Operational efficiency outweighs cost reduction when it comes to communications

A survey carried out by Futurenautics on behalf of Intelsat has some interesting results.

Times are tough in shipping, but cost reduction is no longer the main driver for fitting communications systems, according to a major industry survey. Undertaken by providers of specialist shipping intelligence and consultancy Futurenautics Research, on behalf of network operator Intelsat, the survey found that for the first time operational efficiency outweighed cost reduction when it came to choosing a particular system.

“It may seem a surprising finding, but it potentially marks a very important shift in mindset amongst operators as they respond to the challenging market conditions, ” said Roger Adamson, CEO of Futurenautics. “The focus on fitting solutions to reduce cost has developed into an understanding that they can deliver value across the business and drive competitive advantage.”

The survey of ship operators—responsible for almost 4,300 vessels—and over 3,000 serving seafarers also highlighted a significant gap between expectations of crew and the priorities of operators. Crew welfare, so frequently cited in the past as a primary reason for fitting VSAT, was only chosen by 3% of respondents as the most important. “This demonstrates a clear shift away from providing VSAT as a primary means of improving crew welfare and retention and is in stark contrast to the requirements of crew,” warned Adamson. “72% of crew thought that the level of connectivity provided on board was a factor in choosing which ship operator they worked for, and of those, 78% said it was a strong, or very strong influence on which contract they decided to take.”

Providing insight into the range of satellite solutions and applications currently deployed by ship operators and future predicted trends in bandwidth, satellite and applications solutions deployment, one of the key findings of the survey is the significant shift in perception and acceptance of VSAT and High Throughput Satellite (HTS) services by all sectors of the maritime market. VSAT solutions were present in 57% of fleets, making them the second most popular satellite solution fitted, after Inmarsat, and the only solutions exclusively used 100% of the time as the primary data solution on board.

Respondents overwhelmingly thought that VSAT and next generation VSAT solutions like Intelsat’s EPIC and Inmarsat’s GlobalXpress would be the most suitable solution for their fleet’s future data requirements. And those data requirements are set to intensify. Ship operators believe that data traffic will increase by nearly 25% over the next 12 months and by nearly 60% over the next 2-3 years, driven by growth in applications around navigation and IT, as well as engineering, crew training, cyber security and network optimisation solutions.

“To date there has been too little focus on leveraging technology to break the counter-cyclical investment cycle and drive improvements in the way assets are operated and services delivered,” said Adamson. “That is changing, and has to if the industry is to remake itself for the 21st century and connectivity is the backbone and gateway. Not everyone will grasp the opportunity, but for those who do their connectivity investment will be one of the most strategically critical and should deliver some of the highest returns.”

The key survey findings have been published in a free Futurenautics Research White Paper which is available for download here.

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