Inmarsat Milestones: 10k Ships with Fleet Express Installed, 'Fleet Data Academy' Launched

January 23, 2021

Yachting Journal

Image courtesy Inmarsat

Ship data consumption is booming, and as digitalization and data trends increasingly drive the maritime world, Inmarsat celebrated a pair of milestones, hitting the 10,000 vessel mark on Fleet Xpress installations and launching its "Fleet Data Academy."

  • Traffic Doubles

According to Inmarsat, the growth in Fleet Xpress now includes the world’s leading container ship and tanker owners, such as MOL, K-Line and Hapag-Lloyd, offshore support giants like Bourbon, Tidewater and Maersk Supply, as well as growing numbers of yachts, passenger ships and fishing boats. While COVID-19 has, and continues to drive many in-person interactions to the online space, Inmarsat confirms the trend in reporting average daily download rates per vessel of around 8GB as of December 2020, compared to less than 4 GB at the mid-year point of 2020.

“We are now entering a ‘Fleet Xpress 2.0’ era as it moves way beyond a connectivity pipe, and becomes a true digital platform with our Fleet Data service now integrated as part of Fleet Xpress with the basic level of Fleet Data free of charge. This makes access to an ecosystem of applications and value-added services available on demand,” says Ronald Spithout, President, Inmarsat Maritime.

While the growth has been impressive, Inmarsat is not sitting on its accomplishments, developing the new ‘Fleet Data Academy’ to support the full understanding and adoption of the rapidly growing range of digital applications that are designed to make the maritime industry safer, greener and more efficient.

“With 10,000 vessels worldwide now depending on Fleet Xpress 24/7, this is a moment to ... reflect on 2020 as the tipping point for maritime digitalization. That is why we have launched our new ‘Fleet Data Academy’ in order to work together with partners and end-users to realize the full benefits of digitalization,” says Spithout.

The installation landmark was reached during the same month as Inmarsat’s most powerful satellite to date entered service, the GX5.  GX5 will provide additional capability to maritime customers of Fleet Xpress in Europe and the Middle East and delivers approximately double the combined capacity of the entire existing GX fleet (GX1-GX4).

“Covid-19 has brought a major spike in data demand for crew connectivity and our Fleet Hotspot wi-fi solution has gained exceptional traction, but the arrival of Fleet Data as maritime’s first secure and scalable Internet of Things platform has also been pivotal,” adds Spithout. “Using cloud-based data storage and interfacing easily with decision-making software, this has moved Fleet Xpress to a ‘2.0’ solution. This also delivers fully on the promise of smart shipping, fully-scalable for vessel operators, making maritime accessible for start-up application providers just as it is for established corporates.”

  • Further Growth Ahead

A ‘Digitalization Uncovered’ survey of 370 ship owners commissioned by Inmarsat at the end of 2020 saw 71% of respondents citing cost reduction and operational efficiencies as a top three driver for digitalization, while compliance featured as a top three concern for 60%. The move from Class Societies to support remote surveys, wider adoption of telemedicine and shipyards building in smart capability to newbuildings are also transformative.

  • “Maritime digitalization is now unstoppable,” says Spithout. “The market is becoming mature enough to support its own digital ecosystem with separate bandwidth channels for crew, applications and operations. Once owners get a taste of what is on offer, they quickly recognize its value and the benefits of using our ecosystem of partners.”

Inmarsat’s ‘Trade 2.0’ research, released in 2019, suggested that start-ups could account for around 40% of the market for new applications developed to support ship safety, efficiency, security and environmental performance in the years ahead. This groundswell of solution providers is verified by the fact that 44% of the 35 companies currently signed up with Inmarsat’s Certified Application Provider (CAP) program are either qualified start-ups or scale up companies with strong product expertise.

“We continue to help innovators, through our support for the Rainmaking and Bluetech start-up initiatives, by establishing this ‘Fleet Data Academy’ for our CAP partners, and also through the recent Open Innovation Challenge for start-ups ran in conjunction with Shell Shipping and Maritime and Thetius,” said Spithout. In the last case, Fleet Xpress is providing the connectivity so that the winner - Canary Sentinel-Workrest – can complete proof of concept on a working tanker in the weeks ahead.

Inmarsat’s technology roadmap plans for an additional seven satellite launches over the next four years, with two in highly elliptical orbit to deliver commercial Arctic mobile broadband service.

Image courtesy Inmarsat