The Scandinavian dream of maritime communications: A transformational agreement between Ericsson and Maersk

Despite the moderate adoption of new advancements on communication technologies and industrial IoT, the shipping industry is still lagging behind in their implementation of end-to-end solutions, data management, and operational processes for integral connectivity. With more than 90% of consumable goods being shipped around the globe, there are still some unimpeachable factors that need to be accounted for if connectivity is set to be the milestone for a new system of sustainable performance. Yet, there are key players that are beginning to act upon major changes, taking a step forward through strategic collaborations.

The transformational agreement between Maersk Line – the world’s largest shipping company – and Ericsson – the world’s leading provider of technology and services to telecom operators – serves as a chronological example of process innovations and virtual solutions to the importance of ship-to-shore connectivity. This combination of forces strongly adheres to the values and visions outlined by the Swedish corporation; “To lead transformation through mobility, where we as a leading innovator drive transformation of industries and communities towards a sustainable Network Society…”

Back in 2012, the initial agreement contemplated the ongoing installation of mobile and satellite communications technology that enabled the Danish giant to access real-time monitoring across its fleet. Whilst the common connectivity has made its progress throughout time, the core objectives have always been based upon the improvement of vessel operations, fuel consumption, and electric conditions. Again, with nearly 300,000 refrigerated containers annually scheduled to move around 343 ports at 121 countries, Maersk Line faces a logistical challenge and a plausible margin of error that was eclipsed by the use of a Remote Container Management (RCM) system.

Launched in 2015, and under sophisticated technicalities, RCM supports the tracking of ships around the vast oceans, relying on three components: A GPS unit to monitor the movement of a ship, a SIM card that withstands high temperatures and exposure, and a GSM antenna to strengthen data signals. By implementation, Maersk Line has been able to deliver vital statistics of performance that comprises temperature, location, and power supply. At the same time, the shipping company uses the available data to maximise safety, operational/process efficiencies, and cargo care, requiring less manual inspection prior, during, and after-trip missions.

This volume of data is also loaded onto the cloud and sent back to shore-based offices for analysis. But major cloud upgrades have also been employed by the Swedish corporation to enable shipping to benefit from high connectivity, industry applications, and systems integration. The Ericsson’s Maritime ICT cloud, which has already been fortified by the strategic addition of Inmarsat’s Ka-/L- high-speed broadband Fleet Xpress product, offers an end-to-end managed cloud solution that connects vessels at sea to shore-based operations including maintenance service providers, customer support centers, fleet/transportation partners, port operations and authorities.

As part of industry applications, Ericsson’s eye on shipping powers Maersk’s commitment to digital innovations and IoT in the launch of Plug and Play Supply Chain & Logistics. Adhering Plug and Play as a strategic unifier, this digital platform aims to connect corporations to startup companies, enabling an open supply chain and logistics ecosystem. Importantly, this holistic program is set forward to enable a powerful transformation of the freight and logistic industry via a better access of large amounts of data, new technology, and more channels for engaging customers.

Through careful implementation of RCM, ICT Cloud, and industry applications, Ericsson is committed to higher connectivity and bandwidth, and logistics architectures. Nevertheless, Ericsson and Maersk Line are gradually achieving superior integration through voyage optimisation (operations and environmental efficiencies), cargo monitoring (keeping track of cargo through wirelessly connected vessels and real-time communications), and crew morale. This latter factor enhances crew satisfaction and retention rates, efficient coaching and development, and increased ability to cope with health crises that may occur while at sea.

To justify the inclusion of communication technologies and IoT at sea, Orvar Hurtig, Head of industry and Society at Ericsson argues: “Vessels at sea do have systems in place that allow them to monitor critical functions and fuel usage, set and maintain an optimal course and ensure the welfare of their crew, but they are not particularly well integrated with fleet management systems onshore and they do not maximise the potential of real-time data. As the driving force behind the networked society and the world leader in telecommunications, Ericsson is the right partner to help connect these disparate systems and enable them to share information with low latency”

Inevitably, the importance of superior communications and IoT will keep redefining the nature of sea-to-shore connectivity. The transformational agreement between Ericsson and Maersk Line keeps progressing in their pursuit of successful shipping of consumable items, data management, safety/navigation planning, environmental impacts, and real-time communications. Though, it is recommended that ship operators take sea-to-shore connectivity at heart to excel at the abovementioned factors, since Scandinavian firms are sending signals that they are conquering the vast ocean through major investment in digital communications and networks.

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