Inmarsat marks a Fleet Xpress milestone and launches a data academy

Written by Nick Blenkey
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Ronald Spithout, President, Inmarsat Maritime: “Maritime digitalization is now unstoppable.”

In yet another sign of shipping’s insatiable appetite for data, Inmarsat has completed the 10,000th ship installation of its Fleet Xpress maritime broadband solution. Simultaneously it has launched a new “Fleet Data Academy,” with existing partners, shipowners and operators to enable them to both understand fully and adopt the rapidly growing range of digital applications that are making the maritime industry safer, greener and more efficient.

Fleet Xpress clients now include leading containership and tanker owners, such as MOL, K-Line and Hapag-Lloyd, offshore support giants like Tidewater, Bourbon, and Maersk Supply, as well as growing numbers of yachts, passenger ships and fishing boats.

DAILY DOWNLOAD RATES DOUBLE

Strong customer growth has seen Inmarsat report average daily download rates per vessel of around 8GB as of December 2020. This compares to less than 4 GB at the mid-year point of 2020.

“The Fleet Xpress service continues to provide shipping’s gold standard for seamless, mobile broadband” says Ronald Spithout, President, Inmarsat Maritime.”We are now entering a ‘Fleet Xpress 2.0’ era as it moves way beyond a connectivity pipe, and becomes a true digital platform with our Fleet Data service now integrated as part of Fleet Xpress with the basic level of Fleet Data free of charge. This allows access to an ecosystem of applications and value-added services available on demand,”

Inmarsat will also launch a series of incentives over the coming weeks to celebrate the significant milestone.

The 10,000 ship installation landmark was reached during the same month as Inmarsat’s most powerful satellite to date, GX5, entered service, providing additional capability to maritime customers of Fleet Xpress in Europe and the Middle East, and delivers approximately double the combined capacity of the entire existing GX fleet (GX1-GX4).

MARITIME DIGITALIZATION “NOW UNSTOPPABLE”

“COVID-19 has brought a major spike in data demand for crew connectivity and our Fleet Hotspot wi-fi solution has gained exceptional traction, but the arrival of Fleet Data as maritime’s first secure and scalable Internet of Things platform has also been pivotal,” says Spithout. “Using cloud-based data storage and interfacing easily with decision-making software, this has moved Fleet Xpress to a ‘2.0’ solution. This also delivers fully on the promise of smart shipping, fully-scalable for vessel operators, making maritime accessible for start-up application providers just as it is for established corporates.”

A “Digitalization Uncovered”’ survey of 370 ship owners commissioned by Inmarsat at the end of 2020 saw 71% of respondents citing cost reduction and operational efficiencies as a top three driver for digitalization, while compliance featured as a top three concern for 60%. Moves by classification societies to support remote surveys, wider adoption of telemedicine and shipyards building in smart capability to newbuildings have also been transformative.

“Maritime digitalization is now unstoppable,” says Spithout. “The market is becoming mature enough to support its own digital ecosystem with separate bandwidth channels for crew, applications and operations. Our recent experience in offering Fleet Data as integral to Fleet Xpress at no additional cost suggests that, once owners get a taste of what is on offer, they quickly recognize its value and the benefits of using our ecosystem of partners. In the coming months we will continue this in partnership with our wholesale and retail partners.”

Inmarsat’s “Trade 2.0” research, released in 2019, suggested that start-ups could account for around 40% of the market for new applications developed to support ship safety, efficiency, security and environmental performance in the years ahead. This groundswell of solution providers is verified by the fact that 44% of the 35 companies currently signed up with Inmarsat’s Certified Application Provider (CAP) program are either qualified start-ups or scale-up companies with strong product expertise.

“We continue to help innovators, through our support for the Rainmaking and Bluetech start-up initiatives, by establishing this ‘Fleet Data Academy’ for our CAP partners, and also through the recent Open Innovation Challenge for start-ups ran in conjunction with Shell Shipping and Maritime and Thetius,” says Spithout. In the last case, Fleet Xpress is providing the connectivity so that the winner – Canary Sentinel-Workrest – can complete proof of concept on a working tanker in the weeks ahead.

Inmarsat’s fully-funded technology roadmap sees a further seven satellite launches over the next four years, with two in highly elliptical orbit to deliver the world’s only commercial Arctic mobile broadband service.

“We believe that reliable, seamless connectivity with a platform such as Fleet Xpress is now more vital than ever and will play a crucial role in the accelerated adoption of digital technology as the world emerges from Covid-19,” says Spithout. “Our partners and customers can confidently invest in long-term, transformational global digitalization.”

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