The maritime industry is quietly undergoing its own digital transformation. Digitisation is an important investment for any modern fleet, benefiting customer, company and crew. With systems such as the Maritime Connect Solution from Orange Business Services now available the dream of a ship becoming a fully connected ‘office at sea’ can finally become a reality – even in challenging weather conditions.
Dubai-based Topaz Energy and Marine has signed an agreement with Orange Business Services for a Maritime Connect solution that connects its fleet at sea and supports the corporate network.
Topaz is a leading offshore support vessel company for the global energy industry. The Orange integrated communications platform increases the efficiency of the fleet, lowers cost and improves the onboard experience of the crew.
Under a three-year agreement Orange is initially connecting 39 vessels from the Topaz fleet, and by the end of 2018, Orange will roll out Maritime Connect across the entire fleet of more than 110 vessels.
The Orange Maritime Connect platform incorporates multiple connections including VSAT, L-Band terminals, 3G/4G and Wi-Fi. It routes traffic depending on the availability of the link and with the appropriate quality of service. This allows Topaz to integrate its fleet into the corporate network as ‘offices at sea’ and rollout business-critical applications.
A key application for Topaz is fleet management, which manages ships at sea and provides invaluable business intelligence. This includes dashboards that can detect vessels deviating from the average standard in terms of fuel consumption, speed or maintenance issues, for example.
Maritime Connect also delivers innovative maritime bandwidth management and optimisation features. It manages voice, video and data in limited bandwidth and challenging weather conditions and prevents cyberattacks thanks to an integrated suite of security features.
Orange is uniquely able to support maritime digital transformation by combining many different technologies and networks – both onshore and offshore – with end-to-end integration and in-house satellite connectivity. Shipping companies, IT managers, captains and the crew can control access to data and voice services on board vessels or remotely from the shore.
Luc Serviant, vice president, Middle East and Africa at Orange Business Services, said: “Today Orange is working across all sectors to help enterprises to respond to the demands of digital transformation. Historically in the maritime sector, limited connectivity and the need for multiple communications providers has meant the exclusion of fleets from the centralised business processes, ultimately resulting in reduced productivity. With Maritime Connect, Topaz can integrate its ships with the shore and is able to transform them into branch offices at sea.”
René Kofod-Olsen, Chief Executive Officer, Topaz, said: “The maritime industry is undergoing its own digital transformation, from digital ports to vessel management. We operate in a unique context spanning ship to shore operations, with the majority of our people based offshore. By enhancing the communications capabilities of our vessels, we are able to synchronise and manage our integrated business operations more effectively and ensure our crew can easily access the Internet for all their business communication needs, as well as connecting them to family and friends and transforming the onboard experience.”
Intelligent CIO spoke to Kris Vedat, Head of IT for Topaz, to find out more about the solution.
- How does the platform increase the efficiency of the fleet?
Digitisation is an important investment for any modern fleet, benefitting customer, company and crew. It removes the need for many manual processes making the crew more efficient and allowing better visibility for the shore staff for planned maintenance activities, fuel consumption, average speeds etc. Digitisation gives us the ability to collect and then process data in real time and having access to this information enables us to be more proactive in our approach to planned and preventative maintenance and allows us to identify potential problems, such as an equipment malfunction, in real time too.
- How does it lower costs?
Fuel consumption and vessel downtime will be positively impacted. For example, we will be able to optimise vessel routing and speed as well as identifying abnormal fuel consumption in real time.
- How does it improve the onboard experience of the crew?
The welfare of our crew is imperative and this platform will allow them to more easily stay in touch with friends and family via instant messages and video call technology such as Skype, and with the outside world in general through better internet availability and the ability to update media archives onboard, replicating an airline-style media system.
- How well does the concept of the ships being ‘offices at sea’ work in practice?
All our vessels are treated as a branch office with the same access to company systems as onshore staff. All our core systems are hosted in the Microsoft Azure cloud environment which gives the vessels access via cloud computing.
- What information does the platform deliver about an individual ship’s performance and how useful is this?
The vessels’ planned maintenance and fuel monitoring systems provide data on fuel consumed and maintenance data. In addition, if we take the automatic identification system data we can track average speed and the vessel’s exact position against weather conditions (wind speed, waves) etc. This data allows us to plot the performance of our vessel and identify trends which could help us to chart a safer, more efficient course from A to Z, helping to maintain hull and cargo integrity and to develop greater fuel efficiencies and thus, further cost savings.
- What are the benefits of the platform’s security features?
Topaz takes cyber security very seriously, treating a vessel as an office and ensuring the same protection is applied, such as anti-virus agents deployed on all PCs and firewall deployment. This is one of the reasons why the Maritime Connect Solution was selected, as it provides an all-in-one managed solution with firewall, port monitoring and access control, removing the need for additional solutions to be deployed.
- Does the platform’s high level of connectivity mean ships are always contactable even in bad weather?
The system allows auto switch off the satellite beam (V-Sat); although adverse weather conditions will still have an impact on the quality of the communication, the system will search for a stronger V-Sat signal in the event of interference.