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Worth the Cost
by The Maritime Executive
Friday, January 04, 2019

[By Charlie Bartlett]

For many decades, shipping arranged all its operations to rely on little or no connectivity. Performance was measured by noon reports. The crew, virtually cut off from shore, were lucky to get pay-per-minute calls over sat-phones.

But today’s youngest ratings grew up in a world with omnipresent broadband Internet. Family and friends are only a WhatsApp message or Skype call away. To sever this connection as soon as one steps onto a ship is not just a recruitment disaster. It can have mental health ramifications as well.

Even film and TV apps are coming to be considered a basic proposition at sea. Tore Morten Olsen, president of Marlink Maritime, believes this manifesto can be distilled to a definitive number. “To be considered a serious player in the merchant sector,” he says, “256kbs per person is really the bare minimum of capacity.”

Crew welfare is unquestionably the biggest driver for increased data availability. In connecting with their families, crew use considerably more data than any shipboard process. Satcom providers agree this need will increase in lockstep with land connectivity. Put simply, Olsen says, “They will never have enough.”

Connectivity and Morale

It might come as a surprise that even the apocryphal curmudgeons of maritime are willing to provide crew with decent Internet. But experts point to a growing understanding of seafarers’ needs. Outside the U.S., crews are small and multinational. European owners often pair Filipino ratings with East-European officers, for example, making it difficult for comradeship to form. Small crews and shift patterns further limit social interaction between crewmates. In this context, connectivity with their own communities ashore can be a lifeline.

“We are noticing a definite shift from the opinion that access to communications can disrupt or distract from work at sea,” says Alex Stewart, COO of Satcom Global. “Ship operators are becoming more accepting of when and how crew communicate at sea. For example, with the increase of BYOD (“Bring Your Own Device”) access we are seeing much more use of chat platforms such as WhatsApp and Viber, which were traditionally restricted.”

He adds that “Recent research has shown that access to reliable communications positively contributes to the mental well-being of crew, operational efficiency and safety at sea. We do still find, however, that ship managers and owners want to be able to control certain aspects of crew communications on board.”

Satcom Global’s Aura VSAT portfolio is designed to do just that: “With Aura, we consult with customers on network requirements and onboard Wi-Fi set-up as well as provide online tools to manage the service,” says Stewart. Our IPSignature 4 platform, a key component of Aura, allows shore-based users to manage both quality of service and the wider bandwidth allocation and to implement crew network setup on either a company, vessel or individual level – allocating crew data, setting access permissions, whitelisting and blacklisting.”

Particularly for millennials, a jarring disparity between the connectivity they have grown up with and minimal connectivity aboard ship can be particularly isolating. “One of the first three questions a seafarer asks is, ‘What’s the Internet like?’” says Mark Woodhead, Senior Vice President of Training & Content at satcom provider KVH.

“On large fleets, rolling out VSAT takes time,” he adds. “Crew will sign longer contracts so they can stay on a vessel with broadband and will clamor to get onto the vessels that have connectivity. Owners and operators are already making the decision that having the best crew and keeping them happy is worth the cost.”

Connecting to the Internet of Things

While crew welfare is the greatest driver for satcom by order of magnitude, it’s not the only one. Shipowners are realizing major cost-savings from Internet of Things (IoT) technology. Today, that technology monitors a wide range of operating parameters using feeds of shipboard data. But tomorrow it will squeeze better performance from individual machines and systems by optimizing how they work together.

“Many companies are getting Internet on board primarily for their crew and then using it for operations – rather than it being driven the other way around,” says Woodhead. “Some charge crew by the megabyte, getting them to fund it, but many fund it themselves.”

In contrast with crew welfare, IoT data has a minimal footprint – 64kbs, Marlink’s Olsen estimates, assuming 6,000 sensors on board – and is therefore less costly. “In a [land-based] data package there is quite a lot of information transferred simply because you have unlimited bandwidth – indeed, most software is developed that way,” he says. “So it has headers and endings and so on.”

Marlink’s XChange Cloud service, on the other hand, tweaks data to minimize bandwidth use. “Using XChange Cloud, we optimize throughput so that only that data that contains the information is transmitted, removing the routing and so on,” Olsen explains. “That makes bandwidth significantly lower than if you were just putting everything straight into the cloud.”

More must be done for IoT to meet its true potential, however, and Inmarsat – operator of the geostationary Global Xpress Ka-band satellite network – teamed up this year with Danelec Marine, which manufactures voyage data recorder (VDR) systems, to offer one such solution. VDRs, shipping’s “black box,” record data points from various ship systems for potential recovery after an accident or from a sunken vessel. But Danelec wants more from VDR systems. As a centralized data-collection platform, it could be put to better use.

In perhaps the ultimate example, Danelec and Inmarsat have jointly created Fleet Data. VDR data is pre-processed and uploaded to a cloud-based database. When accessed from the owner’s side, this database features a dashboard and Application Process Interface (API).

“Each vessel is different,” explains Danelec’s CEO, Hans Ottosen. “In aviation, you have a series of planes which are all the same. But on ships you have different equipment from different manufacturers with different communication protocols and standards. That makes IoT difficult.”

Using the VDR, however, takes much of the guesswork out of corralling data from disparate shipboard systems – or, more technically, the IoT. “Fleet Data will overcome key difficulties of aggregating vessel data onboard and getting it efficiently ashore,” says Inmarsat’s Business Development Vice President, Stefano Poli. “Ship operators and managers can access, control and exploit their own data or make that data available to third-party applications, as required, via a secure platform that is fully scalable and fleet-wide.”

Redressing the Balance

Meeanwhile, KVH is pioneering Agile Plans, a connectivity-as-a-service platform offering Ku-band connectivity with L-band backup and no commitment or capex. “KVH is an end-to-end satcom supplier,” says Woodhead. “We manufacture our own equipment, manage our own network, install, support and deliver airtime. Agile Plans covers these in a single-entry monthly fee. At any point, you can send it back and stop paying for it.”

Woodhead emphasizes the return on investment from satcom services: “The tipping point price-wise was only reached a few years ago, but connectivity is quickly shifting from a service to a utility. The cost is miniscule – triple figures, maybe 1-2 percent of vessel opex. We delivered more services in the first half of this year than in the whole of 2017, and of course we’re not the only game in town.”

He adds that “The majority of data supports crew welfare. But in the future that will change. The crew welfare side will only grow. But the operational side will too, and quickly. I wouldn’t want to speculate it will reach 50-50, but it could be very close.” – MarEx

Charlie Bartlett is a freelance journalist covering developments in the merchant marine and offshore sectors. This is his first appearance in the magazine.

Iran to Send Warships to the Atlantic, Closer to U.S. Waters
by Reuters
Friday, January 04, 2019
LONDON, Jan 4 (Reuters) – The Iranian navy will send warships to deploy in the Atlantic from March, a top commander said on Friday, as the Islamic Republic seeks to increase the operating range of its naval forces to the backyard of the United States, its arch foe. Iran sees the presence of U.S. aircraft […]

Norwegian Newcomer Loses $12M Betting on IMO2020 Bunker Fuel Prices
by Ship Bunker
Friday, January 04, 2019

Pharma firm diversified into energy trading last year.

Salvage Work Resumes for the Wreck of the Helge Ingstad
by The Maritime Executive
Friday, January 04, 2019

The work to salvage the sunken Norwegian frigate Helge Ingstad is proceeding slowly, hampered by foul weather and further shifting of her hull. 

The Ingstad collided with a tanker off the Sture oil terminal on November 8. Despite attempts to keep her afloat, she ultimately sank on a rocky, sloping seabed near shore, and salvors have rigged a series of steel cables to prevent her from sliding deeper into the water. One of these wires parted in a storm over New Years, and the rock in which some of the shoreside anchors are set has shown signs of cracking. The Ingstad shifted about 30 centimeters and settled lower during the storm. 

The salvage team had hoped to complete the raising and transport of the Ingstad's wreck in December, but that timeline has been pushed back. The goal is now to finish the scope of work by the end of January. The time needed for any possible restoration of the Ingstad depends upon her condition after the raising, according to the Norwegian Navy, but even if it is undertaken, the service says it will be "years" before she sails again. 

The next step in the salvage project is to pass lifting chains underneath the frigate's hull so that she can be hoisted by a floating shearlegs. Dive operations in support of the refloat attempt have resumed, and the crane ship Rambiz is returning to the scene from another job in order to complete the evolution. Wind and weather conditions must be optimal in order to successfully carry out the raising, according to the Norwegian Navy. 

Debate over fault

A preliminary report from Norway's Accident Investigation Board found that a significant share of the fault for the collision lay with the Ingstad's bridge team, which believed that the oncoming tanker was a fixed object. 

In the early hours of November 8, 2018, the Helge Ingstad was inbound along the Hjeltefjorden on the approaches to Bergen. She was nearing the Sture oil terminal, where the Aframax tanker Sola TS was preparing to depart. The watch on the Ingstad changed at 0345, and the incoming watch believed that the Sola TS' decklights were part of the well-lit terminal. 

At 0345, Sola TS departed the pier headed outbound, with her deck lights still on. At 0357, the pilot aboard Sola TS detected the Ingstad's radar signature, making 17 knots on a head-on course. Sola TS asked the VTS operator for the warship's identity and made a 10 degree course change to starboard. 

At 0400, Fedje VTS informed Sola TS that the target could be the Helge Ingstad. The Sola's pilot then called the Ingstad and requested that she turn to starboard immediately. The vessels closed, and at the last minute, Helge Ingstad turned to port as Sola TS turned to starboard. Sola TS struck Ingstad on the starboard side, opening a long gash in the Ingstad's hull and flooding three compartments. The tanker, which was 28 times heavier than the Ingstad by displacement, suffered minimal damage. 

Eivind Sanden Vågslid, the former deputy director of the Norwegian Maritime Directorate, has sharply criticized AIBN's initial report as an "embarrassing affair." In particular, Vågslid called on AIBN to lay more emphasis on the Ingstad's lack of situational awareness and her decision to turn to port at the final moment - an action that is strongly discouraged under COLREGS and may have maximized the extent of the damage. Instead of turning to starboard and taking a glancing blow port-to-port, Ingstad turned across the Sola TS' bow, negating the tanker's evasive maneuver and taking the force of the impact side-on. 

"The AIBN's preliminary report on the frigate collision in Hjeltefjorden . . . has a number of weaknesses and cannot stand unchallenged," Vågslid wrote in an op-ed for NRK. "The fact that the AIBN's report and safety recommendation attaches great importance to the tanker's deck light and backlighting, while the frigate's total lack of situational awareness and negligent navigation must be read between the lines, is nothing but 'whitewashing.' What is served is very thin soup, and must give an embarrassing taste to the AIBN's dedicated professionals."

Hapag-Lloyd Containership On Fire Off East Coast of Canada
by Mike Schuler
Friday, January 04, 2019
A fire has broke out aboard a Hapag-Lloyd containership in the Atlantic Ocean off the east coast of Canada. In a statement posted to its website, Hapag-Lloyd said fire started January 3 in one container on the deck of the Yantian Express and has spread to additional containers. Efforts to extinguish the fire in the […]

Dutch Authorities Demand Clean-Up Costs from MSC Over Lost Containers
by Reuters
Friday, January 04, 2019
By Anthony Deutsch AMSTERDAM, Jan 4 (Reuters) – Dutch authorities will hold Swiss shipping line MSC liable for the cost of cleaning up debris from more than 270 cargo containers that fell off one of its vessels and washed up on shore, officials said on Friday. The Dutch coastguard said a criminal investigation had been […]

U.S. Navy Opts for Block Buy for Two Ford-Class Carriers
by The Maritime Executive
Friday, January 04, 2019

On New Years' Eve, the Pentagon finalized plans to buy the third and fourth Ford-class aircraft carriers at one time in a money-saving "block buy" deal. The arrangement will save the Navy an estimated $2.5 billion to $4 billion dollars, and it will provide continuity for shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls, along with its workforce and its suppliers. 

Congress has already appropriated the necessary funds, and it left the decision whether to acquire the two vessels at once to the Defense Department's leadership. The contracting process is expected to be completed by the end of this month.  

The first vessel, USS Gerald R. Ford, is currently undergoing a post-shakedown availabilty at HII's Newport News yard after completing its sea trials. The second, the USS John F. Kennedy, is currently under construction and about half completed. The block buy would pay for the third, the future USS Enterprise, and the fourth, the as-yet-unnamed CVN-81. 

Cost control is a key objective for the Ford-class program, which suffered significant budget overruns and delays on the first vessel. At $13 billion in construction costs, not including $5 billion for R&D, the USS Ford is the most expensive self-propelled ship ever built. Only the permanently moored Prelude FLNG platform, which has an estimated cost in the range of $12-14 billion, may exceed the Ford's price as the most expensive vessel of any kind. 

The Navy and HII say that Ford's cost overruns and delays were due in part to first-in-class issues, like most cutting-edge warship programs. The Ford suffered a series of bearing failures and propulsion failures during testing and sea trials, which forced costly repairs, and her aircraft launch and recovery systems required extensive troubleshooting to improve reliability. In addition, her bomb-carrying weapons elevators experienced several instances of "uncommanded movements" during early testing, and the mission-critical devices will not be fully constructed and certified until next summer. 

Congress has mandated a cost cap of $11.4 billion for USS Kennedy, and the Government Accountability Office has warned that this target will be difficult to achieve. HII's CEO, Michael Petters, has said that a block buy is the single largest potential source of savings for the remaining ships in the class.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Virginia), whose constituency includes Newport News, celebrated the announcement of the block buy agreement. "Newport News builds the finest carriers in the world, and I know they are ready to handle this increase in work as we make progress toward the Navy’s goal of a 355-ship fleet,” he said in a statement. 

HMS Montrose Aids the Fight Against Ocean Plastic
by The Maritime Executive
Friday, January 04, 2019

For two days in December, the Type 23 frigate HMS Montrose aided the fight against ocean plastics by recording litter levels on the beaches of four Pacific islands - including Pitcairn, the final resting place of the HMS Bounty.

The Pitcairn Islands – Pitcairn, Dulcie, Oneo and Henderson – are British Overseas Territories, and they are protected against illegal fishing and pollution. However, Pacific currents dump masses of plastic debris on their shorelines – especially on Henderson Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which has been dubbed "the most polluted island in the world." Upwards of 40 million pieces of plastic and other waste have been washed ashore on this small, uninhabited island, and the ocean deposits about 270 more objects on its beaches every day.

Much of that debris was captured on camera by HMS Montrose's Leading Photographer Joe Cater, whose reconnaissance imagery will be used by conservationists who are planning a clean-up operation later this year.

Pitcairn (population 52) is the only one of the four islands where human life can be found. Most of its inhabitants are descended from the mutineers who took charge of the Bounty and scuttled the ship here in 1790.

Nearly 230 years later, HMS Montrose anchored in the same spot, Bounty Bay, giving around 100 sailors and Royal Marines the opportunity to go ashore in long boats crewed by islanders. The Royal Navy had not called at Pitcairn since 2000, when Montrose’s sister ship HMS Sutherland visited during a world tour.

After tea at the residence of Pitcairn’s administrator, Nick Kennedy, with Mayor Shawn Christian – a direct descendant of lead mutineer Fletcher Christian – Montrose’s Commanding Officer was given a tour of the island, which is roughly as big as Swindon.

"This was a very special visit – one that all of us enjoyed. Rich in history and beauty the island and islanders have certainly made an impact on the ship’s company," said Commander Conor O’Neill, Montrose’s Commanding Officer.

Some Bunker Suppliers Yet to Make the Changes Needed to Get Them Through IMO 2020 Unscathed
by Ship Bunker
Friday, January 04, 2019

But Bomin says it's ready for 2020 and already benefitting from its decision to exit ARA and Singapore.

Bourbon Offshore Extends Deal to Defer Debt Repayment
by The Maritime Executive
Friday, January 04, 2019

Bourbon Offshore has renewed an agreement with the majority of its lenders to continue the suspension of payments on its loans and debt. 

In a brief statement, the company said that the arrangement will allow it to focus on its operational priorities and to continue the search for a solution that will bring its finances in line with its performance. "The company remains confident in its ability to find such a solution in an amicable framework," Bourbon said. 

The firm first announced an agreement to defer repayment and stop servicing its debt in July 2018. At the time, the firm did not disclose the total value covered by the agreement, but as of the end of 2017 Bourbon had total borrowings and financial liabilities of about $1.9 billion.

Bourbon has previously warned investors that OSV market conditions remain dire, years after the offshore drilling downturn began. Many of its competitors have gone through bankruptcy proceedings, acquisitions or both in order to shed their debt burdens and gain scale. In December, the head of the Norwegian Shipowners' Association predicted that 2019 will not bring a major turning point for OSV operators. "We're seeing increased activity," said association CEO Harald Solberg, speaking to ShippingWatch. "But for now it's not enough to increase prices. Demand remains too week."

Like many of its competitors, Bourbon's operational restructuring strategy centers on high-grading its fleet and reducing its manning costs, with a high-tech twist. Under a plan dubbed "BourbonInMotion," the firm intends to dispose of more than 40 older OSVs and invest in new high-tech systems for about 130 newer, "smarter" vessels. Through automation upgrades and condition-based maintenance programs, Bourbon hopes to eliminate four crew positions from every "smart" OSV, creating further opex savings.

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WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2829 [post_author] => 1 [post_date] => 2013-03-14 04:31:37 [post_date_gmt] => 2013-03-14 04:31:37 [post_content] =>

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