Superyacht technology

ONBOARD looks at the latest technical developments and offerings from the world of entertainment, crew comms, VSAT, cyber security plus safety and sonar technology.

Within this wonderful and yet very niche industry, the element of trust still reigns supreme and it’s sometimes seems that unless a product is made ‘specifically’ for the superyacht world, then it can be difficult for the company behind that product to gain momentum.

Some six years ago, a friend who was then working in the commercial shipping industry, had a ‘mad’ idea of bringing a predictive maintenance programme into the superyacht world. Of course within the commercial marine business, every lost minute costs money, so why would this appeal to the superyacht industry?

The technology was proven, had been in existence for some time and there were case studies galore. But when this gentleman took his idea to a reputable yacht builder, there was absolutely no appetite for it. Firstly, they couldn’t figure out who would pay for it, certainly not the owner of a new yacht – why would the yacht need maintenance?

Fast forward to 2024 and we’re seeing established predictive maintenance tools and portals that make refits and new builds easier to track and control, with seamless reporting and we’ve at last moved away from those dreaded excel spreadsheets we love so much.

Perhaps one of the most critical areas of running a superyacht is the financial arena, and here too, we’ve seen an abundance of tools that streamline expenditure, mitigate FX fluctuation and give all stakeholders a single view of the yacht’s expenditure.

Management software is also a competitive space and we’ve seen companies from other non-marine sectors try and conquer the market, but they stepped back pretty quickly when they actually learned how complicated and niche the superyacht world can be. But a part of me still thinks that unless one is told the product is built specifically for a superyacht, then the take will certainly be more timid. Thankfully, there are some tremendous tools out their to help manage a yacht or fleet of yachts, and the core leaders within this space are constantly delivering new modules thanks to the input from operational crew and the management companies.

The audio visual and guest experience segment is vast but once again we’ve seen players come and go. The worst element here is the prices companies think they can charge for ‘bespoke superyacht’ entertainment systems and for some reason if you move an entertainment system from a multi-million dollar property to a yacht, the price doubles. The owner and guests really just want to watch the ball game, their favourite TV drama or some lousy reality show, the kids need to be wired up and they might even want some mood lighting. That’s probably simplifying it, but that is what is now being delivered – simple to use interfaces and everything in one place to control lights, music, blinds, the cinema, TVs and more, BUT, with the same intuitive tools that the owners might use in their luxury residences.

I will however, finish with the same comment as I made back in 2023 – it comes down to the people you deal with. What ever the product or services, the relationship must be open, honest, value for money and transparent, then we’ll all get what we want.

superyacht technologyTHE SECURE APPROACH
The IMO guidelines provide high level recommendations on maritime cyber risk management to safeguard vessels from current and emerging cyber threats and vulnerabilities. But, in reality how does a yacht and their crew manage this without interrupting ‘normal life’?

Not another article on maritime cyber security…?!? There are an abundance of guides and ‘top 10 tips’ to which we can refer, as we try to make some sense of this complex and opaque topic. Let us, instead, take an alternative look at an issue that deserves a wider perspective.

When the great Jon Bannenberg proclaimed “No-one needs a yacht” it was a prescient recognition that, for ownership to be a worthwhile endeavour, the designer’s creation must facilitate a seamless flow of life around their client; one that enhances the joys such ownership should confer. Yet, all too often, those of us responsible for security forget that this human experience is the whole point of yachting. The many layers of protection we provide, to shield the vessel and her occupants from a myriad of threats, both real and perceived, sometimes obscure, or act in opposition to, this fundamental premise. Simply put, it’s not all about us. If security: physical, human – or indeed cyber – constrains freedom of action, it erodes the very peace of mind we are supposed to engender.

An industry has arisen around compliance with the IMO cyber security regulations, with enthralling demonstrations of offensive capabilities and their consequences for yachts. Whilst it is entirely feasible for malicious actors to effect hugely significant outcomes, a narrative has arisen, in which ‘spectacular’ threats are emphasised to encourage compliance. Yes, critical systems can be hacked, GPS can be spoofed, Internet-enabled devices (and the humans who operate them) do present deliciously exploitable vulnerabilities. The problem, however, with an approach that leverages fear, uncertainty, and doubt, is that it is no less exploitative than the threats it purports to mitigate.

Of course, one must not denigrate the extraordinary capabilities of the many excellent providers in the cyber security arena, nor should one deny that the maritime cyber risk environment is very real (it is, be in no doubt about the seriousness of this topic), with significant consequences for its victims. The danger, however, is that seafarers are increasingly caught in the middle of an arms race between malicious actors and enterprising countermeasures providers.

Cyber-facilitated threats pose a clear and present danger to people and assets in the maritime domain. The best suppliers equip you to understand risk holistically, plan for mitigation and, critically, develop a set of procedures to follow when your defences are breached. Superyachts are attractive for direct exploitation and vulnerable to the collateral effects of attacks directed elsewhere. Glorious isolation within an interconnected society is simply not an option, nor is it desirable.

The possibilities afforded by this brave new world of maritime digitisation should be embraced and leveraged for good. To do that, seek support from providers who listen, empathise, and promote holistic resilience. Beneficial outcomes will surpass, and endure beyond, the tempting, yet uncertain, reassurance afforded by ‘compliance’.

John Hoeven from Poynting Europe asks “When it comes to staying connected while at sea, seafarers have a choice to make: should they opt for Satellite communications like Starlink or choose LTE/5G broadband solutions?” In this article, he’ll delve into the specifics of these two technologies and explore when it’s better to use one over the other, particularly for marine applications.

It is a satellite internet constellation project developed by SpaceX. It involves a constellation of small LEO (low earth orbit) satellites orbiting the Earth, providing high-speed, low-latency broadband internet access to underserved and remote areas around the world, including those at sea.

LTE/5G Domes, provided by companies like Poynting, are terrestrial-based internet solutions that utilise cellular networks. These domes are specifically designed for marine applications, ensuring a stable internet connection for the maritime industry. Among Poynting’s solutions, two popular options are the RIPPLE and WAVEHUNTER domes. For both these solutions it is important to consider its limitations and strengths when considering which option is best to use as a communication solution for your vessel or yacht.

For most marine applications, starting with a Poynting LTE/5G Dome should be your foundation. These solutions are reliable and well-suited for coastal sailing where cellular coverage is readily available.

However, if your voyages take you deep into the open sea, Starlink can be a valuable upgrade path to add to your LTE/5G solution. Starlink’s satellite coverage extends far beyond the reach of terrestrial networks, making it ideal for long-distance or deep-sea sailing.

There are several compelling reasons to consider LTE/5G broadband solutions for your yacht connectivity:
1. More reliable: Cellular networks are known for their reliability, even in challenging conditions.
2. Free or less costly: Many seafarers can leverage their existing cellular plans, making it a cost-effective choice.
3. Faster: LTE/5G networks offer impressive data speeds, allowing for smooth internet use.
4. Pay as you go: You only pay for the data you use, making it flexible for occasional sailors.
5. Higher throughput: Cellular networks can handle high data throughputs, supporting multiple devices simultaneously.
6. Shorter delay: Lower latency ensures a responsive internet connection.