By Mark Richman, Director, Product Management, Mobility Services The global maritime industry is passing through some rough seas, as shipping companies face a glutted commercial shipping market that requires greater operating efficiency in order to eke out slim profits from container, commodities and oil transport. One solution? Vessel owners are turning to technology to experiment with “automated ships” with smaller crews that require robust satellite capacity for operations, navigation and on-shore monitoring as they cross the world’s oceans. Satellite service providers face three major challenges as they work to integrate higher-capacity satellite solutions into their operations:
- Reactive purchasing in recent years has resulted in complex and disparate network designs aboard ships. Intelsat’s analysis of its top 20 maritime customers found that they made an average of 112 changes to their satellite networks in the previous year, and that figure does not include changes involving other satellite operators also serving their ships.
- Maritime routes are shifting, making it more difficult to forecast future demand for shipping services and bandwidth requirements in each region. Trade in the Atlantic Ocean region is predicted to shrink six percent by 2020, while in the Southeast Asia region, demand is expected to grow 19 percent over the same period.
- Profits are being squeezed by a glut of capacity in the marketplace, making shippers focus squarely on getting the highest possible return on any investment in new technology. Applications that monitor ship performance and provide real-time mapping are dramatically increasing bandwidth consumption, while crew members demand constant connectivity for the smartphones and laptops they bring on board. Incorporating new, more efficient technology is critical to satisfy rising communications needs from both operational applications and crew communication needs.