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Marine Satcom: Monitoring the Archipelago

The dangerous and cost-sensitive occupation of fishing now has an affordable satellite communication solution, say Thuraya and its partners, Addvalue Communications and Indonesia-based PT. SOG.
(L to R) Sanny Jauwhannes, president – PT SOG, Sanford Jewett, VP for marketing – Thuraya, General Yussuff Solichien, chairman – Indonesian Fisherman Association, Handoyo Suparmo, director business development – PT SOG, Kyle Hurst – director for market development maritime – Thuraya

The dangerous and cost-sensitive occupation of fishing now has an affordable satellite communication solution, say Thuraya and its partners, Addvalue Communications and Indonesia-based PT. SOG.

The client brief:

More than 15 years ago, Handoyo Suparmo who was then with Lockheed Martin, had worked on setting up a vessel monitoring system with the Indonesian Fisherman Association (IFA). Now as director, business development, PT. SOG, and as a satellite service provider for MSS operator Thuraya, he proposed to the Indonesian Fisheries Department the possibility of deploying affordable satellite connectivity on fishing vessels around the waters of Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. Suparmo approached Singapore-based Addvalue  Communications, to design such a solution.

“The government was losing revenue due to lack of tracking systems,”says Suparmo. He adds, “Not only do their fishermen have to be warned about straying into foreign waters, foreign vessels poaching in the waters off the coast have to be detected.”

In addition to the primary requirement of tracking, the government was looking at ways of offering voice solutions to improve the quality of life of the fishermen, often out at sea for durations ranging from a week to a couple of months at a time.

Nigel Fountaine, vice president, sales and marketing, Addvalue Communications

“The system we had to come up with had to be similar to the equipment currently being used by existing customers,” reveals Nigel Fountaine, vice president, sales and marketing, Addvalue Communications.

He adds, “While PT. SOG was already selling the Wideye Seagull 5000 (products developed and distributed by Addvalue Communications are under the brand name ‘Wideye’), the fisheries department was seeking a more affordable solution.”

 The solution:

Addvalue and PT. SOG decided to customize a product suited to the specific needs of the fisheries sector where voice and tracking played a primary role. “We decided to strip down the Wideye Seagull 5000 and came up with the SF2500 terminal that enables voice and SMS tracking, both considered vital for the client.”

The terminal is priced at between US $1,300 and $1,500 and is around 50% less expensive than the Seagull 5000 and is reportedly one of the most affordable solutions in the sector.

“The SF2500 is a voice satellite terminal with a built-in GPS tracking system. Users can make satellite voice calls to normal PSTN phones, mobile phones and other satellite phones through the Thuraya satellite network,” explains Fountaine.

With an unmistakable sense of pride in the process of design, Fountaine says, “We did all aspects of design from the mechanical layout to the final product. The design was done in Singapore and the terminals are being produced in neighbouring Malaysia. The ruggedised and customised desktop phone (the terminal is IP30 rated) was designed to replicate the earlier system so that end-users will have a sense of comfort, given the similar styling. For the external device, we are using an active antenna on larger boats with an antenna cable length of up to 40 metres and for smaller vessels, we are offering passive antennas with five metres of antenna cable.”

The tracking device: A key demand by the client

(Left in pic) Gibson Villanueva -account manager- Thuraya, demonstrating the SF2500’s tracking capabilities

The SF2500 supports SMS services through its menu on the large colour LCD screen. An alert button (in a distinct shade of yellow) is available to notify pre-configured contacts during an emergency. When the alert button is activated, the SF2500 will send a pre-determined alert message which includes the time-stamped GPS coordinates of the position to a maximum of three preset contacts for emergency response.

Earlier this year, while speaking at the signing of the contract between Thuraya, PT. SOG and the IFA, major general (ret) Yussuf Solichien M, chairman of the IFA, had said: “We wanted Indonesian

fishermen to feel protected and safe when they’re out at sea. The versatility of the SF2500, its small but powerful antenna, its reliability in different conditions and the built-in emergency response alert system, were key factors in our choice.”

The potential market

The world’s fleet is growing at a reported rate of 10% per annum, and commercial arrivals at major ports have been stable or increasing since 2009, according to sources at Thuraya. The leisure and fishery sectors are reportedly no exception to these growth trends.

Commenting on the size of the market, Gibson Villanueva, the Singapore-based account manager for Thuraya says, “We are talking of a huge potential market. As you know the Indonesian Archipelago is the largest in the world and by some estimates, fishing vessels in the region are around 100,000 in number. The government has mandated that vessels between 30 and 60 gross tonnage need to have the tracking device.”

Elaborating on the size of the market, Suparmo says, “Just one association in Bali has around 800 fishing vessels. We are currently waiting for type approval from the authorities for the hardware. It is expected in a month’s time. As soon as we get it, we have a contract with one association for around 300 vessels. Regarding the question of who is going to bear the cost of equipment, some of the vessels will be financed by owners, while others will be subsidised by the government and still others will be paid for by respective associations.”

Satellite coverage

With larger vessels fishing for tuna as far away as Papua New Guinea, the Thuraya coverage over the entire Asia Pacific region including the South Sea Islands and Australia, is critical.

“The L-band service is resilient to rain and allows for the use of smaller antenna,” says Villanueva of Thuraya.

Speaking at the time of signing the contract, Samer Halawi, CEO, Thuraya, had commented: “Our first customer for the SF2500, the Indonesian Fisherman Association, is exactly the kind of organisation we expect the product to appeal to, and we are very pleased to see them sign up even before the product’s official launch. Fishing is one of the three most dangerous occupations in the world, but lack of affordability has placed reliable satellite communications outside the reach of many fishermen until now. Smaller form factors and more affordable technology mean it’s easier to keep satellite equipment on-board even in very small vessels, making it safer for fishermen to do their jobs and stay in touch with shore.”

Crew calling made affordable

“At Thuraya, we offer tailoured pricing packages that allow customers to subscribe to the plans most suited to their requirements and budgets. Calls are around 65 cents per minute for crew – previously it was a dollar a minute,” says Villanueva.

As the customer-facing company in this project, PT. SOG’s Suparmo says, “We will be selling pre-paid cards to crew. Crew calls using Thuraya’s ‘Call for All’ cards are charged at reduced rates, allowing you to speak for longer with family and friends. It provides an easy way to track calls, and monitor official and private usage, by charging calls to separate card accounts.”

Poised to deploy

Giving us an update of where matters are poised, Suparmo explains, “The SF2500 has undergone rigorous testing for the purpose of type approval. The tests had two aspects. The first was to test the capability and durability of the hardware and software. The other aspect was to test the connection between our server in Jakarta and the server of the fishing department.”

Suparmo calls this project “his baby” having approached the fisheries association with the proposal for an affordable solution. At the same time, he admits that dealing with bureaucracy has had its frustrations.

“It was a demanding process but now we are at the stage of deploying the solutions, so it seems well worth the effort.”

Commenting on scalability of the project, Villanueva says: “With the same hardware and an upgrade to the software, we would, in future, enable vessels to report their catch and end-users will be assured that the fish was caught in a legitimate location where there was no abuse of the environment.

“For Thuraya MarineComms, this is an important milestone and sends out a message to the industry that apart from merchant, cargo and other types of marine vessels, we have solutions for a cost-sensitive sector such as fisheries. In addition, I believe the SF2500 will prove to be a cost effective solution for pleasure boats and patrol boats, and other similar vessels.”