The Home Office’s law enforcement agency Border Force has awarded a £3.1m contract to Capita for the implementation and support of 4G mobile and satellite voice and data communications.
Under the three-year contract, the aim is to digitise the vessels of the force, which patrols UK maritime borders and handles security threats, including smuggling of contraband, human trafficking and clandestine maritime crossings.
Projects will focus on implementing Capita’s maritime connectivity service, which uses a combination of satellite and 4G roaming, to enable the Border Force’s vessels to securely connect to Home Office systems while at sea.
The Border Force’s five cutters will be using the system, which is intended to provide the law enforcement agency with a springboard to implement functionalities such as remote system and engine diagnostics, vessel tracking and live video streaming in the future.
The maritime technology market is seen as a big opportunity for the UK – along with shipping, this segment is worth more than £80bn and is set to grow to be worth over £224bn by 2030, according to the Trade 2.0 report by govtech venture firm Public, commissioned by Inmarsat.
However, the report noted that connectivity needs to be improved at sea for digital transformation to be unleashed in the sector: “There is no 4G network at sea, and much of the innovations we have seen in the past 10 years have not yet made it onto ships,” the report said.
“As the cost of transferring data between any two points on earth becomes negligible, we will see transformative technologies implemented on vessels around the world,” it added.
In Belgium, a project aimed at ensuring connectivity at sea is currently being implemented. The Port of Zeebrugge is rolling out a private wireless network to track, analyse and manage connected devices across multiple port-based applications in real time.
The end-to-end, high-performance, 5G-ready network will accelerate port innovation and automation with deployment of internet of things (IoT) devices, autonomous vehicles, augmented reality and drones.
The network is now being used for connectivity with tugboats, air pollution detectors, security cameras and quay sensors. The high-bandwidth and low-latency connectivity will also be used during the upcoming construction of a new sea lock and during building and maintenance of offshore wind farms. The Port of Zeebrugge project is expected to complete in mid-2020.