05 December 2023
MOL Aims for Full-scale Introduction of Starlink Satellite Communication, Targeting More Than 200 Ocean-going Vessels. Addressing Global Seafarer Shortage by Improving Work Environment
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Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Ltd. announced the decision to install Starlink satellite communication service on 233 of its ocean-going vessels managed by MOL Group ship management companies. The group plans to have about 140 vessels equipped with the system by the end of fiscal year 2023.
Starlink satellite is a communications service that uses multiple small satellites deployed in low orbit to provide high-speed, low-latency connectivity. MOL has conducted trials on several MOL-operated vessels. The trials confirmed a dramatic improvement in the communication environment, with up to a 50-fold increase in communication speed, enabling seafarers to make video calls with family members and watch videos, which were difficult in the past. Considering the positive impact on seafarers’ well-being, MOL has decided to proceed with a full-scale introduction of the system on its managed ocean-going vessels.
The shortage of seafarers in the shipping industry is becoming more serious, and as of January 2023, there will be a 10% shortage of seafarers compared to the number needed around the world. Against this backdrop, MOL sees an urgent need to improve the well-being of seafarers onboard its vessels. Because the general onboard communication environment causes time lag and capacity limitations for private communication with family and friends, improvement of the onboard communication environment is a critical issue that must be addressed not only by MOL but also by the industry as a whole.
Maersk has decided to install Starlink Internet, the pioneering satellite constellation developed by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, on its fleet.
In light of this situation, MOL, along with Marlink AS (President Maritime: Tore Morten Olsen, Headquarters: Norway), have prepared a white paper (English version only; LinkedIn account required) outlining the challenges of the current onboard communication environment, an overview of low-orbit communications including Starlink satellite, and expected applications in the future, and will widely share the knowledge gained from the trials and proactively encourage measures to address this industry-wide issue. MOL has received many favorable comments and reactions from those who viewed the report on LinkedIn.
The MOL Group is committed to improving the quality of seafarers’ onboard life by utilizing satellite communication services that offer high-speed, low-latency connections at sea, where the communication environment is significantly inferior to that on land. In the future it will further promote the digital transformation (DX) of maritime operations by improving operational efficiency through real-time information sharing between vessels and land, and by providing full support from shore in the event of trouble onboard a vessel.
MOL plans to install Starlink on all its group’s managed vessels, except for those for which it is difficult to install Starlink at present due to ship registry and other reasons.
Leaders in innovation, the ship management arm of the Columbia Group, Columbia Shipmanagement (CSM), is conducting a trial of the new Starlink satellite internet service on a number of vessels.
The Starlink service, provided by a constellation of low-earth orbit (LEO) satellites operated by SpaceX, is designed to deliver reliable and high-speed internet connectivity to ships and vessels across all sectors of the maritime industry.