Satellite communications providers are preparing for the time when offshore support vessels return to service and markets improve
When offshore support vessel (OSV) markets begin to recover, providers of satellite communications will be ready to rapidly expand their solutions. Owners bringing vessels out of layup will be able to increase their broadband capacities to deliver more for their clients.
Vessel operators will need extra broadband for crew and client communications, access to online services, data transmissions from ship to shore, remote system monitoring and video streaming, said ITC Global chief executive Ian Dawkins. He told OSJ that video streaming will be one of the most important and broadband-hungry requirements of VSAT capacity.
“We have seen demand for remote video streaming to support subsea monitoring,” he explained. “Being able to deploy these services quickly and effectively to deliver 24/7 live video is going to be key.”
Remote system monitoring is also a key reason for vessel operators to use ITC Global VSAT. Mr Dawkins thinks there are many benefits that come from these applications. “When equipment is linked for remote monitoring in real time, then vessel owners can optimise maintenance, reduce expensive downtime and handle upkeep and support before equipment failure,” he explained.
Vessel operators can monitor key parameters and investigate issues that are identified, for example, “vibration alerts can indicate issues with equipment performance and provide an early warning of failures”. They can also analyse performance trends and the ability of crew to operate vessels effectively. “Data can be fed back to shore managers to reduce the risk of costly incidents and can also be used for training,” Mr Dawkins said.
ITC Global, which is a subsidiary of Panasonic, is preparing for higher bandwidth requirements by taking capacity on the new generation of high-throughput satellites and preparing to introduce the Newtec satellite modem platform.
Marlink is also preparing for a recovery in offshore communications needs by upgrading its C-band packages, which are popular on seismic survey ships, accommodation units and subsea construction vessels. It has introduced new prices and service plans to Sealink C-band services that make it easier for vessel operators to integrate this technology with future high-throughput Ka-band and Ku-band VSAT.
The majority of VSAT services that Marlink offers in Ku-band and C-band coverage comes from Intelsat and SES satellites. A Marlink spokesperson said the relaunch of C-band does not include new hardware or dual-band antennas, so vessel operators can use their existing hardware, including 2 m antennas, for the upgrade in service.
Satellite operators are also prepared for an upswing in broadband demand. Intelsat is commissioning its fifth unit of the EpicNG constellation, which includes high-throughput Ka-band and C-band spot beams. The latest of these was launched by Arianespace’s Ariane 5 rocket on 29 September to bring more capacity to key offshore regions of West Africa, Brazil and the Mediterranean. SES revealed its investment plans for a new generation of medium Earth orbit satellites to deliver more Ka-band coverage in these regions to augment existing coverage from 2021.
OSV operators are upgrading fleet VSAT ready for an upturn in the market. Topaz Energy and Marine is integrating its vessels’ IT and onshore operations with a new hybrid communications platform. Under a three-year deal, a fleet of up to 110 vessels will be connected with Orange Business Services’ Maritime Connect solution, which includes VSAT, L-band backup, onboard wifi and links to coastal cellular networks.
Topaz Energy and Marine chief executive René Kofod-Olsen told OSJ that it has the right platform in place for further digitalisation of fleet operations. “Now we have captains and chief executives using this platform, and it is really working as we deliver on our technology adoption,” he explained.
Seacor Marine is installing VSAT and a back-up L-band service on a fleet of 30 vessels that operate in the North Sea and off West Africa. Also in West Africa, Total Exploration & Production is using satellite communications and Opsealog’s software to improve fuel efficiency for a fleet of 15 vessels.