Casting a wide net for commercial fishing vessels


Friday, 28 January, 2022

Casting a wide net for commercial fishing vessels

Tracking a commercial car fleet has been an obvious and easy task; for ocean-going fishing boats you need global satellite connectivity.

If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it is the importance of technology in keeping us connected. In our hyper-connected world, there are few places that are off the grid, with no access to cellular.

But ask a commercial fisherman, who can spend months at a time at sea, and they will tell you that connectivity can be hard to come by on open waters — yet remaining connected is critical. A lack of connectivity can limit a fishing vessel’s operations in a number of ways, from hindering navigation, maintenance and reporting systems, to decreased seafarer satisfaction as crew are disconnected from their onshore lives for long periods of time.

The benefits of satellite connectivity are clear: connected vessels are able to track their onshore deliveries in real time, conduct remote diagnostics, assess the latest weather data to calculate the best route, optimise fuel consumption and improve product traceability.

Connected vessels also improve crew member health, safety and happiness by enabling them to remain connected with friends, family and social applications, while ensuring the application of safety regulatory measures and a reliable connection for emergency communications. In an industry known for above-average turnover rates, with 24% of fishers leaving a job after one year and 59% in four years or less, broadband connectivity could be used to support crew welfare and increase employee retention.

Adoption of vessel monitoring systems

A ubiquitous, scalable connectivity solution at sea is increasingly becoming a necessity as more countries require vessel monitoring systems (VMS). These systems require ‘always on’ connectivity to provide fishery authorities with accurate reporting of the position, date, time and course of vessels.

The demands on the fishing industry are also clear: the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that of the approximately 179 million tons of fish caught globally each year, 20% is unreported and unregulated fishing, representing an annual cost of $23 billion. VMS are increasingly being required both for safety and to combat this illegal fishing, yet today only a small percentage of vessels have such systems enabled.

In addition to compliance, connectivity empowers vessel owners and crew through accurate information about ports, weather, markets and more. Seamless access to this information lets fishers know exactly where the catch is, helping crew optimise their voyage, cutting down time at sea.

In this highly price-sensitive industry, access to real-time pricing of fish stocks in nearby ports allows crew to prioritise a catch by predicting nearby market demand.

To stay competitive in an increasingly digitised and global industry, fishing vessel owners and operators are looking to incorporate dependable connectivity solutions. According to Harbor Research, there are over 84,000 large fishing vessels (24 metres or larger) globally. However, today only the largest vessels in this segment have adopted very small aperture terminals (VSAT) communications, as these solutions have traditionally been expensive and rather large: typically one metre in size and often weighing hundreds of kilograms.

For smaller to mid-size boats, even down to a size of 12 metres, finding a satellite communications system that provides the right balance of affordable equipment, service performance and coverage has been a major barrier for fishing operators.

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