Shipowners and offshore operators met on February 23 in the Business Club Hamburg to discuss digital change in the maritime sector over a business breakfast. The Business Club and the Maritimen Cluster Norddeutschland (MCN) organised the event in the historic villa in Heine-Park along the Elbchaussee.
Internet access at sea
Holger Ritter, Managing Partner at DRYNET, a Kiel-based service provider and consultancy for communication and maritime security solutions, gave an address. Ritter advises shipowners and offshore operators about digitalisation projects – a complex issue as the broadband available at sea is disproportionate to DSL speeds or 4G/LTE systems on land. Satellites provide comprehensive internet access at sea, but data transmission rates have been low so far.
Ritter had good news for guests at the business breakfast saying: “In 2016, several satellite operators have promised to provide higher transmission bandwidths with the launch of the first High Throughput Satellites (HTS) for ships and offshore operators as well.” Ritter expects a “dramatic price reduction” in the sector over the next three years.
Traditional satellites such as the NSS7 cover large areas – it’s beam covers a third of the Earth’s surface. HTS could form many small cells with a diameter of 200 to 500 kilometres, the sum of which also covers a large area, but allow higher transmission rates. To achieve transmission rates, comparatively convenient terminals weighing less than 50 kilogrammes could replace traditional antennaes weighing up to 900 kilogrammes.
Many application areas
Robert Struck, a communications engineer in the ship technology unit at the Hamburg-based Federal Waterways Engineering and Research Institute, said: “We are delighted by the many providers here in Europe as well.” Struck’s main focus is on the opportunities for research ships offered by digitalisation. He noted: “Weather data, geometrical data, measurement data and service data – there are many fields of application for fast broadband internet.” Data speeds that drop proportionate to prices mean a “clear jump”, he added.
Optimisation through cloud solutions
The perspectives for shipping and the offshore segment are similar, according to Ritter and noted the importance of “big data”. The development is being driven by increasing demand for fast data transfer paths at sea especially in the luxury ship sector aboard yachts and cruise ships. The crews of large trading ships are increasingly using internet-capable end devices, which also have to be supplied. Improved internet connections could help draw up performance analyses and trend calculation for ships, said Ritter. Cloud solutions that prerequisite secure broadband access are becoming more important.
Hapag-Lloyd recently illustrated Ritter’s forecast by announcing tests of a cloud-based, stowage planning software. The software would provide real-time data on the stowage and cargo of individual company ships and for the terminal in the port. Based on the new information, the company could deploy ships more efficiently and plan proactively.
Motorways and world seas
Commenting on the future of digitalisation on the high seas, Ritter noted: “The motorway between Kiel and Hamburg is currently being expanded to three lanes. But in a few years, it won’t be wide enough.” “A similar scenario looms with the new HTS. The competition between supply and demand will continue.”