Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Crew WiFi a Hit With Container and Bulk Freight Carrier Company

Staying in Touch Makes for a Happy Ship
Shipping News Feature

WORLDWIDE – As ship owners and operators cut costs it is often the humble crewman who suffers. The ruling this week in the Philippines to ratify the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Convention on biometric identification will help some of those who are habitually mistreated, often spending countless months aboard with no communication with home and family. For others however working for credible freight and shipping companies such as leading German container ship and bulk carrier owner Reederei Thomas Schulte, life is now to be a little more pleasant.

Having successfully trialled the system Telaurus Communications, a Globecomm company, has obtained a contract to install its crew Wi-Fi service on 40 ships in the Schulte fleet. The contract will see Globecomm install wireless data communications systems on ships managed by Schulte’s in-house technical manager Ocean Shipmanagement.

In summer 2011 a trial of the Crew Wi-Fi system was held on three Thomas Schulte ships and, following the success of the trial during which over 500 messages and voice calls were exchanged per ship per month, Ocean Shipmanagement decided to outfit all its managed fleet with the Wi-Fi solution. To power the crew calling service, airtime provider Iridium will install its OpenPort system and provide two hardwired phone lines in the crew and officers’ mess and one commercial wireless phone for the master that allows him to remain in contact whether he is on the bridge or the ship’s office.

Globecomm Maritime is in the process of rolling out more than 100 Crew Wi-Fi installations to German-controlled vessels. For those readers with a technical bent the installation routes bandwidth from an Iridium OpenPort terminal to the se@COMM terminal and broadcasts a signal via wireless repeaters to the crew and officer mess rooms. The wireless access point allows for the connection of multiple computers without the need to run extra cable. With the use of an extendable antenna unit the connections can bridge multiple decks and compartments without compromising watertight bulkhead integrity.

Ship operators will like the system as crew communications are kept completely separate and distinct from ship’s business and crew members do not need access to any ship’s equipment or computer network. There are no separate software installation requirements, the hardware requirement is a compatible plug and play Wi-Fi router.

Costs are distinct from the ships accounts with crewmen setting up their own accounts using their own credit cards and with crew e mails usually less than $0.08 cents a message a $10 deposit can give a crew member 125 emails, with message cc's free of charge whilst they also have the ability to send SMS messages from their own smartphone, laptop or any Wi-Fi enabled device with answers routed directly and automatically back to the originator on their own laptop or smartphone thus bypassing the satellite terminal. Jan Paninka of Ocean Shipmanagement commented:

“We selected the Globecomm system for several key reasons. The first is that this is a low cost option, with pre-paid SMS and internet access for email services, which means the crew can use their own equipment to keep in touch with home. From a business perspective, this solution keeps the crew data and hardware separate from the bridge communications equipment so it is very easy for the master and crew manager to account for actual usage.”