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Tuesday, April 27, 2021 

Mobile satellite communications provider Inmarsat has published a new report on attitudes to digitalisation in the ferry market drawing on interviews with 10 leading ferry owners by consultancy JG Maritime Solutions, coming at a time when the sector faces a major change in expectations on connectivity from passengers, crew and vessel operators.

The new Global Status of Ferry Digitalisation Report - Uncovering the Passenger and Operational advantage, authored by Ogilvy includes passenger ship findings from Digitalisation Uncovered - the Inmarsat-sponsored research project into digitalisation in global shipping that was launched in December 2020. The new report’s findings provide insights into the distinct pressures driving ferry digitalisation and an assessment of why and how higher-capacity satellite services can help control costs, create revenue, improve the passenger experience and help restore confidence in a sector severely affected by Covid-19.

Les Shortall, Director of Market Development - Yachting and Passenger, Inmarsat, said: “Previously, bandwidth limitations meant that the full potential of satellite technology had not been realised in the ferry sector. This report demonstrates there are good reasons for owners to evaluate the flexible and affordable broadband services already serving tens of thousands of vessels worldwide and providing operational and safety benefits such as real-time situational awareness. Continuous connectivity and unlimited data are the keys to unlocking further cost reduction, enhancing the passenger experience and boosting revenues.”

Digitalisation Uncovered found that one in four passenger ship owners said new revenues were a top three reason for digital investment, against a lower one in six for all ship owners. Similarly, 18% of passenger ship owners see creating new value for customers as a number one reason for digitalisation, versus only 13% of all owners. Furthermore, whilst 30% of all ship owners value digitalisation as a means of supporting compliance with regulations and certification, the figure for passenger ship owners is much higher at 43%.

Four out of 10 of the owner/operator interviewees in the report mentioned revenue generation as a primary investment driver. In North Europe, point of sale payment for duty free goods offers a promising revenue stream post-Brexit, for example, best enabled by continuous connectivity.

Ferry owners have been early adopters of the ‘smart’ technologies behind always-on emissions monitoring, voyage planning, predictive maintenance and situational awareness to enhance sustainability, efficiency, reliability and safety. Decarbonisation goals are accelerating the adoption of electric-hybrid propulsion technology that works especially cost effectively when combined with IoT-based decision-making via satellite connectivity.

Interest is also high in how broadband capacity can be used to enable situational awareness to transform ferry safety and move from simple reactive distress reporting to real-time proactive safety services. The interviews highlight networked cyber security as a priority.

The report can be accessed via the Inmarsat website.

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