Held Shipping deploys VSAT for crew connectivity

Held Bereederungs (Shipping) is investing in VSAT for faster communications, crew welfare and as part of its digitalisation strategy. The German shipping group is deploying Marlink’s satellite communications and managed IT services on 27 ships to optimise crew operations and improve fleet maintenance. Sealink VSAT hardware, software and Ku-band connectivity will be installed on the fleet of feeder vessels, mini-bulkers, multipurpose vessels and container ships.

IT system monitoring, cyber security and bridge system maintenance will also be provided for Held‘s vessels. Its planned maintenance services will be provided by Telemar Germany. Held Shipping controller Laurenz Held tells Maritime Optimisation & Communications why the ship operator is investing in VSAT and managed IT.

“Our goal was to install VSAT to support digitalised operations and provide fast communications for crew,” he says. We can act faster, and our seafarers can communicate with family and have internet on board. Providing online access, social media applications and communications for crew has its advantages for Held’s fleet. There is value to be generated on all our vessels regardless of age,” says Mr Held. We are installing VSAT on all our vessels, even the older ones, not least because we believe in giving internet access to the crew.” He anticipates the VSAT bandwidth will be more than sufficient to meet all crew and enterprise demands from these ships, providing cost-saving benefits for charterers and owners.

“Fast VSAT communications save us money as we can get the right answers at the right time,” says Mr Held. “We sail in tramp trades working closely with charterers who are always looking for new cargo and need quick decisions and quick answers. VSAT enables Held to use communications applications already deployed onshore as an alternative to email, albeit in bandwidth-saving mode. “We are starting to use Microsoft Teams to share data and for real-time chat, for faster information transfer between ship and shore,” says Mr Held. Teams is very good with no limits for the application of real-time chat and data.”

VSAT does not have sufficient bandwidth for video conferencing functions within Teams, but seafarers are finding alternative approaches. “One master used WhatsApp video to show the shore team problems, so we could provide a solution, says Mr Held. He says more services will follow in time. “We are not yet using VSAT for e-learning or telemedicine, but these are services we may consider in future.”

Connectivity helps Held to operate container ships for charterers and to optimise vessel routeing. “We are dedicated to ensuring our vessels operate in excellent technical condition and at maximum operational readiness, with regular inspections, dockings and the maintenance of established quality management systems,” says Mr Held. “Our ability to co-ordinate these activities evermore closely with enhanced communications, maintenance and digital services reinforces the values we project towards our customers,” he says. “Our charterers use their own voyage optimisation programmes as they pay for fuel, and these programmes will help them to optimise the costs,” Mr Held continues.

“It will be more important in future to get real-time data as our charterers want more information from the vessels including video, if for example, there are issues with the cargo, he explains. Held management also sees future benefits from receiving more voyage-related information on board and ashore. “We are looking at weather routeing and having automatic electronic navigational chart downloads,” says Mr Held. VSAT is used to monitor vessel operations, ship performance and the condition of onboard machinery. “Our digitalisation strategy started with implementing VSAT,” he says. “We will install more software and we will look for new solutions to make operations more efficient.

Equipment monitoring These solutions will cover fuel savings and reducing maintenance expenditure. “We are looking at remote programs for fuel consumption monitoring,” Mr Held says. “If we see higher fuel consumption, we can do something about it.” Held can also analyse engineroom data for condition monitoring, improved maintenance and to prevent technical issues. “There are a lot of potential cost savings from monitoring the main engines,” says Mr Held.

This includes temperature readings and lubricant oil consumption data. We need to see differences and can then act early, before any problems arise, or any situation potentially making trouble for the future, he explains. “If there is an oil leak and it is not recognised early enough it could be costly. If we get real-time data, we can recognise and prevent this.

Held collects historical data for modelling fuel consumption and analyses data to identify trends or issues. Marlink provides its ships with Xchange SkyFile email, cyber security, threat detection and IT monitoring via ITLink to ensure the IT networks are up to date and compliant. “We have Skyfile antivirus and cyber security packages including cyber detection to prevent threats,” says Mr Held. If there are threats, the system provides an alert to the master and helps to eliminate them.

Marlink programs also help Held monitor seafarer communications for cyber security. “We can also see if the crew have problems with viruses and can alert captains on what they should do to make vessels safe and secure,” he says. Marlink subsidiary Telemar has tailored maintenance of bridge electronics on six of Held‘s Europe-based vessels, so they benefit from dedicated maintenance and replacement routines. They also have access to Telemar World Service‘s management platform for due dates and 24/7 remote service support in German and English.

Held is looking to roll out Telemar’s BridgeLink application for all connected equipment monitoring, including engineroom machinery. “We would like to understand how BridgeLink can work for us,” says Mr Held.

“Collecting data through BridgeLink will potentially save us a lot of money. There are clear benefits from sharing data in real-time, starting with being able to understand equipment condition and performance.”