A New Standard in Marine Communications

By Joseph Keefe
Wednesday, April 16, 2014

KVH provides and Harvey Gulf employs possibly the most sophisticated on-board SATCOM and related service package on the water. That’s no accident.    

If quality service, high tech hardware and quality personnel are the common bonds shared by marine communications provider KVH and its customer Harvey Gulf International Marine, then the relationship is probably a match made in heaven. Harvey Gulf, already a long-time user of the KVH suite of services and equipment, is today converting every vessel in their rapidly expanding 60+ fleet to the latest and greatest equipment standard. From where they sit, that means KVH.
For its part, the business relationship allows KVH to showcase to every other customer and potential user as to what is actually possible at sea in today’s environment. And, that involves plenty. Talking about Harvey Gulf’s business model, Steve Griffin, Sales Manager of the KVH Commercial Maritime, Mobile Broadband Group told MarineNews in March, “They are a visionary company. They are building and adapting the capabilities of their supply boats. As they are constantly trying to be ahead of their competition, we’re doing the same.”

Quality Equipment for Quality Operators
Today, Harvey Gulf International Marine and its President and CEO Shane Guidry are known as high end providers of multi-missioned offshore support vessels in the Gulf of Mexico, and beyond. Founded on the premise that superior performance and safer operations provide customers with value and satisfaction, the firm’s environmental and safety record over time has few peers among competitors. In order to support Harvey Gulf’s HSE (Health, Safety, and Environment) vision to cause no harm to people, assets, or the environment, as well as its new ventures in the environmentally sensitive Alaskan oil and gas market, Harvey Gulf is updating its onboard communications solution.
For Harvey Gulf’s diverse fleet of vessels, flexibility is the key. In addition, as a leader in HSE policies, Harvey Gulf continuously implements new solutions designed to make their vessels and crews safer and greener.
Harvey Gulf chose KVH’s mini-VSAT Broadband network to support a myriad of onboard applications, including: crew Internet access (for things like personal email and online banking), business email for training, reporting, auditing, and other purposes, reliable voice communication in the event of incidents at sea or sick crew members.
In addition to crucial everyday business communications, Harvey Gulf also utilizes mini-VSAT Broadband to stream video from onboard cameras that monitor cargo loading and unloading and other activities to ensure optimal operational efficiency. This allows key operations to be monitored live and on demand by staff at the company’s headquarters, who can then address any concerns immediately. For instance, compliance with Harvey Gulf’s HSE vision statement can be ensured by monitoring hard hat use, and immediately contacting the crew to remedy any noncompliance.
Steve Griffin, Sales Manager of the KVH Commercial Maritime, Mobile Broadband Group adds, “Even though the satellite and broadband technology will change, the KVH platform is adaptable. Harvey Gulf is a long-term client. They saw the value in our systems and have started to use our technologies to stream video from the decks of their ships straight into their corporate conference room. Is there a competitive advantage to look at the deck of a ship at any point in time? Yes. This helps with compliance, productivity. They are looking to incorporate into their whole fleet.”
Harvey Gulf’s first KVH VSAT installations were TracPhone V7 (60 cm, 24 inch diameter antenna), a system that is 85% smaller and 75% lighter than standard 1.2 meter VSAT systems. Hardware this light and compact is important for commercial vessels, since installation downtime and space onboard often come at a premium. In addition, KVH’s mini-VSAT Broadband network was designed from the ground up to be the first next-generation maritime satellite communications solution, perfect for commercial fleets. The global spread spectrum satellite network, built with ViaSat’s patented ArcLight® technology, offers more affordable airtime, voice service and Internet access as fast as 1 Mbps (ship to shore) and 2 Mbps (shore to ship).

Harvey Gulf is putting KVH VSAT (TracPhone V7-IP or V11-IP) plus KVH satellite TV (TracVision M5) on all of its vessels. Having acquired as many as 50 vessels in the past year, every vessel in the fleet, including several highly publicized new builds powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG), is being outfitted with KVH. This includes KVH’s new content delivery service, IP-MobileCast, for both operational content (ECDIS updates) and entertainment content (for crew welfare). The move comes at no small cost.
Harvey Gulf nevertheless insists that the investment is already paying handsome dividends, and promises a bigger payout down the road – across virtually every line time and cost center on their books. According to Steve Griffin, “We’ve (KVH / Harvey Gulf) grown together addressing Harvey Gulf’s specific needs. Our customized solutions have kept our platform ‘sticky.’ When Harvey Gulf acquires a new fleet, they go through the very expensive effort of changing over to our system. It’s pretty flattering. They’re happy with what we have.”
According to Harvey Gulf IT Manager Andy Adgate, companies who secure “pay-as-you-go” contracts often pay more than they should for communications solutions. “If we had to pay as we go for all of the functions we support today, we’d pay far more than we do for our guaranteed KVH service plan.” He adds, “Shell is one of our largest customers. Nothing but the best in communications is acceptable, and we make sure that we have it. We use KVH, in part, because we found that other providers also didn’t have the range of coverage that KVH provides.”
In the Alaskan markets, in particular, Harvey Gulf needs every bit of bandwidth it can get, especially in an area where coverage can be spotty and where environmental monitoring requirements are especially stringent.

Beyond Business: Taking care of the crew
New Harvey Gulf mariners quickly find out what long time employees already know. All Harvey Gulf newbuild hulls have all the bells and whistles related to crew comfort and amenities. Acquisitions of used tonnage get upgraded – or they get sold. In terms of communications options for the crew, the KVH provided suite is impressive. It includes, 24/7 access to telephone services, DirectTV on all vessels (the Captain and Chief Engineer have their own receivers and some vessels have TV access in all cabins), access to the KVH newly acquired content from Headland Media and of course, Internet. And Adgate adds, “We are in the process of rolling out WiFi across all of our vessels.”
But taking care of the crew, especially in the Harvey Gulf business model, means so much more than just crew amenities. For example, very soon, all Harvey Gulf vessels will be equipped with WiFi supported ipads specifically designed to support the firm’s ‘Behavioral Based Safety’ initiative. Here’s how it works: crew members, spotting any unsafe situation or operational matter of importance, merely need to pick up the ipad and dial in their information which is streamed live to the Harvey Gulf offices. Immediate corrective action can then be taken. 

On the Horizon – and here today
Steve Griffin says, “Our goal is to get other companies to recognize how communications affect: crew, captain, IT groups and safety. We look at our clients as knowledge partners. Fifty percent of their takeaway should be a new awareness of the possibilities. ‘What do you want to accomplish with SatCom?’” Arguably, Harvey Gulf has few peers in the regard already. In the near future, the sky – no pun intended – is truly no limit. Soon, Harvey Gulf will use a new KVH fleet tracking tool, so as to better keep track of and improve the efficiency of their business.
In the end, though, it all comes down to service. Harvey Gulf’s IT Manager, Andy Adgate says simply, “Support from KVH has been exemplary.” That’s high praise from a firm that also strives to provide very best in service to its oil & gas customers. At the heart of that service is Harvey Gulf’s commitment to safety, its crew and the environment. The close relationship with KVH, then, is no accident.

(As published in the April 2014 edition of Marine News - www.marinelink.com)

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