SEAFAR, a remote-control tech and service provider for unmanned and reduced crew shipping, is incorporating neXat, a satellite communication services platform, into its remote ship navigation solution for short sea shipping (SSS).
The two-year project is co-funded by the European Space Agency (ESA) and is being tested at sea together with a Belgian short sea shipping company which has lines sailing in the Baltic Sea and from Spain to the UK and Antwerp, Belgium.
The initial scope of the project is to integrate 4G and 5G with satellite communications into a ubiquitous, fully managed connectivity service allowing the critical operations of autonomous shipping.
“Remote monitoring and control of ships addresses the increasing need for qualified and skilled crew, as well as reducing the risk of ‘human error,” said SEAFAR’s Chief Commercial Officer, Janis Bargsten.
“But a major barrier to the development of autonomous shipping has been the ability to access ubiquitous coverage to ensure seamless communications, situational awareness and safety.”
neXat’s platform aims to ensure that connectivity coverage is not lost by automatically and quickly switching from 4G or 5G to satellite as required. This means that real time data, including camera feeds and performance monitoring, and navigational information is continuously shared and ensures increased situational awareness in SEAFAR’s Remote Operations Center.
The unique neXat monitoring and management functionalities will also be integrated into the SEAFAR dashboards to provide captains with all the monitoring and management information necessary to ensure the required solution reliability.
The solution, called SeaNext, will also monitor all available networks, providing a connectivity ‘heatmap’, allowing ship owners and service providers to plan ahead for coverage black spots in remote locations.
The connection between remote operations centre and the vessel uses 4G or 5G and, in the case of unavailability of a terrestrial network, satellite communications are used and provided by neXat.
Chief Operations Officer and Co-Founder of neXat, Caroline De Vos said: “This solution will have a positive impact on the ability of shipping companies to optimise their fleets and improve safety and reliability.
“For neXat, this represents our growth in an important sector following the establishment of our Maritime Business Unit and demonstrates the applicability of our neXat OSS/BSS monitoring solution for vertical markets,” Vos added.
The system will provide camera feeds and monitor engine sounds, tracking vessel performance, position, heading, speed, and nearby vessels via AIS.
neXat’s platform will offer monitoring data through APIs for SEAFAR to integrate into the captain’s dashboard in a machine-to-machine format. In addition, neXat create a system for continuous monitoring of communication methods, such as 4G, 5G, and satellite, resulting in a heatmap showing technology availability and connection quality.
The space assets utilised in SeaNext include SatNAV, SatAIS, and SatCOM, with SatNAV enhancing vessel positioning accuracy through GNSS receivers.
SAT-AIS provides situational awareness to remote captains when vessels are out of range of ground AIS stations, improving collision avoidance and safety.
“Seamless high bandwidth and low latency connectivity is essential to our operations. We therefore rely on strong partners, such as neXat, that enable us to deliver SEAFAR’s value to our clients”, added Bargsten.