Inmarsat announced last Thursday the successful trial of Inmarsat's maritime solution Fleet F77 full-featured, high-bandwidth, IP-enabled global satellite system for Hong Kong-based ship management firm Wallem.
Installed on an oil tanker, the Inmarsat system has demonstrated how Wallem can seamlessly integrate shipboard systems with headquarters solutions that control procurement and provisioning of all vessels under management.
The system has also improved the quality of life of the ship's officers and crew, putting them in immediate touch with the outside world and relatives via e-mail and digital news services.
"Wallem was established in China in the 19th century, but we have established a track record of exploiting the technologies of the 20th and 21st century to increase the efficiency of our operations," said Patrick Slesinger, the chief information officer of the Wallem Group.
We have developed pioneering tools - such as the Total Procurement System (TPS) that tracks vessel needs and matches them to the nearest and most cost-effective supplier - that are helping us to lead the way in our industry."
"The big challenge has always been how to link solutions like TPS to vessels at sea. Inmarsat's new Fleet F77, providing the high quality and speed of a full 64 kbps mobile ISDN service and the flexibility of the Inmarsat Mobile Packet Data Service (MPDS) is an elegant solution to that problem."
"Its pricing model, where users are charged for the amount of information sent and received rather than the time for which they are connected also makes it possible to take ROI issues, and differential pricing models into account as the MPDS market space evolves," said Slesinger.
Slesinger's comments were echoed by Piers Cunningham, head of maritime market management at Inmarsat, who said, "Now ships can become a connected node to their company's LAN or WAN network, offering flexibility and reliability of constant connection with the home office. The ship can conceivably now have access to the same company infrastructure and resources available to their land-based counterparts."
"Wallem has recognized something fundamental that is relevant to any distributed organization, not just ship management. Reliable, digital connections enable greater management integration, enhanced reporting function and total connectivity with offices around the world."
"Coupled with Inmarsat's reputation for reliability and innovation, the result is true global connectivity," said Cunningham.
Leigh Puddester, Stratos' chief marketing officer added, "Reliable technology is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to implementing a full-time maritime communications solution like Fleet F77."
"Customers also require an experienced and dedicated service provider, backed by a commitment to responsive, 24x7 support, who will work with them to design a customized solution that is specifically tailored to their unique requirements."
"As the number one global provider of Inmarsat services, Stratos has the knowledge and expertise to work with customers like Wallem to facilitate seamless integration between Inmarsat's satellite services and proprietary applications, like Wallem's Total Procurement System. It's this team approach that is the key to success."
During the trial, which took place over six weeks of an actual commercial voyage, Wallem used a newly installed Fleet F77 system, with service provided by Stratos, and a host of applications to test the Inmarsat network in real-world conditions.
The vessel tested three types of applications covering the areas of communications, operations and management.
In the communications arena, Inmarsat, Stratos and the Fleet F77 system supported a range of features and functionalities including regular voice, e-mail, and an SMS solution, as well as NewsLink, which provides officers and crew with tailored news headlines and brief stories in a range of languages that reflect the particular nationalities of the crew on board.
It also provided connectivity to Wallem's own web portal, as well as other web sites.
On the operations side, the trial evaluated the performance of key safety and insurance activities, such as more detailed, full-color weather reports and the transmission of updates to procedures manuals.
The operations side also covered what Wallem calls Abstracts - engine performance data, fuel states, and cargo updates.
Of course, while making Inmarsat available to the entire crew is desirable from a morale standpoint, ensuring that the bandwidth will be properly managed and, where possible, charged back to individual users or applications was an important concern.
Wallem drew on the services of its own solution development operation in the Philippines, DevCo, to create a brand new management application called Packet Counter.
Although still at the prototype stage, Packet Counter tracks data usage and provides ship-owners with an itemized report similar to a mobile phone bill. The report could even be used to segment charges by usage groups, such as master, crew and Wallem itself.
"Packet Counter may seem like a small thing. However, its larger role was in proving that developing more applications - specifically applications that can integrate digital systems on vessels with IT solutions at our headquarters or around the world - is not only feasible, but can deliver real efficiency increases and competitive advantage," said Slesinger.
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