For container shipping, where even the slightest delay can result in reputational and financial damage, a secure and robust connectivity network, capable of supporting constant inputs of data including voice and video, is vital for operational effectiveness, as Simon Hill, Excelerate Technology’s chief technical officer, explains.

Between 80% and 90% of all traded goods are carried by ship. An unexpected problem, be that on land or sea, therefore, has major knock-on effects for the rest of a supply chain already under pressure from the demands of next-day delivery and instant sourcing. But are current means of resolving these issues up to the task, with the vast level of data being shared each day?

An interruption in this supply of data can be caused by anything from a cyber attack through to any other connectivity issue and could, in the worst case, bring the supply chain to a standstill.

Satellite connectivity, such as VSAT, delivers a resilient connection, and allows for the seamless transfer of data regardless of the vessel’s location. When utilised in conjunction with cellular 4G LTE antenna technology, such as Excelerate’s Excell, which optimises the 4G connection by increasing both distance and quality of connectivity when offshore, onboard and land-based crews are always connected, enabling them to seamlessly share information relating to unexpected circumstances in real-time, without the risk of losing connection.

In much the same way as our mobile phones automatically switch to 4G when we leave the range of the home Wi-Fi, cellular communication networks alternate between the strongest mobile signal from land masts in a certain radius from the vessel. However, this causes momentary gaps where data is lost. Being able to manage these network connections according to use requirements keeps the ‘gates open’, and advancements in technology are now enabling greater control of which network(s) users can draw upon.

The potential of this technology has already been demonstrated as part of the Innovate UK £2.8m Trusted Bytes project, which aims to maintain efficiencies within the fresh produce market during heightened port disruption, on our motorways and crucially, across borders. Delays here have further repercussions when goods have exact storage requirements, such as fruit and vegetables; Trusted Bytes has illustrated how communicating real-time data, back to supply chains and government frameworks, facilitates a proactive approach to disruption, which cannot happen without reliable connectivity.

Whether it is a fault with the vessel itself, congestion at the port, or a health emergency within the crew, data and the information it carries is the lifeblood of commercial shipping. At times where up-to-date information affects decisions relating to the lives of millions, having complete trust in a communication network is imperative for a reliable, efficient distribution of daily products.

Naturally, a complete implementation of hybrid connectivity onboard every operational vessel or at every port will take time and investment, but in a world where constant communication is becoming more entwined with daily life, being able to adapt and enhance operational effectiveness will be crucial in keeping supplies moving.

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