She explains how LEO solutions are providing shipowners and managers with new opportunities for telemedicine, video conferencing, and other bandwidth-intensive applications. She also discusses the benefits of hybrid solutions that combine LEO with GEO satellites and other communication solutions.
Seatrade Maritime: Can you describe how maritime conductivity has changed over the last 12 months?
Despina Panayiotou Theodosiou: It has changed quite a lot in the very short space of one year. We see the new LEO constellations coming into play or reappearing, which is very interesting because they provide wider connectivity and lower latency. So together with the already existing satellite communication solutions, they are creating a new game in the industry. We also see the use of many more digital solutions with the main goal of optimising field operations, but there are many different applications for them. And we see cybersecurity coming on at the top of the priorities.
SM: LEO solutions, what do these allow shipowners and managers to do that they could not in the past?
Despina: LEO satellite solutions have decreased latency. So, they offer the opportunities of having different applications like telemedicine or different video-, and teleconferencing solutions, they make it easier. And, there's wider connectivity, so you can have connectivity in far, far places that perhaps was not possible before.
But I would also say something that is very important for the industry, they can potentially be very cost effective. This allows smaller ships and smaller fleets to have better connectivity when they couldn't in the past.
SM: Can LEO be used as a sole communication solution for vessels? Or is a hybrid solution more suitable and why?
Despina: What we propose to our customers and what we see them asking us more and more about are hybrid solutions. There are, of course, benefits to GEO satellites and companies that have been there in the industry for decades, like Inmarsat, and combining them with LEO or even 4G and 5G solutions for ships that are in coastal areas. The hybrid solution is not only becoming more effective, but perhaps it's becoming the best solution that we have now in the industry. This is where we see the industry going towards.
SM: What are the biggest drivers for investment in maritime communications?
Despina: Many reasons for investment in connectivity in the industry now. More reliable connectivity is definitely needed because we see more and more bandwidth-intensive applications coming into the industry.
Furthermore, there are regulatory requirements, especially for crew welfare and safety. And of course, there is a lot of investment being driven by database decision-making and having greater connectivity helps with that. And with the increased digital change in our industry, it's becoming more and more important to have connectivity to be able to maintain a competitive advantage.
SM: What will maritime connectivity look like in two years' time?
Despina: You know, if you asked me that a few years ago, I would say, not many things happen when it comes to satellite communications in a matter of two years. But this past year has proven to us that things are not like that anymore.
What I think will happen is that LEO satellite solutions will become more seamless and more cost-effective. So, as I mentioned before, we will see more and more hybrid solutions coming into the industry.
I believe that we will also see the importance of cybersecurity, safeguards improving as ships become more digitally linked.
And of course, there will be a bigger emphasis on sustainability. There are already discussions on how connectivity solutions are impacting the environment and I believe that this discussion will become more prominent.
SM: We're having this conversation here in Saudi Arabia. Why is the Kingdom so important to your business?
Despina: A lot of investment is happening here and there's a vision going forward. We see that other pillars in our industry like digitalisation and environment and people are important here, and they are part of the Vision2030 of the kingdom. We see many companies here heading in that direction. We see a very big appetite for digitalisation. And not only in buying and applying solutions but in being very active in creating them. This is very interesting for us because we see our customers as partners, and we want to be building these solutions with them and we want to be part of their journey and their process. So, the market here is very interesting for us.
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