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Starlink making waves in maritime - fast growing interest from major shipping companies

Image: SpaceX Starlink satellites in space stacked together before deployment.
Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite communications service is attracting a growing list leading names in the maritime world.

This week saw announcements by Columbia Ship Management (CSM) and Costamare as the latest companies to trial the service provided provided by a constellation of low-earth orbit (LEO) satellites operated by SpaceX.

Starlink uses LEO satellites to provide higher bandwidth and lower-latency broadband connections compared to traditional geostationary (GEO) satellites, with a compact and easy to install shipboard antenna.

CSM said this week it would be conducting a trial on a number of vessels. Columbia Group CEO Mark O’Neil commented, “Starlink has the potential to revolutionise the maritime industry by providing reliable and affordable internet connectivity to ships, even in the most remote parts of the world. This can help improve crew welfare, reduce costs, and enhance safety and security, making it a game-changer for the industry.

O’Neil and Columbia are by no means alone in the potential they believe that Starlink and LEO satellites have to transform communications in the maritime industry.

Greek-shipowner Costamare also announced this week that it would be starting a trial of Starlink on four vessels. Themis Sardis, Head of IT for Costamare, said it had a lot of potential for the shipowner. “With its very high speeds and low latency, it could enable completely new ways of working in terms of the technological tools we can implement across our fleet – to benefit our business operations, our crews’ welfare, as well as the compliance needs of our fleet,” he said.

Starlink has only offered full global maritime coverage since the launch by SpaceX on 17 February of 51 LEO satellites. There have been a further six Starlink launches since then.

Despite Starlink still being in its early days CSM and Costamare join a grow list of well-known shipping companies trialing the service including Enesel SA, Eastern Pacific Shipping, Solstad, Anglo-Eastern, Mitsui OSK Lines, and NYK, that have made public announcements.

One of the biggest commitments has come from Anglo-Eastern which trialled the service on 12 vessels in its managed fleet when Starlink launched its ‘RV’ service. Following the trial Anglo-Eastern announced last month that it expected 200 installations by year end.

The manager was glowing in its praise. “Once installed on several vessels, we knew immediately it was a game-changer,” said Torbjorn Dimblad, Chief Information Officer of Anglo-Eastern. “Overnight, these ships became as connected as any office or home, affording the crew unprecedented access to friends and family while enabling an entirely new level of collaboration between ship and shore.”

NYKStarlink antenna installation on board a vessel

Starlink antenna installation on board a vessel

Another early adopter NYK, which trialled Starlink on containerships managed by NYK Shipmanagement in December last year said: “The trials were conducted on container vessels and resulted in significantly higher transmission speeds than previously available along the North American continental coast.”

Starlink has also attracted a growing number of resellers including IEC Telecom, Elcome International, Marlink, and Navarino.