I recently attended the Nor-Shipping maritime conference and trade show, which takes place every second year in Oslo. This is my fifth occasion attending the show, and I am always amazed by the energy, enthusiasm and innovation displayed.

The maritime market is one of Iridium’s core businesses, and we have steadily increased our market share in this sector, despite an intensely competitive selling environment. That’s largely due to the success of our Iridium OpenPort® broadband service. Iridium OpenPort offers a value proposition for ship operators that cannot be matched by any other communication carrier – global pole-to-pole coverage over all the world’s sea routes, multiple independent phone lines and scalable data rates up to 128 kbps, all packaged in a small, lightweight, low-maintenance, easily installed package, and backed by worldwide shipboard service. It also offers excellent rates for mariners on our crew calling service via GoChat prepaid calling cards, which are growing and ever popular within the maritime community.

The availability of cost-effective broadband satellite solutions such as Iridium OpenPort is having a transformative impact on the international shipping community. It’s so much easier and affordable now to remain connected between ship and shore, enabling shipping companies to increase efficiency of ship operations and in many cases transform the ship into a remote office site. It is also having a big impact on crew welfare by providing phone, e-mail and Internet links for seafarers to keep in touch with their families and friends while at sea.

For us at Iridium, Nor-Shipping remains an important event on the maritime industry calendar, this year attracting record attendance with more than 33,000 registered attendees from 54 countries. There was an entire hall dedicated to maritime IT and electronics exhibitors, including a number of our service partners and distributors who showed an array of Iridium-enabled products and services.

As an example of this transformation of the ship to a remote site, Navigation Maritime Bulgare (Navibulgar) is a shipping company that manages a fleet of bulk carriers trading on worldwide routes. Last year, following an extensive evaluation and trial of available satellite communication solutions, Navibulgar decided to outfit its entire fleet of 45 ships with Iridium OpenPort broadband satellite terminals under a service plan with AND Group, an Iridium service partner.

Navibulgar reports that Iridium OpenPort has helped achieve significant savings in communication costs and greater efficiencies in managing its ships. To learn more, I talked with Alex Alexandrov, director of purchasing, IT and communications for Navibulgar and managing director of its subsidiary Navibulgar Services Ltd.

Alexandrov spoke of the importance of Iridium OpenPort’s high-speed data connections as an efficient tool for vessel management operations, monitoring and control. In addition, Navibulgar has significantly reduced communication costs and decreased the administrative burden in their office related to managing and controlling crew calling costs by implementing Iridium OpenPort.

Alexandrov also noted that Iridium OpenPort plays a key role in improved crew motivation and morale. The company is using prepaid crew calling cards and data solutions via Iridium OpenPort for crew private e-mails and controlled web browsing, keeping the crew connected with their families ashore. Alexandrov said his aim is for each ship to be an extension of the office, and with current communication solutions based on Iridium OpenPort, they are very close to achieving that.

Thanks for reading. I look forward to filling you in on some other notable maritime industry developments from Nor-Shipping in my next post.