Q & A With
RONALD SPITHOUT President of Inmarsat Maritime
By John R. Snyder, Publisher & Editor-in-Chief
ig Data and the Internet of Things (IoT) promise to transform shipping, making it smarter, more efficient, greener, and safer. But in order to unlock their potential, ship operators will need reliable, high-speed, seamless ship-to-shore broadband connectivity. That’s why we spoke with Ronald Spithout, President of Inmarsat Maritime, about the company’s Fleet Xpress service and what it means to the future of shipping operations. JOHN SNYDER: Tell us about your background. RONALD SPITHOUT: I grew up in Rotterdam where it is almost impossible not to get involved in the maritime business and have spent quite a lot of my 27-year career in maritime telecommunications. My managerial career includes joining Stratos as Executive Vice President of Marketing and Sales, responsible for Stratos MSS Sales for all countries except North America, going on to become Senior VP of Mobile Satellite Services Marketing and Sales from July 2006
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to December 2011. Stratos was acquired by Inmarsat in 2009. I was appointed President of Inmarsat Enterprise in January 2012, before moving across to become President of Maritime at Inmarsat in early 2015. JS: Reliable satellite communications and increased broadband capacity and speed are increasingly important in today’s market. Can you tell us about Fleet Xpress? RS: Fleet Xpress combines the power of the new Global Xpress satellite constellation and the global mobility and reliability of FleetBroadband, redefining what’s possible in maritime communications. The Global Xpress satellite constellation is a $1.6 billion investment by Inmarsat into the next generation of global mobile broadband communications, operating over Ka-band to deliver high-speed broadband capability. Fleet Xpress is a fully managed service which offers seamless connectivity ship-to-shore worldwide from a single network operator—the high bandwidth data
speeds enabled by Ka band and the proven reliability of FleetBroadband (L band) as back-up. In addition to more bandwidth, Fleet Xpress offers a reliable, globally available Inmarsat Gateway through which application -triggered bandwidth enables specialist maritime applications from third parties, such as chart updates, engine monitoring or weather-routing. Because information can be distributed in real-time, fleet-wide, 24/7, Fleet Xpress provides the backbone for future smart ship operations. The connectivity available via Fleet Xpress also changes the seafaring experience, making regular video calls back home, sport and the news viewing, shopping online social media part of their daily lives at sea, via their smartphones, tablets and laptops. A further appeal of Fleet Xpress service is that it democratizes access to these efficiency improvements and crew connectivity gains, bringing them to smaller vessel operators without the resources for setting up bespoke mission control centers of their own. Over 7,500 vessels are currently committed to using Fleet Xpress. Vessels in service have already received Fleet Xpress installations, or have been migrated from older Ku/L band solutions, with adopters including Nanjing Tanker Corporation, Mitsui OSK Line and “K” Line Singapore. Fleet Xpress has also attracted non-merchant shipping contracts including the Nova Cruising ice-class adventure ship Ocean Nova in Antarctica and the 44m sail yacht Juliet, while uptake has been strong among Norway’s and Alaska’s fishing communities. JS: The buzz phrase in shipping is “Big Data.” What does it mean to Inmarsat and how is it shaping the marine industry? RS: Shipping is one of the world’s last great industries to realize the potential of Big Data, to embrace the Internet of Things and the influx of Business Applications in a Safe and Cyber Protected way. However, this is not necessarily due to lack of appetite. Rather, it reflects the massive undertakings involved to make sensible information out of sensor-generated data in such a way that it provides predictable value for a fleet manager over satellite bandwidth. Fleet Xpress allows the maritime industry as a whole to make this transition. Fleet Xpress is supported by the Inmarsat Gateway service ecosystem, which opens up this evolving world of maritime applications, systems and solutions to vessel operators.