COVID-19 has accelerated digitization in maritime transport


File image courtesy of Inmarsat

Posted Oct 13, 2021, 10:49 PM by

The maritime executive

According to a new report sponsored by satellite telecommunications provider Inmarsat, the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically accelerated the adoption of digital technology in the maritime industry.

“The impact of COVID-19 on vessel operations is highlighted by a massive increase in the use of remote services such as pilotage and surveying,” wrote maritime consultancy firm Thetius. “Likewise, crew training and officer exams were fully online for the first time in some jurisdictions. More generally, global trade facilitation has seen an explosion in the use of digital tools, including massive growth in consumer demand for e-commerce and the use of online reservation platforms for ocean freight.

A study of Inmarsat’s own records showed that the average daily data consumption per vessel nearly tripled in the first year of the pandemic, from 3.4 to 9.8 gigabytes. The report’s authors predict that the global market for digital maritime products and services will be worth $ 159 billion this year, up 18% from pre-pandemic forecasts. By 2035, it could double to $ 345 billion.

This market is booming due to the adoption of new solutions, such as remote control, remote readings and remote medical assistance. COVID-19 has expanded the use of telemedicine in general, and sailors – who have often been barred from disembarkation due to coastal states’ quarantines – have increasingly turned to remote consultations with doctors. The number of calls to the seafarer-focused International Medical Radiocommunication Center (CIRM) doubled in the first half of 2020.

“Digital solutions are now ubiquitous in the maritime industry, and one of the consequences of COVID-19 has been that our customers – and their customers – are increasingly thinking digital first,” commented Stefano Poli, vice -President of Business Development, Inmarsat Maritime. “The past 18 months have been tough, but they have also brought about a sea change in attitude towards IoT-based solutions for crew connectivity, safety, sustainability and vessel efficiency. “

This thriving market is attracting new competitors, such as OneWeb, which is building a low Earth orbit (LEO) network that will compete for maritime customers. Inmarsat is meeting this challenge with a new LEO plus GEO plus 5G product, called Orchestra, which will integrate its existing geosynchronous satellite services with additional new options. “Orchestra will provide future-proof connectivity everywhere, including hot spots in busy ports, passenger ships and autonomous ships,” said Poli.