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Demand for connectivity doubles on Marlink serviced expedition ships

Hapag-Loyd's new expedition class ships will operate with Marlink VSAT. HANSEATIC nature illustrated. Image courtesy of Hapag-Loyd Cruises. Hapag-Loyd's new expedition class ships will operate with Marlink VSAT. HANSEATIC nature illustrated. Image courtesy of Hapag-Loyd Cruises.

The demand for connectivity in the expedition cruise market is growing rapidly, says satellite communications company Marlink who is today contracting twice the satellite capacity specifically for the expedition sector as it was 12 months ago.

{mprestriction ids="1,2"}A surge in the popularity of expedition cruising has led to a focus on capacity in the cruise market, particularly in the remote Arctic and Antarctic. According to Marlink, cruise lines are venturing off the beaten track but still wanting to provide all conveniences, including high-speed connectivity, regardless of location.

Marlink customers in the expedition cruise sector include Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, which is operating in remote locations using Marlink VSAT. Hapag-Lloyd Cruises New ‘expedition class’ ships will have the same high-level connectivity for guests and crew. Marlink also renewed its contract to deliver multi-band services to French luxury cruise specialist PONANT late in 2017, a deal that included provision for four new PONANT Explorers yachts. 

Marlink says that as well as deploying state-of-the-art onboard systems and making capacity available globally, it also focuses development efforts on ensuring that customers have improved support tools to optimise their communication services. Marlink is also committed to ensuring its clients can minimise the risk of cyber-attack through inherent security at the network level and the fully integrated ship and shore-based Cyber Guard portfolio, offering harmonised solutions for detection, protection and recovery.

With the cruise market in focus, the company recently introduced several new capabilities that can be accessed via an online portal, including an onboard internet Wi-Fi landing site or captive portal with capabilities to connect APIs to the clients own customised cruise management systems for more automated processes, to reduce manual labour. The new support tool also features a dashboard which provides information on best line of sight between the vessel and available satellites, which is especially relevant close to the poles with low elevation where obstructions such as icebergs or cliffs could affect link availability, and therefore the quality of service that guests experience.

Tore Morten Olsen, president Maritime, Marlink, explained: “Regardless of the remoteness of where they may be, guests on expedition class ships still expect to be able to connect to the internet. They want to show their videos and photos on social media, and stay in touch with the office, and family and friends, so operators are looking for the highest network quality to deliver on these expectations.

The latest adventure cruise ships are also hotbeds of technology, most of which only starts to reach its real potential when it is integrated with the Internet of Things (IoT) and Operational Technology (OT), creating more demand for satellite capacity and a strong rationale for ensuring that your satcom partner is committed to network quality with an eye on the future. In that context, our future-proof network concept has already led to testing for forthcoming new LEO networks, which will be important for continuing to service demands from the cruise segment.”{/mprestriction}

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    Demand for faster and cheaper connectivity at sea is set to increase as sailing is recognised as a safer place to work, travel and holiday during the COVID-19 pandemic says satcom specialist IEC Telecom, which is experiencing an increase in enquiries from vessel operators in the maritime leisure sector.

    With ‘lockdowns’ and restrictions easing in some parts of the world, yacht owners are now able to enjoy ‘social distancing’ onboard their vessels, which is leading to a boost in demand for high-speed connectivity and increased bandwidth capacity. With the focus on social distancing, yachts are becoming increasingly attractive remote offices for those able to attend to business matters while enjoying the open sea, sunshine and fresh air. During this challenging time, sailors have an increased need to stay connected for both personal and operational purposes as well as to avoid the need to go ashore as much as possible.

    The signs are pointing to an upsurge in leisure boating. Yacht chartering is seen as one of the safest ways to enjoy a break at present due to the minimal contact charterers have with other people. Yachts are considered to be more hygienic, given the ratio of crew to guests and the exclusivity of being on a private boat. Affluent consumers are looking for getaways with fewer crowds, more privacy and the ability to gather privately with those closest to them. The Boat Affair platform (whose rentals are available in more than 60 countries) has seen a 23 per cent increase in requests from customers who traditionally would opt for a hotel vacation or a seaside resort but are now seeking a safer alternative. And, according to a new survey by LuggageHero, 25 per cent of travellers report they will try to avoid crowded commercial flights and public transportation in a post-coronavirus world.

    Meanwhile, in countries where travel is still restricted, many larger leisure boats and super yachts remain fully crewed and operational – also leading to increased need for connectivity as crews try to stay in touch with family and friends while conducting as many ship operations as possible via remote techniques. With crew restricted to remaining on the vessel in many places, higher speeds and larger bandwidth capacity is needed to provide leisure activities too.

    The leisure boat sector was initially hit hard by international lockdowns and is now incurring additional costs for deep cleaning, personal protective equipment, virus testing etc which are not generally reflected in the charter fees. As a result, systems which allow to optimise bandwidth consumption in order to reduce expenses on communication are proving popular with consumers looking to install or upgrade yacht connectivity systems.

    Gwenael Loheac, chief executive officer Western & Southern Europe for IEC Telecom said: “Data traffic on leisure vessels has increased during this crisis period because crew, vessel operators and passengers need to exchange information on a more regular basis. In response to COVID-19, we are seeing increased demand for flexible tariffs to enable leisure vessel operators to adapt quickly to fluctuating connectivity requirements. Fortunately, we are well-placed to meet these needs, having a wide portfolio of solutions designed to provide best user experience, while keeping communications costs at bay.

    IEC Telecom recently launched OneGate Marine Compact, a new lightweight digital solution with a network management system which provides full visibility over on-board network assets (both satellite and GSM) and enables vessel owners to control expenses and optimise consumption via a digital dashboard.

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