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The 3 biggest obstacles to efficient data transfer between ships and shore (and how to overcome them)

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The amount of data exchanged between ships and shore is increasing every day, including business-critical files and documents. 

Under ideal circumstances, this data transfer would go smoothly. In reality, it’s difficult to maintain reliable, high-capacity connectivity between vessels at sea and operations on land.

This article examines three typical barriers to effective ship-to-shore data transfer – and how vessel IT can overcome them.  


Barrier #1: It’s complicated and risky

Many vessels use several different digital systems and applications where files and data are stored. Each solution may use a different tool for exchanging files with the shoreside system. Because of this, it's hard to keep track of or group all the files. 

  • When you have many ships and many sources or destinations, managing file replications, monitoring their progress and status, and archiving and searching for completed transfers is complicated.
  • Many standalone software solutions for data transfer are challenging to keep up-to-date on the vessel side. This leads to vulnerabilities that can compromise your security.
  • Many data-sharing solutions have complex privacy rules, making data ownership unclear.

Barrier #2: Satellite connectivity can’t keep up with the demand

The volume of data exchanged between ship and shore has increased drastically in recent years. Despite this, bandwidth is relatively limited, and satellite connections are expensive. 

At present, almost half of all maritime shipping companies are not on VSAT. Some VSAT providers experience problems in delivering promised bandwidth. 

Additionally, Big Data analytics and operations will significantly strain bandwidth availability. In light of this, vessel IT departments must ensure their organisations and fleets use the bandwidth available to its fullest potential. 

What does it take to achieve this under the current circumstances? As a first step, it makes sense to use file transfer solutions that are built specifically to overcome limited satellite connectivity. These solutions are optimised for the challenges and complexities of maritime connectivity. 

This brings us to the third barrier to efficient data transfer between ship and shore… 


Barrier #3: File-sharing solutions not built for maritime use

File-sharing solutions designed for use on land – such as Dropbox for Business, Box or OneDrive – present several problems to shipping IT departments.

  • In the hectic world of shipping, they are often difficult to configure and monitor. Most available solutions, even specialised solutions like Resilio, are not designed for maritime use, where connectivity is typically unstable and costly. 
  • They consume a lot of data, even when not in use, since they are not designed to distribute files across networks and various end devices.
  • There is no easy way to search for completed or failed transfers, resulting in wasted time searching for missing files and reporting to stakeholders.
  • Typical workarounds – remoting in with Teamviewer, splitting large files and sending by email, or even transporting USB sticks by courier – don’t work in the highly competitive environment of maritime shipping.
  • They can't restart a file transfer from the point of interruption if you get a satellite interruption or other connection failure. Instead, they retransmit everything from scratch. More bandwidth gets clogged – and more time is wasted.
  • Most email-based solutions have a file size limitation. They have trouble distributing large data volumes or complex folder structures to the vessels. In most cases, manual operations are required, which take up a lot of time you could be spending on more important tasks.


How can you overcome the challenges of ship-to-shore data transfer?

As an IT manager, one of your key priorities is ensuring that business-critical data can be distributed efficiently, securely and cost-effectively between your vessels and your offices ashore. 

Connectivity at sea is challenging, but the solution to it is not. In fact, it’s quite simple: Make a convincing case internally for implementing a file and folder replication solution purpose-built to speed up and simplify data delivery between ship and shore.

Related: Five typical use cases for Dualog Drive in 2023


Taking on data transfer challenges means taking on your competition

You will win in tomorrow's digitalised maritime logistics chain by fully integrating your vessels and crews into your overall operation. Why? Because you'll build a greener, smarter and more profitable business by overcoming time and space limitations.

To make better and more informed decisions as a shipping company, you must gather knowledge, insights, and predictions from your vessel data. This is only possible if you can distribute it effectively and securely ashore and across fleet or ship groups. 

In the same way, to ensure uninterrupted operations, shoreside data and files must reach vessels at sea without delay or risk of being compromised.

Bottom line: Optimal ship/shore data management creates numerous efficiency improvements and market opportunities for modern shipping companies. A solution optimising connectivity and seamlessly finding the best way to streamline ship-shore communication of messages, documents and data is the only way to achieve this.


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The 3 biggest obstacles to efficient data transfer between ships and shore (and how to overcome them)
Written by Rune Larsen, Product Marketing Manager

Rune Larsen is Product Marketing Manager in Dualog. Educated in business strategy and marketing from the Arctic University of Norway, he has more than 25 years of experience in the creative industry, where he worked as a writer, consultant, graphic designer, and creative director in various advertising agencies and design studios. He's been orchestrating brand identity projects, design work and brand-building campaigns for a wide range of organisations. He brings a passion for great design to the team, never compromising on the importance of the 'experience' part of UX. When not at the office, he enjoys hiking with his wife or is busy being a football coach for his youngest daughter. His fitness regime involves either running or cross-country skiing. Rune is an avid reader of business-related books, and he loves the occasional bottle of Barolo.

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