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Frank Coles

Transas boss outlines hurdles to Smart Shipping

Mobile satellite air-time needs to come down further in price in order to facilitate the amount of connectivity that ‘smart’ shipping requires for the real-time transfer of large amounts of data from ship to shore for analytical purposes.

That was the view of Transas ceo Frank Coles, addressing a UAE Maritime Leaders Seminar event devoted to the subject of Smart Shipping that kicked off Dubai Maritime Week today.

Coles gave the example of how sending data from an Emirates aircraft cost only $2 per 1GB, compared to shipboard costs that could be anything from a minimum $10 up to as high as $80, he said, meaning it was “at least five times more expensive”.

The “good news”, however, is that this price is set to come down in the next few years because of excess capacity caused by growing competition between mobile satellite providers, he continued

Coles cited a Euroconsult study that predicts total mobile satcom capacity of 3,000GB per second by 2020 - three times more than today - compared to anticipated demand of only around 1,000GB per second.

“But if pricing is the good news, the bad news is cyber security,” he added, stressing the need for “smart IT and cyber security practices”. Corrupt USB sticks rather than deliberate sabotage were the real “cyber missiles”, he warned.

Other hurdles to smart shipping include attitude problems, with only those born after 1980 ‘digital natives’, he said, and training also needs to adapt in order to meet today’s shipboard IT realities.

But perhaps the biggest stumbling block came out during the concluding Q&A session of the DMCA (Dubai Maritime City Authority) seminar. Queried further over the industry’s reluctance to embrace smart technologies, Cole conceded that shipowners rarely if ever agree to install expensive new technology unless “either they are obliged to do so by regulation, or they think it will save them money.” 

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