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The Digital Differentiator For Passenger Ships

Cruise lines have long been at the forefront of shipping’s digitalisation revolution, and for many passengers connectivity is a key differentiator especially when it comes to facilitating the optimum experience onboard.

Connected devices have become such an important part of our lives that passengers expect seamless access, all the time wherever they are. They want to be able to post their onboard journey to social media or make video calls without lag or long loading times. Many passengers are getting accustomed to using apps or wearables, such as you can find with Carnival’s Ocean Medallion, MSC For Me, and similar features on leading carriers that enable instant, contact-free personalisation.

To deliver this, cruise lines are implementing high bandwidth connectivity solutions that can provide fibre-like speeds to a ship sailing anywhere on earth. This also enables a new level of operational technology onboard vessels which, as the data footprint of commercial vessels grows, will soon be commonplace across the whole passenger shipping industry.

Ensuring optimum passenger experiences

Since cruises have re-started, we have seen a boom in passenger data demand. We have consistently seen this increased connectivity push ships’ total data footprint above pre-pandemic levels, despite lower occupancy levels.

However, this is not the only way in which data is used to enhance cruise passengers’ experiences. Major cruise lines have looked to Internet of Things (IoT) technologies and leveraged cloud data in ways we have not seen before.

Some operators have already implemented wearable technologies, that are given to passengers for the duration of their voyage. These make use of thousands of onboard sensors alongside cloud-based data processing to enable everything from contactless payments to keyless entry to state rooms.

Others have leveraged sensors and cloud services to create mobile apps that allow one-click drinks delivery services to any part of a vessel, or live messaging with staff onboard. Some have implemented both.

These systems enable passengers to make even more choices about their vacation, and make it easy for those on holiday to have unique and tailored experiences.

Digitalising vessel operations

High-speed satellite connectivity provides shipowners with the opportunity to implement technologies and analyses that have proven their viability on land. Connected sensors are now routinely integrated into mission critical equipment onboard a cruise ship, and the commercial maritime industry is following this trend.

This opens the door for enhanced automation. Many cruises are using this automation technology to make near immediate adjustments to throttle settings and fuel burn mixes in real time. This increases vessel efficiency while reducing vibrations and engine wear. Given that bunkers can represent as much as 50% of some ships’ total operating cost, these kinds of savings can be crucial for any voyage.

Most have also leveraged this data to create more efficient and effective maintenance regimes for their vessels, reducing the cost of maintenance alongside downtime.

Condition monitoring systems are becoming commonplace for increasingly complex systems in the cruise industry. By providing experts onshore with detailed real time information about systems, engineers are able to remotely diagnose issues while a ship is at sea and deliver rapid repairs.

Some cruise lines are going beyond using condition monitoring to allow AI to predict any future problems that might occur. Larger operators are utilising this data alongside complex algorithms to implement predictive maintenance onboard their ships, while some are using thousands of data points to create digital twins that can be monitored at their on-land operations control bases.

Gregory Martin

Delivering the data

The digital footprint of all ships is growing as digitalisation is set to remain a key differentiator, and a profit driver, for cruise lines for the foreseeable future.

Much of the operational technology onboard a modern cruise ship is the future for merchant shipping. These technologies are proven at sea, and deliver value. However, the higher the level of automation, and thus the higher the level of cost savings, the more must be quickly transferred between ship and shore.

Commercial shipowners are working with SES Networks to ensure having access to the required flexible, fast, and reliable connectivity. Our Skala Global Platform utilises our next-generation high-throughput satellites alongside terrestrial networks provide megabit connectivity as a managed service for commercial shipowners today.

As data demands have increased on virtually all ships sailing today, we have implemented enhanced automations within our network – allowing operators to alter bandwidth allocations for individual vessels with the click of a button. This flexibility and capacity will increase further with our next generation O3b mPOWER constellation when it comes into service by the end of 2022.

High speed connectivity has allowed cruise lines to become cyber cities at sea while providing passengers with the truly unique vacation experiences they are looking for. The data solutions that operators have used to enable this have also enabled new levels of digitalisation in a ship’s operations, which merchant shipping will follow. Shipowners must be confident today that their connectivity solution will meet the task.
Source: Gregory Martin, VP Maritime Market at SES Networks

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