The trial and installation
he trials confirmed a dramatic improvement in the communication environment, with up to a 50-fold increase in communication speed, enabling seafarers to make video calls with family members and watch videos, which were difficult in the past. Considering the positive impact on seafarers’ wellbeing, MOL has decided to proceed with a full-scale introduction of the system on its managed ocean-going vessels.
Starlink is a satellite communications service that uses multiple small satellites deployed in low orbit to provide high-speed, low-latency connectivity. The group plans to have about 140 vessels equipped with the system by the end of fiscal year 2023.
Shortage of seafarers in the shipping industry is becoming more and more serious. Against this backdrop, MOL sees an urgent need to improve the wellbeing of seafarers onboard its vessels.
Because the general onboard communication environment causes time lag and capacity limitations for private communication with family and friends, improvement of the onboard communication environment is a critical issue that must be addressed not only by MOL but also by the industry as a whole, the company highlights.
In light of this situation, MOL, along with Marlink AS, have prepared a white paper, outlining the challenges of the current onboard communication environment, an overview of low-orbit satellite communications including Starlink, and expected applications in the future, and will widely share the knowledge gained from the trials and proactively encourage measures to address this industry-wide issue.
Connectivity fostering crew welfare
The joint white paper also presents ways in which quality internet access and improved connectivity can foster better crew welfare:
#1 Get in touch with loved ones
Gap LEO networks can significantly improve the quality of life for seafarers by providing reliable, high-speed connectivity even in remote regions. This, according to the report, enables crew members to stay in touch with their families and friends, access news and entertainment, and maintain a sense of connection with the world beyond their vessel, reducing feelings of isolation and loneliness.
#2 Access to online training
With the support of LEO satellite networks, maritime professionals can access online training and professional development resources while at sea, allowing them to enhance their skills and stay up-todate with industry advancements.
This not only contributes to the personal growth of individual seafarers, but also benefits the maritime industry as a whole by fostering a highly skilled and competent workforce, the white paper notes.
#3 Enhancing medical support and expanding entertainment options
The limited bandwidth currently available on ships often restricts crew members from accessing essential resources in times of need, such as medical assistance, as well as limiting their entertainment options. The adoption of LEO satellite networks can provide the following benefits, according to the report:
- Remote Medical Assistance: High-speed, low-latency LEO connectivity can facilitate remote medical consultations and support for crew members who fall ill or suffer injuries while onboard. Access to telemedicine services ensures that seafarers receive timely, professional advice and guidance, improving their physical and mental health and safety outcomes.
- Diverse Entertainment and Cultural Experiences: LEO networks can significantly expand the range of entertainment options available to crew members. With improved connectivity, seafarers can stream movies, TV shows, and music from various online platforms, providing a wider selection and up-to-date content.
Furthermore, they can access digital resources, such as recipe translations and cooking tutorials, enabling them to enjoy a taste of home and improve their culinary skills even when a versatile cook is not on board.