The estimated value of the global market for digital services in maritime by 2030 is expected to be $278 billion, up from the current $106 billion, making it an exciting time for us to enter this market. Startups will play a key role in driving maritime industries along the road to digitalization in areas to improve vessel performance, capacity optimization, connectivity and distinct customer experience.

Source: Inmarsat Trade 2.0 Report

“Most startups in maritime are enablers, rather than disrupters of traditional shipping players’ business models. This means that the doors for collaborations are open and this can benefit both sides. It will allow corporations to enter new markets, and startups to develop their products and scale. It’s a win-win”

The world’s seas and oceans play an essential role in our lives with over 90% of all global trade being transported across the sea. It requires a network of 2 million ships and an estimated 5 million personnel to keep operations and the global economy flowing smoothly.  Life at sea presents many threats and challenges. Issues such as fatigue and isolation can lead to mental health problems, underpinned by the lack of readily available and affordable communication tools.  The maritime industry, governments and organisations such as ISWAN have carried out a great deal of work around Crew Welfare in order to transform the way seafarers connect, work and live at sea, yet there is still much more to be done to eradicate the physical and psychological issues that are negatively affecting the maritime workforce and their workplace performance.

A lack of readily available cost-effective communication channels and resources is not only hindering offshore operations, but also affecting many seafarers who have lost their lives due to a lack of contact with the people and support networks that matter, when it matters.  Many of the larger shipping companies have upgraded their fleet communications from MSS to VSat, enabling employees to make calls and use internet services. However, not all firms have the resources to upgrade and therefore a large proportion of the maritime workforce still has limited or no access to the internet and the onshore world.  A number of smartphone applications and hotlines have been put in place to provide access to safety, health and legislation support, but if you have no mobile signal and limited access to the internet, navigating across multiple applications can be data intensive, not to mention extremely costly and time consuming.

According to The Seafarers’ Employment Condition Survey 2019 conducted by Danica, over 32% of the 10,000 respondents confirmed they would change jobs to get access to the internet. Given the skills shortages affecting the maritime industry, shipping companies are prioritising internet availability as part of the war to recruit top talent. The maritime industry now recognises that if seafarers had access to a stable and faster communication platform that centralises all of the digital resources needed to remain happy, healthy and safe at sea, this could help shipping firms to improve employee retention and workforce morale, saving precious lives and increasing workplace productivity at sea.

Data access and costs are a constant battle, digital ships and the internet of things (IoT) put an extra burden on ship operations and the satellite communication links. Increased bandwidth and VSAT investments is allowing shipping firms to leverage technologies such as Machine Learning and AI to reduce fuel and maintenance costs whilst improving crew welfare onboard. That said, crew members typically receive very limited data allocations for personal use, topups are expensive if they are available, and calls to and from ships are expensive. With very limited or no access to recreational resources or activities, it’s clear why seafaring life has been notoriously difficult.  Communication links should always be available, reliable, inexpensive and secure.  That’s why our product team developed OnShip to help bridge the gap and improve the lives of seafarers everywhere.

OnShip’ is a mobile-first platform which not only connects seafarers with their friends and families, but also provides access to support associations, offshore knowledge bases and recreational data sources.  It’s a platform that can also integrate with alternative chat applications, helping to centralise all personal communications into one user friendly interface. Why surf across three chat applications, when you can do it all and more via one.  The solution allows for private, offline and personal chat groups for ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore communications with built in voice and instant messaging capabilities. The platform uses VoIP and paid data resources over any satellite link, be that VSAT or MSS, and even allows messaging across ship wifi to other users on the ship without any internet access at all. The smartphone apps, desktop and browser applications have been fully optimised for satellite ensuring zero background data usage and with calls to other satellite numbers costing a fraction of the current call rates charged, calling onshore has never been more easier.

The platform comes with many out of the box features such as Snappie, Tracie and Robbie conversational health, news and postcard chat service assistants and, includes a built-in digital wallet for payments.  Ship-to-shore health care, legal services and immediate access to friends and family in a seafarer’s back pocket wherever they go.  The platform also encompasses an app marketplace that can support the build and deployment of third-party applications. In short, Onship is a perfect solution for the communication and entertainment challenges of the global seafaring community.

Lisa Moore

Author Lisa Moore

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