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Things to consider when choosing ship-to-shore services

Mar 09, 2017

The recent years have seen an ever-increasing use of digital ship-to-shore services in the maritime industry. This development has been enabled by advancements in Internet connectivity at sea driven by demands from onshore ship management as well as onboard crew. Being a rather young field, there are many different, co-existing approaches to meeting these demands.

Benefits of ship-to-shore solutions

Obviously, there are many reasons why you should jump on the wagon and explore how ship-to-shore services can increase operational efficiency and safety. Here are just a few reasons:

  • Decreased maintenance costs thanks to remote diagnostics and trouble-shooting.
  • Decreased workload of already stressed onboard personnel thanks to remote administration and reporting.
  • Easy access to recorded data from the ships for performance analysis.
  • Quick and easy analysis of incidents and accidents without frustrating delays and without handling of any physical storage media.
  • Minimized hazardous effect on crew, passengers, vessel, cargo and environment thanks to quicker insights into accidents and the possibility to take informed decisions at an early stage.
  • Increased safety by remote validation of navigational data in real time.
  • Immediate awareness of critical situations thanks to notifications by email or text messages if certain parameters are exceeded.

Important factors

Despite the many benefits there is still a lack of established standards for remote connectivity and ship-to-shore solutions. In fact, there are quite a few important factors to consider before you choose solution and the partner to provide you with that solution. Invest a few minutes and avoid the risk of wasting time and money on a solution that might not meet your needs.

Accessibility

How easy is it for you as a user to access the solution? Do you have to install various software programs on a dedicated PC or is it simply a matter of starting a web browser on your tablet or smartphone, for example while travelling? Are you relying on the ship to have an always-up, high-bandwidth ship-to-shore Internet connection, or does the solution allow you to be productive even when the ship cannot establish such a connection? Smart solutions allow you to analyze previously transferred data as well as request new data transfers anytime, and deliver requested data from the ship when possible. Typically, solutions that provide you with this kind of preferred accessibility are web-based and run in the cloud.

Scalability

A ship-to-shore solution should be able to grow with your fleet and your demands. Yesterday’s solutions were often made with one or a few ships in mind, and so using them became increasingly difficult as the fleet in general was equipped with the same technology and more resources or adaptions were required. Today’s web-based cloud solutions are built with scalability as one of their cornerstones. This means that nowadays the process of equipping more ships with a certain solution, or adding more resources is as simple as communicating the need to your ship-to-shore solutions partner. A web-based cloud solution can easily be upgraded and expanded with more storage space, more applications or other resources of importance to your organization.

Security

Many of the early solutions for providing access to ship data were based on inefficient remote desktop architectures or were giving users full access to the ship network, with only certain limitations to what damage could be achieved from simple mistakes. First of all, look for a solution that has encrypted data transfer and a two-step login procedure (through additional one-time security codes, in the same way you log in to an online bank account). This ensures that only authorized users have access to sensitive data. Secondly, ask for a solution that gives users access only to the functionality that is necessary in order to complete a certain task. Thirdly, the onboard hardware should be equipped with a Firewall that completely blocks any incoming connection attempts. It should always be the equipment on the ship that establishes ship-to-shore connections. You should never have to accept opening up ports and tunnels in to your sensitive network, even if they are VPN-based.

Cost-efficiency

Ask for a solution that is quick to install and simple to integrate with existing IT infrastructure. Typically, cloud-based solutions are based on well-known and well-tested communication standards and technology, and will provide with a cost-efficient integration. Also, cloud-based solutions means no need for any physical server installations, which further reduces costs. As for data transfers from ship to shore, they should respect the high cost for bandwidth and only be active when data is requested or needed. Furthermore, make sure that the onboard equipment will allow for remote diagnostics, keeping downtime and onboard service visits to a minimum.

Adaptability

Previous software solutions in the maritime industry where often based on software programs that had to be installed on a particular PC. One important characteristic of such PC software is that it is based on rather complex programming languages, meaning that they are expensive and time-consuming to develop for companies. The price for this is payed by the customers. For this reason, ask instead for a web-based cloud solution. Web-based solutions make use of the enormous advancements made the recent years through HTML5 and Javascript, and adaptations and customizations are a lot easier to make in this programming environment. This means that if your organization needs a solution that can easily be adapted to your needs, make sure to ask for a web-based solution.

Summary

Although there are many factors to consider, the possibilities offered by ship-to-shore solutions are well worth pursuing. Staying well-informed is key to your success. Want to know more? Should you have interest in these types of solutions, please contact your nearest Consilium office for advice.