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Marlink launches ‘StrongerTogether’ to support operators and seafarers during COVID-19

Marlink apr 17

The 'StrongerTogether’ initiative will provide business continuity and IT support for vessel operators and extended welfare services for seafarers. 

Marlink has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by launching ‘StrongerTogether’, comprising a broad range of airtime packages and application solutions to support its customers in the maritime, fishing and offshore industries.

{mprestriction ids="1,2"} The initiative includes connectivity packages such as additional data top-ups, increased bandwidth and free or discounted voice minutes for ship operators to keep the crew onboard connected with their families as well as solutions to enhance remote IT beyond connectivity during the crisis

To meet the need for cost-efficient bandwidth during the peak of the crisis and also provide crew with voice calling discounts, shipping companies have a choice between different packages. These include:

  • Free minutes for crew on all vessels equipped with Sealink VSAT;
  • A new crew calling card for Sealink and Marlink FX vessels, offering more than double talk time;
  • Short-term bandwidth upgrades on all Sealink packages to cope with the surge of demand for data from crew;
  • Free access to Marlink XChange Media service to access news and sports content;
  • Free access to a new version of XChange Telemed remote healthcare solution.
  • IT and Applications

With fewer technicians and IT staff currently able to visit ships and access onboard IT networks, Marlink has enhanced access to its digital solutions to enable shore-based teams to optimise data transfer, monitor on-board IT and remotely access critical operational systems, including:

  • XChange Universal Remote Access for essential maintenance with no activation fee or monthly charges until the end of June;
  • XChange Cloud Entry to optimise and simplify file transfers, with no service activation fee or monthly charges until the end of June;
  • Free access to the new KeepUp@Sea Monitor service to simplify remote monitoring and analysis of onboard IT hardware and software.

“Marlink realises the scale of the challenge that COVID-19 presents for the maritime and energy industries, both for asset operators and their crews,” said Tore Morten Olsen, president, Maritime, Marlink. “For these industries, smooth but flexible connectivity is essential to keep global trade flowing or to maintain efficient production of offshore assets. With our StrongerTogether initiative, we are demonstrating our full commitment to meeting our customers' need for more bandwidth and to supporting the well-being of their crews during these challenging times.” {/mprestriction}

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  • How much does a merchant ship pay for its VSAT communications?

    Many years ago and in another industry, not so distant from maritime connectivity… I wrote a piece providing viewpoints on “how much an airline would pay for an early release movie (early window content is the industry term). The piece got me into a considerable amount of bother, writes Joshua Flood, senior research consultant at Valour Consultancy.

    The fundamental issue being how secretive these negotiations were and Hollywood studios, airlines and their content service providers did not wish to shed any light upon the subject. Or I was terribly wrong in my viewpoints. I will stick to the former point.

    Now after many years elsewhere, (similar to Yoda in swamp planet of Dagobah), I have decided to return to one of my favorite types of pieces.

    To push myself further, I plan to write a series of pieces talking about how each type of commercial vessel (merchant, fishing, passenger, offshore and leisure) would pay for their connectivity solutions, typically VSAT and MSS.

    Merchant satellite subscriptions

    Addressing the title of this piece, merchant ships come in a number of shapes, sizes and purposes.

    Breaking out the merchant market from a bird’s eye view; there are roughly 150,000 MSS and VSAT satellite subscriptions in the market. This may confuse some, due to the popularly touted figure of 80-90,000 merchant vessels (depending on your source and classifications). Clearly, this number is less than the number of maritime satellite subscriptions.

    To quickly quash this, a significant number of large merchant vessels require multiple terminals for safety purposes. In addition, some vessels will also subscribe to a multitude of solutions for certain purposes. An example could be subscribing Ku-band VSAT services from Intelsat or Eutelsat, Fleetbroadband from Inmarsat and Certus from Iridium.

    Emergence of VSAT technology

    In the past, merchant operators were satisfied with just MSS (L-band) services, however, over the last decade the use of VSAT technology has become a dominant force within all commercial maritime vessels. There are around 20,000 VSAT merchant vessels active today.

    Looking into the key types of merchant vessels. There is an array of different variations. And when speaking about shipping, certain regions are known for their trade. Asia and Northern Europe for commodity and container vessels, as an example.

    Extra special LNGs

    One of my favourite research interviews of 2021 was with a Cypriot service provider. I won’t say which one or whom, however, it was most definitely one of my most entertaining.

    It was almost like having a conversation with the Cheshire Cat in Alice of Wonderland. I went through a list of vessel types with “the Cat” providing their average monthly airtime fees the company gets for connectivity airtime packages. Bulk carriers, a short grunt and allocated to the bottom of the list of data usage and associated ARPU revenue. MPP and ro-ro vessels followed in quick succession, just above bulk carriers. General cargo and container vessels pique his interest and were placed in middle position of the rankings. PCC and vehicle carriers excite Mr Cat further.

    Finally, we reached tankers, and LPG and LNG types cropped up.

    With a delightful purr, “Beautiful, Joshua! We love both, although LNGs are extra special. LNGs are our favourites!”

    I still chuckle at this answer.

    VSAT connectivity – let’s talk numbers

    Moving away from this abstract narrative, the merchant market is highly fragmented and different vessel types have a big difference in their respective airtime ARPU, depending on usage type, areas of coverage and congestion of such areas.

    In general, globally, the VSAT connectivity ARPU for a bulk carrier will just surpass $1,300 per month. An LNG tanker will be in the range of $3,000 to $4,000 per month with lucrative value-add service inclusions.

    As such, the customer type and their fleet of vessels are very important. Also, I will also state the more prestigious customers know how valuable their business is worth and therefore expect very good service and also heavy discounts. In fact, some prestige names are not as lucrative as some outsiders perceive.

    In 2019, Valour Consultancy estimated the average connectivity package per merchant vessel was around $800 (combining both MSS and VSAT services). MSS service per vessel are less than $500 per month generally.

    For Ku-band, this works out around $1,500 and Ka-band around $1,300. The latter will have gone up in 2020, too. For more information on the final point and our latest maritime connectivity research, please download our latest report brochure for more information here.

    Average Monthly Connectivity Revenues in Merchant Vessel in 2019

    MSS only

    <$500

    MSS & VSAT

    $800

    Ku-band

    $1,500

    Ka-band

    $1,300 (this will have increased in 2020 & 2021)

    Bulk Carrier

    $1,300

    LNG

    $3,000 to $4,000

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