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Maritime Digitalisation & Communications

VSAT accelerates shipping digitalisation

Tue 13 Mar 2018 by Martyn Wingrove

VSAT accelerates shipping digitalisation

Editor Martyn Wingrove says shipowners who continue to ignore VSAT will find themselves at a competitive disadvantage and challenged to secure business and crew.

There are far greater benefits than there are drawbacks to adopting VSAT technology across a fleet of ships. 

Satellite connectivity from a C-band, Ku-band or Ka-band VSAT service enables owners to turn their ships into an extension of their terestrial operations centers. Ships become mobile offices at sea, allowing owners to adopt electronic reporting, remote monitoring, diagnostics tools and to share information across their fleets.

Consider, too, that data can be synchronised between ship and shore databases and vessels then can be enabled to send electronic reports to port and flag authorities. Some of this can be done using L-band, of course, but VSAT offers owners more bandwidth at fixed costs.

If that isn't enough to convince owners, I would assert that VSAT adoption can hasten the adoption of digitalisation in other areas of a shipping company's business, offering added efficiences and greater competitive advantages.

There are also crew welfare benefits to consider.

VSAT enables seafarers to contact family and friends through voice and messaging services in their downtime. They can use internet to conduct electronic banking and organise other financial services and improve their knowledge and skill levels. If a company chooses, they can also offer crew access to social media, some types of digital media and voice over IP.

All of this, of course, helps to make a shipowning company more attractive to prospective sea-based employees and is likely to increase crew retention rates.

Back on the operational side, owners with VSAT can consider monitoring ship operations in real-time or with regular, perhaps even hourly, reports. Sensors on board ships can send back performance and condition data; equipment on the bridge can transfer voyage information over VSAT.

That these benefits are real is borne out in a string of exclusive interviews we have conducted with industry experts at

(These interviews will also feature in our upcoming Complete Guide to VSAT. There is still space available and you can contact me at for opportunities.) 

The ultimate proof, as the saying goes, is in the pudding.

Put simply, shipowners are investing in VSAT across their fleets.

There are already around 27,000 VSAT maritime installations worldwide. We here at Marine Electronics & Communications hear that there is a backlog of 3,000 ships waiting for Ku-band VSAT to be installed, and Inmarsat has said there are around 10,000 vessels destined to have Fleet Xpress installed.

With this acceleration in the pace of VSAT adoption, I expect to see thousands of VSAT installations, including Ku, Ka and C bands in the coming years.

Alongside this trend, I expect to see growing levels of shipping industry digitalisation and global investment in trending technology such as blockchain, cyber security, fleet remote monitoring and e-navigation.

With these levels of adoption, shipowners, managers and operators who continue to ignore VSAT are virtually guaranteed to find themselves at a competitive disadvantage -- finding it increasingly difficult to secure business and crew.

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