Digitalisation can offer vessel operators a competitive edge but maritime companies need to be aware of the potential risks and to put in place effective back-up and security systems to ensure they reap the benefits, advises Nabil Ben Soussia, Vice President – Maritime, IEC Telecom Group.
Addressing the challenges of digitalisation during the forthcoming Maritime Digitalisation event during this year’s Nor-Shipping show in Oslo, Mr Ben Soussia will discuss the pitfalls and how to avoid them, highlighting how vessel digitalisation will be central to the fleets of the future.
Digitalising a vessel is “a fantastic process but a complex one,” according to Mr Ben Soussia. Stressing the need to incorporate comprehensive cyber security, he urged vessel operators to ask themselves, “what if”.
“Going digital is good but it is like putting all your eggs in one basket,” he said. “This needn’t be a problem as long as you build in different routes for handling that basket.”
Mr Ben Soussia advised that the key components for any vessel digitalisation strategy must be reliable back-up systems and cyber-security. “Yes you can have big data on a vessel and everything in the cloud but you have to secure the connection to deliver as close as possible to maximum connectivity,” he said. “There is no such thing as 100% in the world of technology. You need to aim for several systems which can deliver 99.99%.
“Smart boxes can deliver great advantages in terms of managing vessel data, overseeing vessel operating systems and providing onboard connectivity. However, you must maintain that connectivity. In an office, when the internet goes down staff can switch to things like 4G phone systems. On a vessel at sea this is not an option – the connectivity must be maintained and core systems prioritised.
“The solution is to have two or three connections, customized applications and access policies in place for each connection,” he explained. “Ka and Ku band offer high speed connectivity but are less resilient than L-Band, which has limited speed. With a combination of the two systems you can achieve close to 100% connectivity.”
IEC Telecom’s OneGate solution is a good example of smart box connectivity which has the flexibility to switch from high speed to lower speed connectivity as needed, maintaining core processes and restricting non-essential traffic as required. OneGate also has built-in cyber security, enhanced by IEC Telecom’s own network protection, to prevent and mitigate any cyber attacks.
Mr Ben Soussia said: “We have worked closely with partners such as Thuraya to develop secure and reliable systems which provide high specification connectivity to meet individual vessel needs. Reliable, high speed connectivity for digitalised vessels is not something for tomorrow’s ships – the technology exists today and owners and managers who embrace it now are giving themselves a competitive advantage.”
IEC Telecom is joined at Nor-Shipping by Thuraya Telecommunications which will showcase its latest VSAT+ solution to the maritime sector. With its quasi global coverage, Thuraya’s Ku network is now available on all major maritime routes including Nordic shipping lanes. The service is scalable to meet global and regional needs for essential communications such as voice calls, email and position reporting, and for high-bandwidth requirements such as training, publications, condition-based maintenance, enterprise resource planning and content for crew welfare.
Nadeem Khan, Director of Maritime M2M & IoT at Thuraya, said: “Digitalization is not a fad – it represents a fundamental shift in how the sector does business. As demand for data increases exponentially, satellite communication is the only realistic option for ship-to-shore and inter-ship communication. That is why we designed VSAT+ to offer optimum flexibility and affordability. We believe it can help deliver significant savings for fleet operators – perhaps as much as 20-40% of operating costs through intelligent fleet management.”