A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S is teaming up with Elon Musk’s SpaceX Starlink satellite network to equip hundreds of container ships with high-speed internet access aimed at improving crew morale and speeding its push into digitizing logistics services.
(Bloomberg) — A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S is teaming up with Elon Musk’s SpaceX Starlink satellite network to equip hundreds of container ships with high-speed internet access aimed at improving crew morale and speeding its push into digitizing logistics services.
About 30 vessels were fitted with the systems as part of a pilot program, the Copenhagen-based company said Thursday. By mid-2024, Maersk intends to have the technology installed on more than 330 company-owned ships, said Leonardo Sonzio, the head of fleet management and technology.
The world’s seafarers suffered from isolation more than most employees during the pandemic, enduring a rough combination of workplace stress: fully loaded ships, long delays around ports, difficulty getting shore leave and employers basking in record profits. Adding to the misery, internet connectivity on ocean voyages is notoriously spotty with its reliance on older satellites.
That’s changing as the shipping companies invest some of their windfall earnings on Starlink, which requires an upfront investment in the hardware and an ongoing subscription fee. Maersk’s announcement comes three weeks after Hamburg-based Hapag-Lloyd AG made similar plans public.
“Seafaring is a very challenging job, and an initiative like this is part of our overall attempt to increase the welfare and well-being of our seafarers while they’re on board,” Sonzio said in an interview. “This will have significant implications for them to be quite transformational.”
He used the example of sailing in remote areas like the South Pacific, when ships might travel through communications “blind spots” from four to 13 days with very limited connectivity. Starlink, by contrast, would allow almost seamless access to emails, social media and video calls no matter the location, Sonzio said.
For ship operations, Maersk expects the Starlink upgrade will also help reduce on-board IT incidents — about 60% of which are blamed on connection problems, he said. That, in turn, should improve communications between officers and land-based fleet managers and ultimately make goods flow more smoothly, Sonzio said.
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