Advancing Decarbonization With Enterprise-Grade Connectivity

Container ship under way

Published May 8, 2024 12:27 PM by Intelsat Maritime


The merchant maritime shipping industry powers trade and is the backbone of the global economy. Approximately 80-90% of the world’s products and goods are transported by nearly 120,000 merchant vessels carrying roughly 11 billion tons of cargo.

As merchant vessels and container ships traverse the world’s waterways, they consume approximately 300 million metric tons of fuel each year. The impact on the environment is significant with the industry accounting for about 3% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions. As a matter of fact, if the maritime industry were a country, it would rank sixth among the largest greenhouse gas emitters.

Faced with the realities of its damaging environmental impact, the industry has faced immense pressure from regulatory authorities, governmental bodies, and climate advocacy organizations to decarbonize and improve the efficiency of all industry-related operations, from cargo handling equipment at ports to ground transportation to the ships at sea. Vessel owners have worked to update older fleets, utilize larger ships to require fewer loads, and travel at reduced speeds to conserve fuel, but the pressure to accelerate meaningful sustainable operations is only escalating.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO), the UN’s agency responsible for safety, security, and pollution prevention, first introduced mandatory measures to improve shipping efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in 2011. In support of UN Sustainability Development Goal 13, the IMO has since unveiled several additional measures, including a 2023 update that requires shipping operators to reduce emissions by at least 50% by 2050, as compared to levels in 2008.

To comply with these and other continuously evolving sustainability requirements put forth by the IMO, as well as individually by governments around the world, ship owners and operators are adopting new technologies and deploying connected applications that can optimize routes, maximize vessel capacity, reduce time at sea, and lower fuel consumption. To successfully reduce emissions and costs, however, these applications need access to "always-on," enterprise-grade, high-speed connectivity throughout any voyage, no matter its location or duration.

Satellite communications solutions like Intelsat FlexMaritime can help merchant shipping owners extract maximum value from these applications and ultimately operate their fleets in a more environmentally conscious manner, avoiding fines and staying in the good graces of regulators.

Reducing Impact with Optimized Fuel Consumption

Fuel usage has the most significant environmental impact and is the main contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the maritime shipping industry. The ability to better control and optimize fuel usage is critical and plays an outsized role as to whether a merchant vessel will be able to effectively meet IMO mandatory standards. For this reason, ship owners and crews must be able to access and leverage digital applications that monitor fuel consumption in real time and enable optimized routing and speed control to ensure that fuel is being utilized in the most efficient manner possible. These applications require the presence of always-on connectivity to function and deliver the valuable data and insights needed to manage fuel consumption and reduce emissions through intelligent voyage planning.

Powering Today’s Maritime Industry Digital Solutions

The digitization of the maritime shipping industry has led to a wave of new digital applications and solutions that extend beyond fuel consumption monitoring. For example, autopilot software optimizes rudder movements and guides calculated decisions to reduce the rudder control inefficiencies that often occur during voyages. By generating an estimated 1% savings in fuel consumption, applications such as these can reduce emissions while also delivering real-world savings. However, access to global, enterprise-grade satellite-powered connectivity is required to achieve this reality. 

Keeping Ships Operating with Peak Efficiency and Form

Proactive maintenance ensures that vessels can operate with maximum power, speed, and consistency, resulting in better fuel economy. Unexpected equipment failures can lead to costly downtimes. Unforeseen issues while at sea can result in expensive route diversions. Predictive and preventative maintenance technologies can detect immediate or potential issues that might threaten the crew's ability to operate the ship in the most efficient and productive manner possible during a journey. Satellite-powered connectivity at sea enables these applications to communicate captured data and insights related to ship performance, enabling any needed repairs or preventative maintenance to be done and completed as soon as possible.

As the amount of data processing, reporting, and use of modern digital technologies like 5G and cloud computing increases across the merchant shipping industry, the need to replace legacy communications infrastructure with enhanced connectivity solutions designed with the maritime industry in mind will become more pronounced. FlexMaritime is the modernized connectivity solution that enables decarbonization and digitization of the maritime shipping industry.

A Connectivity Solution Designed for Sustainable Maritime Shipping

Intelsat FlexMaritime is a global, fully managed connectivity solution designed specifically to meet the increasing connectivity demands and support the evolving sustainability and emissions-reducing requirements within the maritime shipping industry. FlexMaritime delivers enterprise-grade,  reliable, high-throughput connectivity everywhere at sea, ensuring consistent, high-performing ship-to-shore and shore-to-ship communications for merchant ships and their crews.

FlexMaritime removes the complexity of dealing with bandwidth availability, configuration, and management of network infrastructure, giving vessel owners, operators, and captains peace of mind at sea.

FlexMaritime delivers speed and multiple layers of throughput where needed, even at the most remote ocean locations. This award-winning, high-performance service provides consistent, "always on" connectivity anywhere in the world with unrivaled network uptime, meaning users won't have to worry about a lack of service availability or quality. 

Keeping up with the increasingly stringent regulations intended to reduce maritime emissions, as well as continued demand, requires the adoption of a modern and flexible communications network. By powering today's digital technologies and delivering uninterrupted connectivity, Intelsat FlexMaritime helps merchant vessel owners accelerate sustainable operations, meet IMO and UN goals, and responsibly participate in a more energy-efficient and eco-conscious global trade arena.

Offered through our carefully selected solutions partners, FlexMaritime can be integrated with their innovative value-added services and world-class support to create the perfect solution for their customers. To learn more, visit https://www.intelsat.com/maritime.

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.