Maintaining the quality and freshness of the cargo is of utmost importance when it comes to shipping perishable goods. In today’s interconnected world, connectivity plays a vital role in the success of maritime and offshore operations.
In fact, the ability to maintain constant communication between vessels, offshore rigs, and onshore facilities is mission-critical for optimising operations, managing logistics, and ensuring the safety of crew members.
This article aims to explore the different types of connectivity and communication systems used in offshore reefer containers, their key features, and why they are essential for ensuring the integrity of perishable cargo.
Types of connectivity and communication systems
Satellite communication systems
Satellite communication systems are commonly deployed in maritime and offshore operations to ensure connectivity at sea, especially when freight ships take routes that go through areas without cellular reception.
Satellite systems principally harness a network of geostationary satellites positioned in orbit around the Earth. Acting as relays, these satellites receive signals from ground-based stations and transmit them back to their intended destinations. This process involves the seamless transmission, reception, and retransmission of signals, enabling communication over vast distances.
There are two primary types of satellite systems used in maritime and offshore communication: geostationary satellite systems (GEO) and non-geostationary satellite systems (NGSO). GEO satellites remain fixed relative to the Earth’s surface, providing continuous coverage over specific regions. NGSO satellites move in relation to the Earth’s surface, providing global coverage.
Cellular communication systems
Cellular communication systems utilise existing mobile network infrastructure to establish connectivity between reefer containers and the onshore network.
They rely on cellular networks such as 3G, 4G LTE, and emerging technologies like 5G to transmit data. These offer high-speed and cost-effective communication options, particularly for offshore shipping routes within the range of cellular towers.
Hybrid solutions combine the benefits of satellite and cellular communication systems by merging both technologies to assure continuous connectivity, no matter where the reefer containers are located.
This makes hybrid solutions superior to each independent cellular and satellite system on its own. They offer versatility and adaptability by switching between satellite and cellular networks in an autonomous manner, taking into account availability as well as the intensity of the signal.
During offshore maritime operations, a hybrid strategy ensures reliable communication and lowers the likelihood of service outages occurring.
Key features and capabilities
Connectivity and communication systems for reefer containers offer various features and capabilities that can enhance the performance and efficiency of offshore reefer container operations. Some of the core features and capabilities include:
Remote monitoring and telemetry
Remote monitoring and telemetry enable reefer container operators to acquire and analyse sensor data from reefer container-integrated sensors.
These sensors measure parameters such as temperature, humidity, pressure, power consumption, door status, etc.
This enables reefer container operators to monitor the condition and performance of their reefer containers in real-time and receive alerts and notifications for any critical events or anomalies that may occur.
It facilitates reefer container operators in preventing or minimising perishable product spoilage, damage, or loss, as well as optimising their energy consumption and maintenance costs.
Asset tracking and geolocation
Asset tracking and geolocation enable reefer container operators to track and locate their reefer containers using GPS and geolocation technologies.
Asset tracking and geolocation tools allow reefer container operators to know the exact position and movement of their reefer containers at any given time. It also allows to set geofencing and boundary control rules to prevent unauthorised or unwanted movements.
Asset tracking and geolocation can help reefer container operators improve their security and safety measures, as well as plan and optimise their logistics and transportation routes.
Communication and collaboration tools
These tools enable reefer container operators to communicate and collaborate with their stakeholders using voice and video communication capabilities. It also enables document sharing and messaging platforms, and integration with existing communication systems.
Communication and collaboration tools allow reefer container operators to exchange information and data with their customers, suppliers, partners, agents, and port authorities in a timely and efficient manner.
Such tools also help reefer container operators enhance their customer service and satisfaction levels whilst coordinating and cooperating with their stakeholders to achieve their objectives.
Importance of connectivity and communication systems in reefer containers
For offshore reefer container operations, connectivity and communication systems for reefer containers are not only helpful but also essential. These systems are not only functional but also essential, as they provide various benefits and advantages for reefer container operators, such as:
Real-time monitoring and data exchange
Reefer container operators can improve their visibility and control over their reefer container operations by using connectivity and communication systems to monitor and exchange data with their reefer containers in real-time.
This can be accomplished by monitoring and exchanging data with their reefer containers. In addition to this, they can use the data to generate insights and reports that will assist them in making decisions that are informed and driven by data.
Enhanced visibility and control over container operations
Connectivity and communication systems enable reefer container operators to have a clear and comprehensive view of their reefer container operations, as well as the ability to control and adjust their reefer container settings and functions remotely.
They can also leverage the connectivity and communication systems to automate some of the processes and tasks involved in their reefer container operations, such as temperature regulation, power management, etc.
Improved safety, security, and compliance
Connectivity and communication systems enable reefer container operators to improve their safety, security, and compliance measures for their reefer containers. Especially when they are offshore, shippers can leverage connectivity and communication systems to detect and prevent any potential threats or risks that may affect their reefer containers, such as theft, piracy, damage, spoilage, etc.
They can also employ connectivity and communication systems to ensure compliance with the relevant regulations and standards in different regions or countries, such as customs clearance, documentation, certification, etc.
Efficient coordination and collaboration among stakeholders
Connectivity and communication systems make it possible for reefer container operators to coordinate and collaborate with their stakeholders in an effective and efficient manner, particularly when they are offshore.
This is accomplished by communicating and sharing information and data in a timely and convenient manner. It not only helps operators align their expectations and requirements with those of their stakeholders but also assists them in resolving any potential disputes that may arise.
Improved operational efficiency and decision-making
Connectivity systems streamline operations by automating processes, reducing manual effort, and minimising errors. Real-time data and analytics enable stakeholders to gain insights into operational performance, identify areas for improvement, and implement proactive measures.
These systems empower decision-makers with accurate and timely information, resulting in more efficient and effective management of offshore reefer container operations.
Enhanced customer service and satisfaction
Shipping companies can provide better customer service and satisfaction by leveraging connectivity and communication systems. Real-time updates on shipment status, timely notifications of delays, and proactive management of cargo conditions contribute to a positive customer experience. In fact, improved transparency and responsiveness fosters trust and long-term partnerships with clients.
Regulatory compliance and documentation
Connectivity systems assist in meeting regulatory requirements and documentation standards for offshore shipping. Accurate and comprehensive data records enable compliance with temperature-controlled cargo regulations, quality assurance protocols, and traceability mandates.
These systems simplify the documentation process, reducing administrative burdens and ensuring adherence to industry standards.
Future trends and innovations
As technology continues to advance, the future of connectivity systems for offshore reefer containers holds exciting possibilities. Here are a few emerging trends and innovations to keep an eye on:
- 5G and its Potential Impact on Offshore Container Connectivity: The advent of 5G networks promises faster speeds, lower latency, and increased capacity and will revolutionise offshore container connectivity, enabling real-time data transmission and supporting more sophisticated applications.
- IoT Integration for Smart Container Management: The integration of Internet of Things (IoT) devices and sensors with connectivity systems will create smart container management solutions. In essence, more IoT-enabled containers will possess advanced abilities to collect and transmit a wealth of data, enabling more advanced predictive maintenance, optimising energy consumption, and improving overall logistics efficiency.
- Advancements in Data Analytics and Predictive Maintenance: Connectivity systems combined with advanced data analytics will unlock more valuable insights from the vast amount of data generated by reefer containers. We also expect the emergence of AI/ML predictive maintenance algorithms that possess advanced abilities to detect potential issues before they occur, enabling proactive maintenance and reducing downtime.
In the realm of offshore container connectivity, MGS Satellite system by MGS Icestorm is a leading provider offering reliable and comprehensive communication solutions.
With a commitment to innovation, quality and customer satisfaction, MGS Satellite is dedicated to ensuring seamless connectivity for offshore shipping operations.
In summary, connectivity and communication systems are essential for offshore reefer containers because they enable real-time monitoring, asset tracking, and effective communication among all of the relevant stakeholders.
As a result, improving both operational efficiency and customer satisfaction while also increasing visibility and control, as well as safety and compliance.
New technologies such as 5G and IoT integration hold the promise of even more advanced and intelligent connectivity solutions.
And in the ever-changing landscape of offshore shipping, robust connectivity and communication systems will only become more mission-critical whilst maintaining the integrity and freshness of perishable goods.
A graduate (Business) from KDU, Jason Tan, is the current Business Director (Sales) for MGS Icestorm and has been associated with the company for the past 10 years.
With over 13 years in the shipping industry, he has had a significant contribution to Malaysia’s oil and gas industry in the engine and boat supply sector.
His expertise includes managing offshore catering business, offshore reefer containers, AI technology, offshore gas tanks, A60 pressurized cabins, etc. His contributions have helped establish MGS, in partnership (joint venture) with Thermo King and Honeywell to produce state of art Offshore Reefer Container products.