Peter Broadhurst, the Maritime Senior Vice President of Safety, Security, Yachting and Passenger, at Inmarsat, the global lead in mobile satellite communications, talks to SuperYacht Times about the success of Fleet Xpress and what it means for internet connectivity aboard your superyacht. Inmarsat have recently installed Fleet Xpress in their 10,000th vessel. This is a huge milestone, can you tell me a little more what Fleet Xpress is and why clients are investing in it?
We are living in an unprecedented era of growth in internet connectivity in yachting, with the convergence of several powerful factors driving increased demand for high-speed broadband services via satellite. Superyacht professionals have high expectations of accessing the same level of bandwidth and range of applications they enjoy at home, often alongside aspirations to sail anywhere and everywhere with constant connectivity to facilitate onboard operations, safety, cyber security, work, contact with friends and family, and entertainment. We are also seeing significant improvements in satellite technology alongside the expansion in onboard digitalisation. COVID-19 has accelerated the increase in up-take of remote connectivity, as people look to work on board and more yachts go off the beaten track. Meanwhile, Brexit, and an increase in cyber threats, brings further challenges affecting operations, owners’ security and crew welfare. For both issues, an always-on internet connection and the support of value-added services is invaluable. Continually adapting to meet the requirements of the superyacht industry, Inmarsat is uniquely placed to be the trusted partner that is needed to answer current and future demand and create a more content, more efficient and safer superyacht. This is why increasing numbers of vessels are discovering that our Fleet Xpress service, which is specifically designed for global maritime coverage, is the best solution. It ensures reliable, global satellite connectivity to improve crew welfare and morale, to optimise operations, and to enhance owner and guest experience, even in the most remote regions such as Galapagos, Polynesia and the polar latitudes.
Inmarsat is the only operator able to guarantee service levels globally by owning and managing the whole network from end to end. We are also the only satellite operator to operate in both L-band and Ka-band, with 100 percent control over cyber security. As the world’s fastest growing VSAT service, Fleet Xpress for superyachts is a complete solution, not just a bandwidth, delivering high data speeds via Inmarsat’s Global Xpress (GX) Ka-band service, combined with the proven reliability of Inmarsat’s FleetBroadband (FB) L-band service.Superyachts with Fleet Xpress installed experience the advantages of global mobile coverage, guaranteed service levels, flexible rate plans with no bill shock, and unlimited and free back up. It incorporates a range of benefits including affordable voice calls, multiple voice options for crew and operations, and high-speed broadband for internet access, plus 24/7 online support by certified engineers. There are further benefits such as the new managed Wi-Fi solution Fleet Hotspot - a crew and passenger Wi-Fi portal providing easy access to the internet on their own devices - plus our multi-layered cyber defence solution Fleet Secure Portfolio, and Fleet Data, the maritime industry’s first secure IoT platform.
There are also advantages for vessel performance and aesthetics. Owners with Fleet Xpress can upgrade antennas - losing the big, heavy, legacy hardware to fit modern, lightweight and high performing antennas. Switching antennas significantly reduces yacht weight, by as much as 240kg in some cases, and the smaller 60cm ka-band antennas also minimises potential line of sight blockages.
We are seeing there is an increasing concern for cybersecurity, did you see a spike in sales during the Covid-19 pandemic?
Over the past year, we have seen an increase in demand for satellite connectivity across our entire maritime business. For example, the average vessel using our high-speed service (including superyachts) increased its daily download data from 4GB to 6GB in the space of the three months from April to June 2020 driven by crew usage and the increased use of digital applications. There is no doubt the pandemic accentuated the critical importance of a stable communications partner that can guarantee a reliable and resilient connection that captains, crew and guests can trust at all times.To help superyacht captains and crew maintain a secure system core on board, Inmarsat has developed its Fleet Secure Portfolio to provide a comprehensive cyber defence solution and provide a greater sense of control and awareness over their environment. It consists of Fleet Secure Endpoint, a powerful multi-layered endpoint security solution to prevent attacks whilst removing infections and threats throughout the onboard endpoints, and Fleet Secure Cyber Awareness, cyber security training specifically targeted for seafarers, raising awareness to assist in preventing threats before they get on board.
The Inmarsat solution ensures alignment to new International Maritime Organisation regulations which require larger superyachts, those over 500 GT and those with more than 12 passengers, to incorporate cyber risk management into their safety management systems from 1 January 2021.
We have been working closely with superyacht industry professionals for the last few years to raise awareness about the risk of cyber-attacks and offer them robust and accessible options to help them maintain a secure system core on-board. In December 2020, the company published a free of charge report, Cyber Security Requirements for IMO 2021, providing insights into Inmarsat’s experience of real cyber-attacks on vessels and offering guidance to the criteria for compliance. How has Fleet Xpress impacted the different elements of the industry, not just the owners seeing the benefits, but also the crew who work on board superyachts?
The global connectivity provided by Fleet Xpress can be used for operational purposes, for owner and guest use, and for crew use. Yachts can use remote internet access to receive and exchange essential reports including weather forecasting and routing, navigation chart updates, news updates and risk and hazard reports, plus the complete range of regulatory and compliance reports. Data traffic from yacht to shore can also include sensors and monitoring of engines, stabilisation systems, fuel consumption and emissions, plus access to onboard security and CCTV systems.Owners and guests can enjoy a similar internet experience to home, covering a range of streaming services such as Netflix, Prime and Spotify, internet access and social media updates. Alongside entertainment uses, the modern remote internet connection enables the yacht to function as a mobile office with full access to VPN services, voice, video and email.
It is increasingly accepted that good, reliable, onboard connectivity is essential for crew welfare and morale. Crew use of remote internet includes all of the applications you might expect to enable crew members to stay in touch with family and friends, to manage their personal and business lives whilst at sea and to keep up to date with news, messaging and social media. In the near future, owners will be able to automate key systems and so reduce the number and cost of technical personnel. This will greatly improve efficiency, but success relies on having a completely integrated system with remote monitoring, with everything onboard interconnecting, and in a way that is fully compatible and keeps the system secure from hacking. Inmarsat has plans in the coming years for increased coverage and expansion to more remote regions, how are you planning to facilitate this?
There is an increasing trend for yachts to travel to even more remote destinations and a continuing growth in the number of explorer yachts – both new builds and conversions. These factors are driving demand for remote internet access in the most extreme locations.
Inmarsat is meeting the demand by launching seven new satellites by 2025, which will expand its satellite network capacity by orders of magnitude and extend high speed broadband services via satellite across the Arctic for the first time ever. Inmarsat’s most recent GX satellite, introduced in 2020, offers more capacity in a single satellite than the existing network (four satellites). Furthermore, Inmarsat’s network uses spot beam technology which operates via multiple high performance beams that overlap and deliver constant signal strength across the beams. This ensures no degradation of signal strength across the coverage of the satellite. Yachts on the move pass beam-to-beam completely seamlessly. Advances in launch vehicle and satellite design have enabled satellites to be designed and launched more quickly and more cost-effectively than before, which is enabling us to meet the growing demand for remote internet connectivity globally.
For more information, and to find out how Inmarsat can assist you, contact them at:
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