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Horizons article 06 September 2021

Real time arrival for remote surveys

  • Digital transformation
  • Maritime rules and safety
Issue 59

Dedicated ship-to-shore bandwidth is providing real time, interactive capability to ensure that the technology best serves the needs of remote surveyors, explains Ronald Spithout, President, Inmarsat Maritime.

Technology remains the servant of safe, efficient and environmentally responsible shipping and, under normal circumstances, its direct impacts on cost, competitiveness or compliance are the most persuasive ingredients in its appeal.

However, few will contest the fact that COVID-19 has brought challenges for which only digital technologies have found ready answers. A cross-industry McKinsey survey of 900 C-suite executives suggests that the first 3-4 months of pandemic “accelerated the digitisation of their customer and supply-chain interactions and of their internal operations by three to four years”, for example. This had “transformed business forever”, the consultancy said.

Inmarsat has had considerable success in establishing the benefits of maritime broadband, cloud computing and IoT-based ship management since launching Fleet Xpress services in 2016, recently passing the 11,000 ship installation milestone.

However, world events have clearly accelerated demand for ship-shore digital connectivity, as owners and operators have adapted to remote ways of working to cope with restricted vessel access.

For Inmarsat, IoT-based solutions are now driving exceptional increases in data traffic among large and smaller owners alike and, over the last 18 months, one of the keys to satisfying demand has been the rollout of dedicated bandwidth services. Offered as ‘Fleet Connect’, the capability allows the user to access connectivity tailored to their specific needs, independent of business-critical ship operations or crew communications.

Where safety, crew welfare and environmental compliance are concerned, few activities can have as far reaching an impact as the ship survey. We are therefore delighted to have recently announced an agreement with LR to work together on delivering LR Remote services via Inmarsat’s Fleet Connect.

While LR has offered remote survey capability for many years, it is impressive that today, 1 in 3 of the 30,000+ surveys LR performs each year is completed remotely. As the first collaboration between a satellite communications provider and a classification society dedicated to these vital services, we believe our new agreement is truly significant for shipping.

Under the new agreement, LR Remote will be powered by Inmarsat’s Certified Application Provider (CAP) dedicated bandwidth service, Fleet Connect, available on the Fleet Xpress digital platform. This will enhance remote inspection capabilities by allowing mobile devices to livestream video, photos and audio from on board a ship to an LR technical specialist located elsewhere, without interruption.

The solution overcomes connectivity restraints that may have previously limited the adoption of the remote survey as a solution by creating a secure and reliable environment to sustain two-way communication and oversight in real time. The remote surveyor can respond to and probe unexpected discoveries, but also work with crew to quickly navigate problems in the most efficient way. The approach encourages flexibility and means remote surveying potentially becomes a 24/7 business.

Inmarsat is proud to offer LR a solution which requires no additional communication hardware and allows LR Remote to be enabled without any intervention on-site.

We look forward to working with LR to offer the dedicated bandwidth to unlock technology’s true potential to transform compliance and ensure that LR’s vast certification expertise is accessible anywhere it is needed, in what is a vital part of its vision for ‘digital class’.

Lloyd's Register

Lloyd’s Register Foundation: Engineering safety at sea