Crew Connectivity Census
Recent market indications reveal that there’s money to be made, crews willing to part with cash for connectivity onboard and, as of yet, some untapped resources. But how to claim a piece of the pie? In this Special Insight Report we take a look at some of
The current state of crew connectivity and what they are willing to pay to stay in touch
Helping a remote workforce stay in touch with friends and family is a
crucial part of a ship operator’s operational structure. It is also becoming a general expectation of the seafarers.
An industry poll revealed that, just five
years ago, people didn’t see the internet as a basic requirement or even an expectation. However, the explosion of pocket devices with the ability to get online anywhere anytime ( access depending) has changed all this dramatically. Today, 85 percent said yes it was becoming an expectation. While
it’s true that we as a species wont die
without it, many feel that connectivity
is becoming their ‘ right’. And if current figures indicate the progressive nature of that expectation, then the weight in
the yes bank can only increase. So it’s good to see remote operators are talking about new ways to improve crew communication onboard. However, with increased access comes the need for increased control over data quotas for individual users. Many in the industry believe that 2013 will see a steep rise in usage quotas in a bid to help retain crew morale. The I nternational La bour Organization Maritime Labour Convention 2006 regulations will come into force in September 2013, making wholesale changes to onboard crew welfare. It includes recommendations for reasonable access to, ship- to- shore telephone communications, email and internet facilities, where available with any charges for the use of these services being reasonable in amount. See page 10 to see what crews are willing to spend on connectivity. Traditionally crew communication used to be only basic voice but now with smart phones and tablets data is as important as voice to keep the crew happy and in touch with the rest of the world. Increasingly companies now
include ‘ internet onboard’ in their recruitment advertising to attract the best talent.
The current crew calling options allow ship owners to segregate the business operational voice calls from those of a personal nature. This reduces the time spent accounting and calculating the costs of crew voice usage. However, a barrier to ship owners providing crew calling onboard is
that some operations can’t afford it, unless they have options like chat cards where they can charge back to the crew. Prepaid calling cards may be the best choice if a company wants its crew service to be isolated from the business and, is only prepared to offer its crew prepaid voice access. If a company is looking at a long term crew communication option for voice and data access or, is looking to consolidate its business and crew prepaid calling usage, an option with a smart onboard box could provide the best way forward. Voice over IP ( VoIP) has been gaining popularity in the maritime industry by providing crew with cheap access to voice calling. While VoIP can be viewed as a cheap alternative to PSTN, it is always advisable to compare the voice quality delivered by this service and the true cost of VoIP. Applications, such as Skype, use very high bandwidth as it was designed to work in a terrestrial environment. Some in the maritime industry consider it slow and expensive over
satcoms when compared to today’s terrestrial standards. For example, a one minute VoIP call would require approximately 1 Mb of data, rendering VoIP at sea more expensive than a traditional PSTN voice service offered by satcoms providers. In addition, a two to three second delay is often experienced by users of VoIP application over satcoms services.
VoIP may appear like an attractive proposition to the maritime industry but once the true cost and quality of the service is compared, with the quality and cost of a PSTN service, the value of switching to VoIP is not as it first appears. Satellite operators continue to reduce the price of their voice pricing and the quality of calls delivered is improving, making it a more viable proposition to the market.
NSSL Crew Card Service
In 2009 NSSL Global, an independent service provider for satellite communications solutions launched its FleetBroadband- based Crew Card service which offers a 24/ 365 exclusive tariff anywhere in the world via Inmarsat or NSSL Global’s own cruise network, from dedicated telephones.
FleetBroadband Multivoice allows up to nine simultaneous calls to be made through a single terminal. Vessels that require more than one voiceline will benefit from FleetBroadband Multi- voice. Implementation is flexible, for example, the bridge can be assigned as the primary inbound calling unit, allowing the remaining lines to be accessed from the ship’s PABX network. Crew members can then make personal calls in privacy, using prepaid cards, with no disruption to bridge operations.
Globe Mobile, from maritime solutions provider Globe Wireless, offers mariners the convenience of using their own GSM phones over FleetBroadband, for standard voice calls to and from the vessel, SMS and roaming onshore. Mariners insert a prepay SIM card to send and receive calls and texts in private. The SIM can be recharged at any time.
CommBox Ship / Shore Network Manager
A network management tool for mariners, with web caching and web image compression to reduce bandwidth requirements. It benefits operations, charters and/ or crew and options for internet café and VoIP solutions. Compatible with maritime communications services including Inmarsat, mini- VSAT Broadband, VSAT, GSM & WiFi; the CommBox from KVH features low cost routing, prepaid roaming crew accounts and data compression facilities. Usage can be monitored in real time.
Amos Connect Crew
Amos Connect Crew offers email, SMS, internet and voice. It operates entirely separately from business communication but still allows the IT department to control the usage and define policies. Crew can enjoy the flexibility of a personal email box that can be used on any vessel with Amos Connect Crew onboard. This product automatically compresses emails to give better mileage to the crew.
Crew email solutions allow ship owners/ managers to provide the facility for crew to stay in touch with friends and families but control the costs. These solutions let ship owners set the rules for mail size and attachments, control mail boxes and set quotas from the shore.
SkyFile Mail from Astrium, provides reliable and costeffective email, fax and SMS messaging. It has an effective anti- virus and anti- spam filter, is available in nine languages which can be used simultaneously on different accounts. It uses the same software for prepaid or postpaid communication. It is able to compress data up to 90 percent making it very cost effective.
Email and SMS software that can be remotely accessed at onshore internet access points, enabes mariners to use the same service from any location ashore. It also allows them to keep the same email address if they move to a new CrewEmail equipped vessel. File size limits can be set using personal filters. Usage can be controlled by the use of prepaid cards or a quota system. Prepaid calling card users benefit from prepaid messaging when used together with SkyFile ® Mail, advanced emailing software for use with satellite terminals.
Virtual vouchers and segregation are important for crew and business networks onboard operating in isolation. The crew network activity must not pose any risk to business applications.
Evosat (Globecom SA) MWC
Evosat introduced Morale and Welfare Communications ( MWC) for its FleetBroadband customers in 2010. MWC is a convenient prepaid crew calling offering that gives mariners voice and internet access, with zero risk or investment for the bill payer. Interface users access it via a web browser, where crew can upload virtual prepaid vouchers or check their balance.
Infinity by Navarino
Infinity allows ship owners/ managers to maximise data allowance packages with bandwidth management and optimisation solutions. It also offers ship owners the flexibility to create virtual vouchers that can be based on monetary value, data/ voice usage or time based, that can be shared between crew voice and data. Infinity also offers a firewall, compression, content management as well as email for crew and business.
Astrium ( Vizada) XChange and Universal Card
Vizada XChange is a platform that provides ship owners & managers with connectivity to deliver voice, data and internet access. It offers a number of value added services for the crew including: onboard data caching, free onboard news content, media file sharing, ondemand training material and voice calls using own smart phones. Universal Card enables crew to use the internet onboard as well as make voice calls and send emails and text messages via FleetBroadband. Crew can purchase prepaid 30 or 50 minute communications credit with a standard personal debit or credit card.