Overcoming the Barriers to Digitalization for Commercial Fleets

KVH, digitalization, AgilePlans, Martin Kits van Heyningen, Connectivity as a Service, CaaS, satcom at sea, maritime satellite communications

“Shipping is being transformed by disruptive technology. Increasing automation and digitalization are turning the traditional shipping model on its head. In the age of big data and the Internet of Things, it’s more important than ever to have reliable, high-speed connectivity onboard for the home office and your crew. Choosing the right communications partner is critical,” remarks John Snyder, publisher and editor, at the start of a Marine Log podcast entitled “In a Digital Age, Connectivity is More Important than Ever.”

“A lot of demand is coming but at the same time you’ve got these barriers to digitalization in maritime.” – Martin Kits van Heyningen, KVH’s CEO and president, during the Marine Log podcast

So what’s holding fleets back in the move to digitalization?

What challenges or long-held beliefs do ship managers or fleet operators need to consider when they want to implement a forward-thinking, future-proof SATCOM strategy?

First, connectivity is perceived as expensive but, when you look at it vs. other operating costs and the return on investment for efficient connectivity, $15 a day for SATCOM is a pittance.

KVH, AgilePlans, Connectivity as a Service, CaaS, SATCOM, marine satellite communications, fleet cost efficiency, digitalization

Connectivity is also perceived as complicated and, in truth, it can be.

Typically, commercial vessels operate with no onboard IT personnel. When at sea, they become just about the most remote locations possible with no cellular or terrestrial back-up. Historically, SATCOM systems rely on hardware, services, and support from different companies. And with increasing frequency, company CIOs are now involved in every aspect of business. As a result, maritime connectivity is more complicated than it is on shore.

But as we’ve seen on shore, the rise of end-to-end solutions are lowering the cost and simplifying the product and service. They harness the efficiency and power of one provider so there is just one call to make when there’s an issue and, thanks to seamless integration and operation, everything just works.

But there are still other challenges to choosing SATCOM for a fleet:

  • Capital expense of new equipment
  • Unpredictability of the business
  • Incompatible with long-term commitments
  • Economic benefits don’t always accrue to person paying the bills
  • Complicated installation & logistics
  • Risk of IT obsolescence

All is not lost when considering your SATCOM and digitalization strategy

Other industries have already solved this problem for the maritime industry. They offer a simple roadmap – Software as a Service. Subscription now dominates the digital world as it makes sense to outsource things that aren’t core to your company. Subscription-based with all maintenance, updates, and support handled by the provider, SaaS changed the model for IT by offering cost savings, greater efficiencies, and previously unattainable flexibility.

Now it’s time to change the model for maritime with Connectivity as a Service (CaaS), the logical evolution of end-to-end solutions. KVH pioneered CaaS for the commercial maritime industry with its AgilePlans product, which delivers an all-inclusive service with no commitments, removes barriers to adopting modern VSAT technology, and is tailored for modern maritime business realities.

“We transfer the risk of ownership from the vessel owner to KVH.” – Martin Kits van Heyningen during the Marine Log podcast

AgilePlans is based on a subscription model, eliminating the hardware purchase, CAPEX, and down payments. Thanks to the subscription approach, there’s no multi-year commitment and no penalty for ending your subscription should your fleet requirements change.

So what does AgilePlans by KVH include?

  • A monthly fee that covers everything
  • All onboard hardware, including a TracPhone V7-HTS, V7-IP, or V11-IP satellite system
  • Free installation in more than 60 ports worldwide
  • Free maintenance, repairs, hardware, and software updates
  • The fastest global VSAT service via mini-VSAT Broadband HTS
  • Network and data management plus detailed reporting
  • Chart and weather updates via CHARTlink
  • Crew welfare content via NEWSlink TV and Print
  • A selection of KVH Videotel’s STCW training videos
  • Real-time vessel tracking

“In the past, people would say ‘oh, we’re very flexible, just sign up for three years and we’ll lock you in. Then you can change your plans along the way.’ That’s not flexibility. Our flexibility is there’s no contract, we put the equipment on board, we install it, and we turn it over to you. Then people say ‘well, what happens if I don’t like it’ so we say ok, send it back. Or if they say, ‘what if your service is terrible?’ OK, then send it back. So, there is no risk at all for the vessel owner.” – Martin Kits van Heyningen during the Marine Log podcast

AgilePlans and the CaaS approach is a logical one for the commercial maritime market as it delivers real benefits for shipping companies and expedites the digitalization of fleets. It’s a new and innovative business model for strained IT departments that delivers immediate benefits of embracing technology. It enables you to optimize your fleet management and rapidly deploy SATCOM (or remove or change SATCOM) across your fleet. The result is increased business performance, reduced operating costs, and increased retention and development of well-trained crew.

“It also means we have a high level of confidence in our products and services because it means we’re earning our customers’ trust every day rather than relying on a contract to keep them even if they are unhappy.” – Martin Kits van Heyningen during the Marine Log podcast

Listen to Martin’s complete interview here.

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About Chris Watson 73 Articles
Chris is the Vice President of Marketing and Communications for KVH Industries. A lifelong sailor and storyteller, he's a self-professed geek who finds all of this technical stuff fascinating.