Established in 1921, the Amsterdam based Spliethoff Group is the largest shipowner in the Netherlands. The four subsidiaries ‘BigLift Shipping’, ‘Sevenstar Yacht Transport’, ‘Wijnne Barends’, and ‘Transfennica’, combine fleets of heavy lift, short sea, liners and yacht transport that altogether total over 100 vessels ranging from 2,100 to 23,000 tonnes. The company has since January 2009 added 22 vessels to its fleet, and is known for its leading role in the transport market and its reliability, commitment to environmentally friendly policies and for ensuring its customers have access to the latest technology in shipping.
Spliethoff’s commitment to technology is reflected also in its approach to satellite communications, and the company has over time tested and used most of the major satellite communication networks available, from Inmarsat Fleet 77 and Fleet Broadband to Iridium Openport and VSAT. Of its sizeable fleet, around 25 are equipped with Navarino’s Infinity solution to bring crew internet and other functionalities to its fleet.
The crew on the Infinity vessels are able to use their own devices to get online, from laptops to smart phones or ipads. The Infinity is setup so that the crew receives 300 MB of data each month for free. Peter Van de Venne, Director IT of the Spliethoff Group notes that the compression ratio of about 2 gives the crew about 600 MB in terms of actual free usage. Infinity also removes unwanted ads and automatically reduces the picture size to a fitting level. Experience so far has shown that in most cases this is enough to cover most of the crews needs. Via a web page, a crewmember can see on board how much capacity is still available to him. If a crewmember wants to use more, they can purchase additional internet access, even from the comfort of their own cabin.
To make this possible and at the same time keep the administration overhead for crew, captain and office to a minimum, the Navarino Infinity department has developed webservices in close cooperation with Spliethoff. The webservices are tied to the company’s crew management software. So if a new crew member is sent to a ship with Infinity, the crew planning software from the office will send the necessary account info to the ship so the crew member can login. If a crew member makes a purchase, it is linked to the office’s crew administration software and tied to the wage account of the crew member, meaning that the purchase is automatically deducted from the crewmans’ wages at the end of the month. In this way, there is no need for the crewman to bother the Captain to ask for a PIN, he can purchase credit at any time, even late at night, and of course this results in much less administration for the Master and the company. Furthermore, the customised Infinity set up on Spliethoff vessels ensures that a crewmembers’ Infinity account follows him across the fleet, so if he is posted to another Spliethoff vessel he simply logs in to his account and all his credit follows him onto the new vessel with no administrative hassle on the part of the company or crewmember.
The usefulness of Infinity is not restricted only to crew usage. Another interesting feature is the interconnection of the office phone system with onboard VoIP phones. Now office and ship can call each other (free of charge) by using a simple 4-digit extension number. To office staff, the vessel now has become just another colleague, and this increases cohesion between office and fleet. Other, more basic functionalities also include fleetwide firewall rules, and least cost routing (to choose the optimal carrier, be it FBB, VSAT, Iridium, Wifi, GSM, etc).
As Spliethoff has installed the Infinity Plus version of the system, they are able to virtualize applications on board. A virtual PC has been setup to make it possible for their satcom provider Imtech Marine to provide remote support to ships’ satellite antennas by connecting through the Infinity unit to the actual antenna itself for command and control, and to make any necessary adjustments from onshore. There are also plans to implement a virtual business PC as a central machine, instead of a separate server. This will mean avoiding the need for the expense and administration that onboard servers usually call for, while still having a central machine which is always available.
Spliethoff IT can access all vessel PCs through a secure VPN tunnel that links all Infinity vessels with the headquarters onshore network. Looking further ahead, Spliethoff is keeping a close eye on developments with Global Xpress, the next generation service being launched by Inmarsat in 2014, to see what new possibilities it may bring for its satellite communications. As a Global Xpress Value Added Reseller (VAR) Navarino is of course well positioned to answer customers inquiries and for advice and consultation on what new functionalities Global Xpress will bring. The very high bandwidth speeds and fixed fee nature of GX will mean multiple new options open up for shipping companies, both for their business and crew welfare applications. For any information on this, or any aspect of your satellite communications, please contact your Navarino account manager.