Satnews Daily
November 14th, 2019

Cheers to Fleet Xpress' Agreement with Bourbon's Vessels 

The name certainly gets your attention — Bourbon —and this Bourbon doesn't come in a bottle, but rather as a marine service for offshore oil and gas. Bourbon signed a contract committing more than 100 offshore support vessels (OSVs) to Inmarsat’s Fleet Xpress, the maritime broadband service that combines the speed of Ka-band with continuous back up from Inmarsat’s FleetBroadband operating on L-band. The deal represents a breakthrough offshore contract for Fleet Xpress, which is already installed on some 7,000 vessels — mainly seagoing merchant ships. 

The company is known for high performance vessels and services, Bourbon’s response to prolonged lower oil prices has emerged as the action plan ‘#BOURBONINMOTION’. The plan includes the Smart Shipping Program, structured around a new vessel operational model, onshore support and a remote support center that seeks to leverage digital and connectivity tools to reduce fleet operating costs. Set for completion by 2021, the program foresees deployment on 133 ‘smart’ vessels. 

All vessels covered in the agreement will feature advanced 3-axis stabilized antennas from Cobham, specifically developed for and approved by Inmarsat for the Global Xpress satellite network.

Among the first of Bourbon’s fleet to migrate to Fleet Xpress will be a group of high-end subsea vessels whose data consumption and management needs are ready for IoT-based solutions. These vessels also feature dual satellite terminals with high-powered amplifiers for additional redundancy. The Bourbon vessels will take advantage of bandwidth, stability and reliability, in the first instance to step up the use of video conferencing. Real time video feeds are also expected to feature in ROV operations, with digitalization that is expected to effect every aspect of vessel management.    

Eric Griffin, VP Offshore Energy, Inmarsat Maritime commented that this contract is substantial in its own right and underlines that Inmarsat’s Fleet Xpress solution offers the same compelling business case on vessel efficiency and crew welfare for the energy sector as it does in the merchant shipping arena. Commercial shipping is using Fleet Xpress as its pathway to maritime digitalization; now, the value of joining that journey is being acknowledged by one of the leading marine offshore Service Providers in the world.

According to Bourbon Corporation Chief Executive Officer Gaël Bodénès who said that the time has come for operational intelligence: connected vessels, use of predictive maintenance, shore-based control centers, rationalization of tasks, etc. Automation of onboard systems is already a reality for their seafarers and they must all innovate at speed to invent their business model and their professions of tomorrow.

Eric Griffin of Inmarsat also stresses that flexibility had been an essential ingredient in securing the Bourbon deal. The service provider could raise or lower bandwidth usage as necessary, or even suspend it on a planned basis without penalty.  And that an important aspect of Fleet Xpress is that third party charterers could run their own Fleet Xpress services via a dedicated ‘pipe’ without interrupting the primary bandwidth being provided to an OSV. Customers chartering OSVs can therefore manage their own ‘smart’ vessel performance with full flexibility, using existing terminals and hardware on board.