Fleet Xpress makes impact via Nor-Fishing contracts
“Too much market and too little fish”, said Norway’s Fisheries Minister, Per Sandberg in introductory remarks to Nor-Fishing 2016, held in Trondheim August 16-19. The new and plain-speaking Minister went on to describe a recent visit to Poland, where “they were crying because they could not get enough fish from Norway for their processing plants”. It’s an enviable position for the EU’s largest source of seafood, whose fishermen generated record turnover of $1.08bn in 2015 according to the Norwegian Fishermen’s Sales Organization. A 22% jump in visitor numbers for Nor-Fishing 2016 – to 17,460 – suggests Poland is not alone in seeking more fishing business with Norway.
But Norwegians and Poles alike are no longer free to fish as they please. Norway’s fisheries operate within complex trade agreements, while Total Allowable Catch (TACs) are agreed with the EU. Fisheries are synonymous with Norway’s independence from the Union, but sharing more and better data fits the EU agenda for sustainable fisheries by 2020. Meeting these aspirations will partly depend on consistency between the electronic logbooks skippers must keep by law to collect and declare landing data, and vessel satellite monitoring information.
Merchant shipping is increasingly exploiting broadband to manage vessel fleets and their cargoes more efficiently via remote data collection and machinery monitoring. Greater connectivity is also a key crew welfare issue. In contrast, the fishing sector has predominantly continued to meet statutory and other communications needs using the narrow L-band.
The launch by Inmarsat of the Fleet Xpress high-speed broadband service earlier this year set a new standard in broadband maritime communications. Many in the commercial maritime sector are hungry for the benefits of ‘big data’ and have switched to Fleet Xpress immediately, passing over earlier decisions that foresaw VSAT as the future of connectivity at sea.
Unsurprisingly, Inmarsat’s Nor-Fishing announcement of a Fleet Xpress service extension across the North Sea, Norwegian Sea, Barents Sea and Baltic Sea fell on receptive ears. By the end of the show, several firm owner contracts had been secured.
“We prioritised fishing and offshore for region-specific roll-out of Fleet Xpress after listening to the industry. Fishing customers with single vessels or entire fleets are making the switch,” said Gerbrand Schalkwijk, Chief Sales Officer, Inmarsat Maritime. “Norwegian-registered Harhaug 1 is a new vessel for Inmarsat, for example, and the main impetus is to extend coverage because the owner needs to track snow crabs more precisely as they move north.”
Other Fleet Xpress signatories during Nor-Fishing have different priorities. Long-time customer Ervik Havfiske confirmed that up to nine vessels would migrate to the service, including seven existing vessels, one newbuild and an option for a sister vessel. The vessels range between 2,000gt and 3,000gt in size, and are all operating in North European waters, each served by between 15 and 20 crew. The move involves using hardware installations already underway envisaging the Inmarsat Xpresslink VSAT service.
“Fleet Xpress is exactly the right fit for our operations, because it is always-on, it is secure, and it does not call for an IT technical team to work in support,” said Stig Ervik, Managing Director, Ervik Havfiske. “We have to record and report our catch daily by law; reliable connectivity is a necessity.”
Crew connectivity is also significant. “Our vessels can be out at sea for voyages of up to a month in duration, so the need for greater bandwidth is also a crew welfare issue,” Mr Ervik added.
Operators whose vessels are at sea for shorter periods also see crew benefits from high-speed Broadband. Nor-Fishing also saw North Sea and Atlantic operator Magnarson commit its first vessel to Fleet Xpress, again using hardware on board envisaged for XpressLink. The vessel’s voyages last no longer than seven days.
Managing Director Ivar Taranger said that the upgrade primarily sought to capture reliable catch information but emphasised the priority the crew of six put on communications. “Connectivity is certainly a crew welfare driver now,” he said. “Facetime, Facebook, or contact with family: they’re all important for the modern fisherman. To attract well-trained and qualified crew, we need to meet expectations. Our crew are as reliant on the internet in their everyday lives as anyone else.”