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Top 3 barriers to efficient data transfer between ship and shore (and how to overcome them)

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In today’s increasingly integrated maritime logistics chain, operations taking place onboard the vessel need to be tightly connected with operations on the shoreside. The volume of data and information such as files and documents being exchanged between ship and shore is growing almost exponentially. 


This makes maritime-optimised data transfer management essential. To safely collect and distribute information from ship to shore and vice versa, or across fleet or ship groups, digitally connected systems need to operate fluently together.

However, in challenging bandwidth conditions, maintaining this reliable, high-capacity data connectivity between vessels at sea and operations onshore isn’t all plain sailing. 

This article will look at three typical barriers to effective ship-to-shore data transfer – and how you as an owner or operator can get around them.  

Barrier #1: It’s complicated and risky

Many vessels use a multitude of digital systems and applications where files and data are stored. Each solution may be using a different tool for exchanging files with the shoreside system. This makes it challenging to have an overview, keep track or group all the files. 

  • In the maritime context, with many ships and many sources or destinations, it becomes quite complicated to configure file replications, monitor their progress and status, and archive and search for completed transfers.

  • Many standalone data transfer software solutions are cumbersome to keep up-to-date on the vessel side, resulting in vulnerabilities that pose a security risk if not managed properly. 

  • Quite a few data sharing solutions also have complicated privacy rules, resulting in unclear data ownership.

Barrier #2: Maritime bandwidth is limited and expensive

Even with data transfer speeds increasing in the past years, the amount of data to be transferred is continuously getting bigger. Therefore, IT departments in shipping companies have to make sure they are utilising the available bandwidth in the most optimal way. 

This is not possible using file transfer solutions not optimised for the challenges and complexities of maritime connectivity – a point that brings us to the third barrier we have identified. 

Read more: 4 typical use cases for Dualog Drive

 

Barrier #3: Synchronisation solutions not built for maritime use

Generic file transfer solutions – such as Dropbox for Business or OneDrive – are not explicitly built for usage in the maritime sector. This means they do not work well with the unique way shipping companies are structured. For example, these solutions do not allow you to automatically define specific folders on the shoreside or across your fleet to copy or synchronise data. It might be done manually, but not in a centrally configured way. 

Besides, as they are not built to distribute files across networks and various end devices, ‘land-based’ file transfer solutions will consume lots of data, even when idle.

Without proper data prioritisation and bandwidth optimisation, generic file transfer solutions can lead to unexpected operating costs. Solutions not purpose-built for shipping typically lack the ability to monitor ongoing and completed file transfers per ship or ship group. This can result in interruptions in ship operations due to erroneous or even unpredictable data delivery. 

Furthermore, if you experience satellite interruption or other connection failures during a file transfer, generic solutions cannot restart the transfer from the point of interruption. Instead, they retransmit from scratch, which means additional clogging of bandwidth capacity – and more time wasted.

As far as email-based solutions are concerned, most have a limitation on file size. As a result, they struggle to distribute large data volumes or complex folder structures to the vessels, and it often requires time-consuming manual operations. 

How to overcome the challenges of ship-to-shore data transfer

To ensure business-critical data is distributed between ship and shore in a timely, secure and cost-efficient manner, you need to use a file and folder replication service designed specifically for the maritime industry. 

In other words, implement a synchronisation solution purpose-built to streamline the collection and distribution of large data volumes between ship and shore.

Conclusion

Integrated operations is the future of the digitalised maritime logistics chain. The winners will be shipping companies well rigged to leverage the full potential of vessel data and information for optimal business decision-making.

To obtain actionable knowledge, insights and predictions from onboard data, you need to distribute it effectively and securely ashore as well as across fleet or ship groups. Likewise, to ensure uninterrupted operations, shoreside data and files must reach vessels at sea without delay or risk of being compromised.

Optimised ship/shore data management creates a myriad of efficiency improvements and market opportunities for modern shipping companies – but it is only achievable using synchronisation solutions tailormade for maritime demands and operations.

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Top 3 barriers to efficient data transfer between ship and shore (and how to overcome them)
Written by Lars Martinussen

Lars brings 15 years of experience working with maritime IT. As the Sales Manager Europe at Dualog, he enjoys working closely with customers to create real value in the interface between top-of-the-range services and customer needs. When he is not busy travelling (which he likes), he spends his time on his family, his lower league football club and local politics.

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