean are slowly yet surely gaining traction back in the post-pandemic world.
Apart from the passenger ship industry, other maritime markets were on the rise and remained on a growth trajectory throughout the year and are expected to continue to do so as we move ahead. In recent years, the merchant shipping industry experienced a capacity shortage due to increased demand. The fishing industry remained solid during the turbulent time. As the oil prices have returned from the major dip in 2020, the offshore market, which relies heavily on oil prices, has gained back momentum.
Overall, the global maritime industry growth remained on a positive track as the world decided to move ahead by leaving the pandemic story behind. Consequently, the number of equipped vessels at the end of 2022 is expected to surpass at least 35,000 vessels mark. Euroconsult assumes that the rate of equipage remained impacted by the supply chain issues occurring globally as a byproduct of the pandemic. The industry is expected to continue to feel the heat for at least a couple of more years as China, which is the main manufacturer and supplier of equipment continues to face COVID-19 surges. Euroconsult also assumes that some of the ship operators might be taking advantage of the delay to rethink their satellite communication strategy. The increasing trends in equipping vessels with multiple solutions for redundancy and coverage are spreading rapidly in the maritime industry. Once only limited to the cruise industry and offshore rigs, this multi-solution concept is creeping into the merchant shipping segment as top shipping companies are increasingly equipping their entire ocean-going fleets with multiple solutions.
VSAT equipped vessels evolution
The recent announcements made by new NGSO constellation operators expressing their willingness to address the maritime industry steered the maritime communication market a bit. Both NGSO constellation forerunning operators OneWeb and Starlink have laid out their plans to enter the maritime market. The entry of these players is expected to bring a paradigm shift in the industry. Both operators are operating their constellations in Ku-band and have already started serving land applications with their satellite capacity. For maritime, the approach that both operators are assumed to be taking is still misty. OneWeb has signed a number of partnerships with multiple existing service providers ahead of global service start. On the other, Starlink is “going direct” to the cruise market but also signed multiple reseller agreements with the existing service providers. The maritime industry regulators require equipment to fulfill certain technical requirements before being deployed commercially on any vessel. The status of equipment readiness that will be used for the capacity of these new NGSO operators is still unclear and is expected to take at least a year or so. Starlink has developed its maritime antenna system in-house whereas OneWeb has contracted Intellian for $73M to develop a low-cost compact terminal. OneWeb also successfully completed its trials on Kymeta’s u8 terminal.
Global capacity supply evolution
One thing is certain, the equipment manufacturers are heavily invested in catering to the demands coming to them from all directions. The manufacturers are invested in not only developing the new terminal that can fulfil the criteria of new NGSO constellations but also to develop a new smaller, lightweight, and cheaper terminal that can be fitted on a smaller vessel. This new smaller and cheaper antenna system will possibly open a whole new untapped market that is highly cost-sensitive, such as the fishing segment. Recently, Intellian and KVH launched their V45c and V30 VSAT antenna equipment respectively which are smaller than the existing systems and aimed at serving smaller vessels. These developments in the equipment market are expected to drive the demand for connectivity in the maritime segment.
The satellite operators were among very few stakeholders that rose quickly from the pandemic shock. Veteran satellite operators such as Inmarsat announced their plans to invest in NGSO constellations whereas new entrants like Starlink and OneWeb continued with their scheduled satellite launches and deployments. Many others like (Telenor, Intelsat, SES, etc.) remained actively invested in developing and promoting their managed services. The upcoming changes in satellite technology such as flex satellites, VHTS systems, electric propulsion systems, and NGSO constellations are expected to bring an immense capacity online post-2023. This influx of capacity supply in the market will adversely impact capacity pricing and decreasing the cost per Mbps. As a result, service providers will be able to provide either the same bandwidth at a lower cost or higher bandwidth at the same cost to end-users. This decrease in the capacity cost due to the massive capacity supply is expected to drive capacity demand.
During the pandemic and post-pandemic, the service providers’ ecosystem has seen several financial restructurings. Many of the service providers went through mergers and acquisitions and some others successfully emerged out of bankruptcies. Euroconsult estimates that this trend would be most likely to continue in the future. The top 5 service providers control the majority of the total market share by service revenues. The overall prices for some of the data plans increased in 2021, increasing the overall ARPU as compared to the 2020, while others decreased. This is assumed to be a temporary disparity and eventually the pricing of the service plans are projected to decrease from 2022 onwards. Also, the tendency towards upgrading existing data plans was observed in the post-pandemic world. As a result, the service revenues are on a growth trend as compared to the pandemic affected years. The pandemic acted as a catalyst. Crew welfare and crew retention took the centre stage in operators’ communication policy, and it is then backed up by the changes in the regulations. The new regulations emphasize obligatory requirements for means of communication for the crew. Passenger ship operators were quick to realize the importance of connectivity onboard to regain passenger confidence. Now, onboard capacity has turned from being a luxury to a necessity in a short time, driving the bandwidth requirements.
Estimated VSAT revenue contributions (retail) at YE 2021
Decreasing capacity prices are enabling higher bandwidth allowance at a lower or at least similar cost. This is continuously implying pressure on service providers to reduce the cost of services. Consequently, service providers are diversifying their offers by including value-added services and offering end-to-end managed services. Cybersecurity, cloud computing, edge computing, and data analytics are some of the most favoured value-added services offered by service providers to their end users. Customization and flexibility are the two key parameters in the process of digitalization of the maritime industry. Overall, the need for the bandwidth from crew welfare to improving operational efficiency ultimately is on course to increase VSAT adoption. It will be interesting to see the new avenues opening up and new applications explored in the future due to the availability of the affordable capacity.
Vishal PATIL is a consultant at Euroconsult. He has a total aerospace experience of more than 10 years. Vishal is also responsible for managing Euroconsult’s activities around the satellite connectivity focused on mobility sectors mainly maritime satellite connectivity and in-flight entertainment and connectivity. He is also an editor of Euroconsult’s market intelligence reports on maritime and aero satellite connectivity called “Prospects of maritime satellite connectivity” and “Prospects of in-flight entertainment and connectivity”, respectively. He is a frequent speaker at various international satellite connectivity shows and has represented Euroconsult as a speaker and moderator on many occasions.
Finding the Next 100k Vessels for Maritime Connectivity
Brad Grady, Research Director, NSR
The maritime satellite connectivity sector is on the cusp of another sea-change of connectivity shifts. Moving from voice-centric connectivity to ‘higher throughput’ data choices in L-band upwards to now hundreds to thousands of Mbps from Low Earth Orbit (LEO) solutions such as Starlink. These new connectivity options are unlocking new business models such as cloud-based services deployed to the vessel, widescale web-based connectivity procurement, and deploying new antenna form factors.
However, this is a market that is limited by the number of things to connect. The real disruptive potential for these new systems and use-cases will be unlocking the next set of end-users. Can new products and services (and maybe new price points?) retain and attract lower-end vessels with seasonal use patterns or lower data requirements? Ultimately, the maritime market is a combination of connectivity paths optimized to deliver the right mix of price vs. service. In capturing and expanding the number of connected vessels, the satellite industry will need all of the tools and technology it can leverage.
A key component of growth will be moving beyond the merchant segment and into Fishing and Leisure vessels. As the largest subset of vessel types, building products and services which can scale down in both price and capabilities to capture these vessels will be the key to finding the next 100k addressable vessels over the next ten years.
440,000 Addressable Maritime Vessels
440,000 Vessels. That is the size of the total addressable market (TAM) for broadband satellite connectivity in 2021 according to NSR’s latest Maritime SATCOM Markets 10th Edition. Through to 2031, NSR expects TAM to increase by 156k vessels, resulting in nearly 600k total addressable maritime broadband satcom vessels. Overall, the demand for higher throughput connectivity continues to expand the total addressable market by 2.8% CAGR from 2021 to 2031.
The Case for TAM Growth: Fishing and Leisure
Coming off some of the ‘worst years’ for almost all maritime end-user market segments, there are lots of reasons to still see stormy weather on the horizon for maritime vessel growth. In some markets, that’s true – oversupply in the merchant tanker market is likely to still see some ongoing market weaknesses over the next few years, offshore is likely at/near ‘max market size’ even with a sudden increase in commodity pricing, and the COVID-19 induced curtailment of Cruise ship deliveries is still likely to have an impact on the market over the next 12 – 18 months, at least. There are ‘lots of reasons’ to look at shipyard activities, order books, and other end-user market factors to look less than optimistic at the newbuild side of the total addressable market. However, addressability is not only driven by newbuilds – it also includes existing vessels that are likely to adopt a broadband satellite service.
While NSR does not publish a split of TAM by ‘old vessels vs. new vessels’, the increased digitalization of maritime markets is occurring everywhere. Older vessels are not totally immune from the influence of digitalization as vessel optimization and crew connectivity demands are universal factors. Adding engine monitoring or bridge digitalization programs are driving more vessels towards broadband connectivity. At the forefront of that ‘older vessels more likely to adopt broadband SATCOM’ are the Fishing and Leisure segments – together those segments account for 85% of TAM growth between 2021 to 2031 according to NSR’s Maritime SATCOM Markets, 10th Edition.
Fishing for Broadband SATCOM Connectivity
Fishing is the largest addressable market in terms of number of vessels at 296k in 2021, growing to 352k by 2031. With “millions” of things called fishing vessels in operation around the world, most fishing vessels have little need for broadband connectivity via satellite. From not being large enough to fit a broadband satellite terminal, remaining close to shore and within terrestrial coverage, or having other usage patterns that limit the requirements of higher throughput connectivity, there is simply little reason for these vessels to truly adopt or even be considered to adopt any flavor of higher-end satellite connectivity. They might adopt some satellite-based IoT or other narrowband solution, but will not really progress beyond those requirements.
Instead, the target addressable market is motorized “industrial fishing” vessels. These vessels have crew that ‘expect’ connectivity, their captains require it to operate the ship or for personal connectivity, and the ships business or operational sophistication can absorb the positive benefits from increased access to shore-based information. At 67% of the total addressable market in 2021, the total ‘pool’ of addressable fishing vessels is the largest single addressable user demographic.
However, a shift in addressable markets growth is occurring – with fishing accounting for only 60% of the total addressable market by 2031. With increased pressure on fish stocks around the world, the rise of centralized fish farms, and greater control of unregulated or illegal fishing activities due to better Space-based Earth Observation data, we are likely starting to see a peak of addressability growth. Satellite Service Providers instead must focus on meeting the needs of vessel-types already considered addressable by matching satellite services against fishing vessel needs.
Overall, fishing will remain one of the largest addressable markets segments but continues to have significantly low uptake of satellite broadband services with penetration rates only reaching 9% by 2031 between MSS Broadband and VSAT-based connectivity services. High terminal prices and monthly recurring costs, combined with general difficulty in communicating the true advantages of broadband connectivity across a wide range of regional/country markets makes gaining significant adoption difficult.
Leisure – More than just Super Yachts
Although wealth and disposable income amongst the ‘1%’ continues to grow, the leisure market is more than just the stereotypical ‘super yachts’ (defined as privately owned vessels greater than 24m in length.) At slightly more than 5.1k vessels in 2021 for super yachts, the rest of the 46.4k total addressable market are more ‘pedestrian’ vessels of more than 12m according to NSR’s definitions. Just like fishing, the overall size of ‘things called leisure vessel’ is upwards of millions of vessels, however – the pontoon boat at the local lake or the ‘just slightly too large to put on a trailer’ boat are unlikely to adopt or even require a robust broadband satellite connection.
Instead, we are seeing an increase in vessels that are large enough to truly get away from terrestrial coverage for extended periods – or travel to relatively remote destinations. These days, newbuilds are increasingly delivered as ‘connected vessels’ with app-enabled experiences that mirror terrestrial connected-car experiences. While these “connected experiences” thus far are delivered via terrestrial connectivity while the vessels are at-port, it’s easy to imagine expanding these connectivity experiences across the full spectrum of vessel operations and locations – including places where cellular services are spotty at-best.
Another factor driving increased addressability amongst the ‘smaller’ leisure vessels are changes to satellite connectivity changes itself. More than just “Starlink launches Maritime Service” headlines (which no doubt – is a factor, just not the only one) the price vs. size vs. flexibility of maritime broadband services for leisure vessels is changing. Combined with higher demands for throughput while at-sea (upto and including things like streaming media and a ‘connected vessel’ experience) and total addressability for leisure vessels are on the rise.
NSR’s Bottom Line
At over 85% of the TAM growth from Fishing and Leisure segments, the Maritime Broadband Satellite Market needs to continue to engage in a multi-faceted service approach. Growth will occur in the merchant and other segments (and will continue to be a key source of revenues for the market), but building out the ‘next phase’ of growth is going to come from building out technologies and services which can scale across a wide range of end-user segments and connectivity requirements.
Brad Grady has been involved in the Satellite Communications industry since 2005, beginning his Consulting work with NSR in 2010. Mr. Grady focuses on Mobility Markets, leading NSR research focused on Aeronautical and Land-Mobile opportunities, and authors NSR’s Maritime SATCOM Markets, Energy SATCOM Markets, and Government and Military Satellite Communications. He regularly provides his insights and analysis to NSR’s single-client consulting practice, and is also a regular contributor to leading industry publications and forums.
The Future of the Maritime Satellite Communications Market
Wei Li, Senior Manager, Market Research and Competitive Intelligence, Inmarsat
When I received the invitation from APSCC to share my views on global maritime satellite communications market trends a few weeks ago, several thoughts came immediately to mind. As everyone close to the industry is fully aware, maritime satellite communications are experiencing rapid changes. These are driven by the evolving needs of the shipping industry, which is under growing pressure to minimise its environmental impact and increase the efficiency of its operations while enhancing crew welfare.
With connectivity solutions evolving to accommodate these developing requirements, shipping companies must ensure they have the right connectivity strategy in place to support new technologies and meet emerging challenges. A good connectivity strategy relies on a clear understanding of the company’s business goals, the technologies needed to attain those goals, and any additional influencing factors such as resource availability and investment requirements. It is also important to note that implementing a connectivity strategy is a continuous and iterative process that requires constant monitoring, frequent reassessment, and regular feedback from internal and external stakeholders.
By joining the dots between business goals and connectivity options, operators gain access to a host of benefits including opportunities to optimise and drive efficiency while reducing running costs and improving profit margins; the ability to attract and retain talented crew; and the capacity to future-proof operations and build in competitive advantages. Applied to IT and the business network, a robust connectivity strategy provides a foundation for tools and services that support decarbonisation initiatives, facilitate trade, and enable voyage and port-call optimisation as well as condition monitoring and condition-based maintenance. As regards the crew network, the right strategy enhances seafarer health, well-being, safety, and training, in turn helping shipping companies to recruit, nurture, and retain the most-talented seafarers. Where operational technology and the critical infrastructure network are concerned, an effective connectivity framework enables remote services including equipment intervention, surveys, pilotage, and telemedicine.
Inmarsat I-6 F1 launch in December 2021 (photo: Inmarsat)
For shipping companies, one of the main objectives of a connectivity strategy is to reduce their environmental footprint in line with tightening regulations. To do so, they require insight into the efficiency of multiple shipboard systems and the ability to gauge the impact of external factors on machinery and overall vessel performance. This means collecting, storing and analysing significant volumes of data, and then transferring this data to various stakeholders – a series of processes that relies on stable network connections and ample bandwidth. More and more shipping companies are upgrading their satellite communications services and adopting new technologies for applications including route-planning and ship-to-shore broadband data transfers and to maximise fuel efficiency.
With the International Maritime Organization adopting targets to reduce the carbon intensity of all ships by 40% by 2030, there is intensifying interest in tools that offer a route to net-zero. Shipowners are increasingly implementing data-driven processes and adopting digital shipboard solutions to cut emissions and achieve environmental compliance. Pending revolutionary developments in propulsion and fuel technology, this makes sense: Ricardo Energy and Environment, a global environment consultancy, predicts a 38% reduction in maritime greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 through digitalisation alone, a significant contribution towards the 50% reduction target set by the IMO.
The advanced digital solutions that allow owners to act on insights from data analysis and minimise emissions also depend on connectivity, and with shipboard processes and technology becoming more sophisticated and prevalent, data usage is skyrocketing. A study undertaken by Inmarsat reveals that data usage is on the rise among all commercial vessel types. In 2022, total network usage in the maritime sector is 45% higher than in 2021. Year-on-year data usage was highest among container shipping companies, more than doubling (108%) in June 2022 compared to June 2021, while use of connectivity increased by 70% among oil tanker operators and by 47% on bulk carriers over the same period.
Yet maritime connectivity is also enabling an array of data-intensive processes whose benefits go beyond supporting environmental compliance. Shipowners are increasingly implementing video conferencing as well as remote inspections and maintenance to reduce costs and downtime. The number of documents that are exchanged digitally is increasing in line with the wider digitalisation of the supply chain. Organisations are openly committing to and collaborating on digital document packs. The Electronic Bill of Lading (EBL) is one high-profile example. The importance of a connectivity strategy here is vital as, according to international maritime law firm Hill Dickinson, ‘the secure transfer of e-bills is needed to combat the increased sophistication of cybersecurity threats, which is one of the main areas of resistance to digitalisation’. As a result, monthly average usage of Inmarsat networks for business operations has increased by more than 30% in the past 12 months.
The requirement and desire to improve supply chain transparency and efficiency will be a driving force behind the increase in monitoring and tracking solutions. In Q1 2022, Hapag-Lloyd announced that it would be the first shipping company in the world to equip all its standard containers with real-time tracking devices. There is little doubt in the liner trades that Hapag-Lloyd’s success here would accelerate adoption across the sector.
However, the single greatest factor behind the exponential increase in data usage at sea is a growing appreciation for the importance of crew welfare. Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, several high-profile incidents have drawn attention to the difficulties facing seafarers, with the infamous crew-change crisis depriving shipboard personnel of timely shore leave and repatriation. Many owners and managers have responded to this situation by investing in better connectivity for crew – a requirement now recognised by the Maritime Labour Convention – and offering access to digital services such as 24-hour helplines. This trend has contributed to a 50% increase in total crew network use in Inmarsat networks in the last year.
Inmarsat Network Operation Centre (photo: Inmarsat)
In a maritime industry where requirements are constantly evolving and data usage is rising fast, existing connectivity services are being pushed to their limits. Inmarsat has invested considerable time and resources into developing a new generation of connectivity solutions and satellite networks. For example, Fleet Xpress Enhanced – the latest evolution of Inmarsat’s transformational connectivity service – offers a versatile, integrated, and modular solution that draws on the world’s most secure and reliable satellite network, Inmarsat’s Global Xpress Ka-band network. The solution enables real improvements in operational efficiency, sustainability, and crew welfare and allows owners to upgrade their bandwidth allowance and adopt new applications as their needs change. The new-and-improved offering provides Inmarsat partners with a platform to deliver their value-added services and host applications, with shipping companies in turn gaining access to an array of functionality ranging from email and basic office tools to the latest IoT-powered solutions. Fleet Xpress Enhanced enables a flexible, step-by-step approach to digital transformation. It thereby supports long-term efforts towards decarbonisation and the improvement of crew welfare. Crucially, the solution is future-proofed for seamless integration with other communications networks, a concept Inmarsat has dubbed ‘ORCHESTRA’. This approach promises to redefine connectivity at scale with the highest capacity for mobility worldwide and at hot spots around the globe.
ORCHESTRA – so named because it brings together multiple components in perfect harmony to produce something far greater than the sum of its parts – is designed to meet the accelerating bandwidth requirements of modern shipping. It combines our geosynchronous – or GEO – networks, ELERA and Global Xpress, with terrestrial 5G and targeted low-Earth orbit – or LEO – satellites. The result is a single, advanced solution for global mobility that will offer the fastest average speeds and the lowest average latency of any network – either planned or in existence – with seamless connectivity around the world.
At a time when shipowners’ requirements are evolving rapidly, and maritime data use is skyrocketing as a result, our aim is to give shipping companies a clear and flexible path to digital transformation – whatever stage of their journey they have reached. Wherever the data-driven vessels are sailing – whether in an isolated stretch of water or a bustling shipping hub – they will be able to rely on high-speed connectivity to facilitate safe, efficient and sustainable operations. The only limit to their potential is the creativity of the technology solutions and applications to which Inmarsat will offer continuous, global access.
Wei Li joined Inmarsat in 2015 and currently leads market intelligence activities to support Inmarsat’s decision making in market strategy, product development and the design of next-generation satellites. Prior to joining Inmarsat, he spent eight years at Euroconsult, a Paris-based consulting firm specialised in the space industry. Wei started his career in the mobile satellite industry at FTMSC, now part of Marlink. He holds a master’s degree in Marketing from ESCP Europe in Paris and a bachelor’s in Economics from CUEB in Beijing.
Maritime Industry in Transition: Smarter and Greener Ships
Teeratat Kerdchouay, General Manager, Mobility Services, Thaicom
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 to 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.
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.
Teeratat Kerdchouay (Kong) has done it all throughout his 18-year service at Thaicom, from Product Marketer of Broadcast Services to Head of Strategy and Planning, and now to General Manager of Mobility Services in charge of NAVA business, a global maritime broadband connectivity service platform. With his extensive experience and broad expertise, he has involved in the company’s corporate strategy formulation and implementation as well as key business initiatives such as the Southeast Asia and South Asia broadcast market expansion, and the downstream broadband and data analytics businesses in Thailand. Teeratat is now focusing his efforts on strengthening NAVA service platform to help the customers grow and become more sustainable.
Data Demand Drives the Future of Maritime Satcom
Chris Insall, Head of Maritime Market Development, ST Engineering iDirect
Earlier this year, an NSR analysis report (Maritime Satcom Markets, 10th Edition) grabbed the industry’s attention. It projected that maritime users would increase their satellite constellations usage sixteen-fold. The entry of new, high-performance satellite capacity from multiple sources is set to have a significant, even transformational impact on uptake and activity, and the sector may expect an increase in combined legacy and new constellation demand from fewer than 100 Gbps in 2021 to a staggering 1,500 Gbps of throughput demand by 2031.
This remarkable rise in demand is coming from the breadth of the maritime market from fishing to merchant shipping through to cruise, and every segment is looking at how they can meet increasing demands on board their vessels for passengers, crew, and operations. All are looking for reliable broadband connectivity to unlock the potential of existing and new applications that will help to drive operational efficiencies and revenue and aid decarbonisation efforts. The stats back this statement up. According to a recent Inmarsat study, maritime data usage associated with shipboard business applications increased by 131% from June 2021 to June 2022, with crew-related data consumption growing by 149% in the same time frame. Data usage trends are on the increase across all types of vessels, with container vessels up 207%, reefers up 185% and offshore up 182%.
Offshore vessel (courtesy Shutterstock)
Where Asia goes, the world tends to follow, and the increase in data demand is being driven by the region. According to UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development), Asia remains the largest seafarer-supplying region in the world. Four of the top five countries supplying seafarers in 2021 were from the region.
Over the last decade, Singapore in particular has built up a world-renowned maritime innovation ecosystem that involves the demand drivers of its port as well as technology developers, including businesses of global technology, defence and engineering group ST Engineering, of which ST Engineering iDirect is a part, start-ups, and the local research community. This ecosystem creates an environment that is conducive to growth.
Satellite connectivity has always been a critical requirement for vessels at sea, to support communications where none exist, but emerging as well as existing requirements will also fuel this demand. Recent discussions at the Smart Maritime Network (SMN) conference in Singapore highlighted some interesting areas where demand is growing, creating new opportunities for satellite technology.
Vessels at Singapore (courtesy Pixabay)
The issue of crew welfare was brought into sharp focus during the COVID pandemic due to its inextricable link with mental health. Today it is considered an essential service for any company that employs crew on board their vessels. When looking for employment, the availability of an acceptable level of access to communications often informs the basis of a potential new hire’s decision to join. In a 2022 survey by Thetius that included over 200 maritime professionals, 33% of seafarers chose access to digital technology as the most important factor when considering working for a new employer. Perhaps surprisingly, this rated above pay and leave entitlement.
There is currently a lot of focus on whether access to the internet would improve the welfare of the crew. Concerns are swirling about security and what level of access crew members should be given. Some companies are happy to give their ratings extensive access by default, but others are not. Whatever side of the fence a company is on, this remains an extremely high priority for shipping companies because, critically, this feeds into crew retention. The young crew members of today are digital natives and have an acute expectation of a living-room-like broadband experience at sea.
Shipping companies are also under pressure from lawmakers to offer a high standard of connectivity. The Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) was recently updated to stipulate that seafarers must be offered mandatory social connectivity, including internet access. The MLC is ratified by more than 100 countries, representing over 90% of the world fleet. Though seafarers have been disappointed that some companies and governments will ask for payment for connectivity services, the baseline requirement is now in place. Crew welfare will be a significant driver for satcom in the future. NSR envisages increased requirements in the merchant sector for crew connectivity and onboard operations will drive higher bandwidth demand rates upwards of 158 Gbps by 2031.
Crew onboard vessel during COVID19 pandemic (courtesy Mohamed Aly, Pixabay)
The subject of autonomous vessels has been discussed for decades, but this technology is a reality that is already taking firm shape in Singapore. These vessels can be used for a plethora of applications and although it is still very much in its primary phase of deployment, it’s a market segment that is being invested in heavily and where rapid progress is being made.
For example, ST Engineering’s Marine business is involved in the development of vessels such as the Smart Maritime Autonomous Vessel that features autonomous navigation with Collision Detection and Collision Avoidance capability and predictive maintenance capabilities using data analytics and machine learning techniques. It also features remote control and health monitoring of shipboard systems from shore. The Group’s Digital Systems business also provides its AUTONOMAST™, an all-in-one modular system designed to convert a manned vessel into an unmanned surface vessel for autonomous missions. It integrates various mission controls and payloads for a wide range of applications to support defense and public safety and security operations, allowing vessels to manoeuvre autonomously, intelligently, and safely at sea.
This is a nascent but growing market and though projects will often use 5G LTE connectivity, there will be many that will require satellite capabilities. Autonomous vessels, like manned vessels, require lots of data exchange and always-on connectivity for a range of applications such as IoT.
Another area that is seeing rapid advancements in the maritime arena is that of decarbonisation with a great focus on the reduction of nitrogen oxide and sulphur dioxide. Whilst it is true that shipping can be seventeen times more efficient than air freight, and ten times more efficient than road, the sector still represents almost 3% of global CO2 emissions [source: Fourth Greenhouse Gas Study 2020 (imo.org)]. This could potentially rise considerably if no action is taken.
The role of data in increasing transparency can’t be underestimated. The Inmarsat report mentioned previously details research indicating that potential reductions in carbon emissions of up to 38% are possible by digitalizing ship operations alone.
Satellites, remote sensing technologies, and AI will create an environment where greenhouse gas emissions can be pinpointed to individual ports, ships, services, and businesses enabling tighter regulations and highlighting where investment is needed. Data monitoring is therefore absolutely key for all players. Digital transformation and access to the cloud will be more critical than ever so that shipping players can optimise fleet deployment and achieve a direct reduction in CO2 emissions.
During the SMN event in Singapore, the standardisation of data was called for to ensure that ports such as Singapore are made more efficient. This will all involve a huge movement of data.
A Transformational Future for Maritime
These topics are just a taste of the developments that are taking place across the maritime segment. With such extensive requirements for data, the huge projected growth in bandwidth demand is not surprising. But the vital role that satellite already plays in maritime connectivity is set to be augmented. The industry is going through its own transformation that will enable its users to gain access to multi-orbit capabilities that will, in turn, continue to transform their operations.
Chris Insall is Head of Maritime Market Development at ST Engineering iDirect – based in London, UK. Chris joined iDirect from satellite operator Intelsat in 2022, where his primary responsibilities incorporated product management, service development and marketing for the maritime vertical markets, focused primarily on managed services for VSAT. Chris has over 25 years’ experience in the sector, having worked also previously in industry providers such as Cobham SATCOM (incorporating maritime antenna brands Sea Tel and Sailor), and Inmarsat where he worked for 11 years with roles encompassing maritime business and product management – major responsibilities included deployment of Inmarsat’s Fleet and FleetBroadband portfolios. Chris holds an MSc degree in Software Engineering and a BA degree in business and foreign languages and is a Member of the Institute of Engineering and Technology.
Interview with Eric Sung, CEO of Intellian Technologies
Q : What are the current trends seen in the Satcom market?
At Intellian, we are in a unique position at the core of the ecosystem, with an unparalleled view across the satellite industry. Over the last few years, we have seen unprecedented change and growth in satcoms; emerging technologies, new entrants in the industry and consolidation amongst others.
Our strategic partnerships with network operators allow us to continually provide innovative solutions and value to customers globally, addressing the burgeoning demand for satellite communications across the markets we serve. The consumer demand for higher speeds and more choice has been the same for years, but what we’ve been able to offer has changed significantly.
At Intellian, we’ve consistently invested in our R&D to pioneer world-first technologies. Our most recent being the new X Series – the world’s first commercial antennas that can electronically switch between Ka and Ku-band without the need for a conversion kit which is a game changer for the maritime industry.
The industry is abuzz with talk of flat panels, and we’re excited to reveal over the next few months what we are working on. To support this technology, we set up our Advanced Development Center in Maryland, USA. There’s a phenomenal team of engineers there, with focused resources and expertise, developing some truly innovative solutions for land mobile, fixed enterprise and maritime customers.
However, the world is not going entirely flat. There’s very solid positioning in the market for both flat panel and parabolic technologies, each with their own merits depending on customer needs so it’s a very interesting time for us as we develop both areas of technology and the use cases for each.
Intellian Pyeongtaek Campus 1 – Headquarters and R &D center (photo: Intellian)
Q : What are the specific factors to consider in the APAC region?
The APAC region is known as the epicenter of innovation. We’re seen huge developments in autonomous shipping and are proudly onboard some of those projects. Connectivity is absolutely mission-critical onboard these vessels for their safe and successful operation. We’re also seeing superyachts being built in the region in record numbers, with buyers both from the region and beyond. Carnival are now building their cruise ships in China which is yet another validation on how the market is changing. The maritime industry’s trust in Intellian make us a solid choice for new builds and refits as we have the portfolio to supply all their different needs.
Our Asia Pacific customers are very competitive, innovative and cost sensitive. To meet the specific needs of the market, we have had to find a balance between cost-effectiveness and innovation to retain our long-standing APAC customers. When developing our portfolio, we have carefully curated options across bandwidth, price point and size to fit all uses and budgets. Our products offer the future-proof versatility needed by the changing requirements of our clients and the various sectors they operate in.
To guarantee cost-effectiveness, our customers are looking for longevity. This long-term investment will serve a vessel and crew over this period and support key targets. An innovative satcom system can keep a crew safe and happy, reduce fuel wastage and keep a company in line with its sustainability targets. Innovation is crucial in retaining customers and attracting new business as all companies look to future-proof their investments.
Intellian Pyeongtaek Campus 2 – new manufacturing facility (photo: Intellian)
Q : What’s the future for Intellian?
Early into the pandemic, in times of uncertainty and change, we opted for a bold investment strategy where others have shied away from making drastic changes.
In the satellite industry as well as manufacturing more widely, supply chain issues have changed how business is carried out more generally. In response, we have changed our business model to reduce these pressures. Being consistently able to have stock for customers is crucial, and one that our customers rely upon us for. We’re working with our suppliers and placing orders with them which span multiple years in order to secure supply for our customers. This guarantees parts at a certain price and reduces the impact on our business from market fluctuations while also guaranteeing business for our suppliers. Having foreseen these supply chain issues, we also looked for ways to become more independent. We’re in the process of getting our second manufacturing campus operational, a major step in becoming self-sufficient in our production. Guaranteeing customer delivery is at the heart of what we do so this will be a major step in Intellian’s next phase.
Intellian’s new European Headquarters and Logistics Center in Rotterdam (photo: Intellian)
At all levels, in the APAC region and across the global ecosystem, the quality of Intellian’s organisation is crucial in developing strong relationships with customers and attracting new business. As a global brand, we also have the advantage of insights across our regions in order to strengthen our product offering. This, of course, will impact our tech but also shapes our logistics and customer support – key elements of our services.
In building our strategy, we are keeping customers and products at the heart of everything we do. To secure Intellian’s future, we are constantly looking for ways to improve our portfolio to match the needs of our customers. In our next chapter, we will look to expand the sectors we operate in, being more self-sufficient and building on our hard-earned brand loyalty.
Eric Sung is a founder and a chief executive officer and chairman of the board of directors of Intellian Technologies, the world leader in satellite communication antenna system. He established Intellian in 2004, bringing technology industry leadership, extensive Telco experience to the company. Under his leadership, Intellian has grown to be the No.1 market leader and went public on KOSDAQ in 2016.