Interview with Paul Rutherford, Service Engineering Director at NSSLGlobal | WindEurope
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Interview with Paul Rutherford, Service Engineering Director at NSSLGlobal

Paul Rutherford

Can you tell our readers a little about your organisation?

NSSLGlobal is a leading independent provider of satellite communications and IT solutions. We’ve been at the forefront of engineering development since 1969, with a reputation for attention to detail and client management. The company operates globally with its UK headquarters and main offices in Germany, Singapore, USA, and Poland, Denmark and its Research and Development (R&D) arm in Norway. My team and I are based in the Newcastle office and we specialise in developing products and solutions for the wind energy sector. Most importantly, I have a team of engineers and specialists who between them are qualified to look after our clients in the sector.  Between us we have the experience and knowledge which led to the development of Oceanic Dynamics, our cutting-edge vessel and crew welfare monitoring solution.  Combining this experience with our strong reputation in providing satcoms and IT solutions to the maritime sector, both commercial and leisure, fishing, land, energy, media, oil and gas, mining and some of the largest governments across the globe, makes us a real force in the industry.

The offshore wind industry is a relatively new sector for NSSLGlobal but involves a lot of crossover from our extensive experience in the oil and gas markets. Our engineering know-how, combined with the comms expertise we have developed over the years of developing our own award-winning VSAT service, is enhanced by our specialist wind energy engineering and development team in Newcastle.  Providing and installing VSAT systems globally has given us the insight to develop next-generation solutions and services that will increasingly benefit offshore operators, such as Wind Energy Marine.

Wind Energy Marine has adopted two of our most innovative technologies, FusionIP and Oceanic Dynamics, aboard its fleet of crew transfer vessels (CTVs). The FusionIP VSAT terminal is the first hybrid satellite/cellular service available for maritime operations, switching between cellular and 3G/4G connections automatically in coastal areas to guarantee the best speeds and always-on connectivity. Alongside this, NSSLGlobal’s Oceanic Dynamics solution is unique to the market, providing a comprehensive and compact vessel monitoring system that provides Wind Energy Marine with the business intelligence to improve performance and efficiency. Not only this, but it is also the only appliance which combines this with monitoring and analysing crew welfare.

What are the most exciting developments you have seen in the wind industry?

In practical terms, the technology that drives the wind industry is rapidly evolving. We’re seeing wind farms deployed further and further from land, taking advantage of previously untapped areas. This means that more sophisticated crew transfer vessels are evolving to support crews and enterprises; wind industry “real estate” is growing and has the potential to expand massively as we continue to invest in the technologies that facilitate it.

All of these advances are even more exciting as we’re only at the start of the industry’s development – the wind industry has been growing organically but is still in its relative infancy in terms of digitalisation and technological improvements. Fantastic new efficiency-driven methods of operating are beginning to take off, and the potential that the industry has as a whole to impact positively on people and the planet is immense. As the industry matures and our knowledge and experience expand, I expect to see many crossover developments, and we’ll see community-wide benefits as a result.

What changes would you like to see in the wind industry?

We’d love to see more ‘joined-up’ thinking between suppliers and clients. As the technology allows a more comprehensive harnessing of wind energy, the potential to streamline the process and provide energy more efficiently is only going to increase.

The development of relevant technologies is also something to look forward to. As wind farms get further offshore, we’ll see further evolution of VSAT comms, crew welfare solutions, and vessel monitoring systems. Staying at the forefront of these technologies is an exciting challenge and strategic priority for NSSLGlobal. We purchased the SatLink engineering technology, which has been a key factor in setting up our Research & Development arm “NSSLGlobal Technologies” This also factored in the decision to focus on the wind energy industry from here in Newcastle.

It will also be interesting to see how regulations change, and whether we’ll see the introduction of new measures demanding certain levels of performance. Some wind energy suppliers are meticulous in the performance-monitoring of their vessels, but others are more casual in their approach. New regulatory frameworks to govern operator efficiency would provide a level playing field that would force suppliers to raise their game, which can only be positive for the industry as a whole.

Going forward, what role do you see your organisation playing in the future development of wind energy?

NSSLGlobal is committed to further developing the most comprehensive data analytics with communications technology. We’re constantly pushing our boundaries to provide our customers with practical future-proof solutions. Increasingly we’re virtualising our products and services, providing remote-hosted management facilities. The hardware is more compact, taking up a smaller on-vessel footprint where space is at a premium, especially for smaller operators. Following consultation with our clients we have been finessing “Insight,” our customer portal to provide increasingly granular levels of real-time monitoring from vessel performance usage to vessel tracking and fuel consumption.  We aim to empower our customers by giving them access to unprecedented levels of control, and flexibility – through any secure web browser, anywhere in the world, any time of day – providing a unified interface to manage and support every aspect of a customer’s billing, provisioning and operational needs so they can make more informed decisions.

With Oceanic Dynamics we provide an interactive platform for CTV operators by allowing them to access their performance metrics in real time. Operators can manage by exception and make their decisions based on facts, set concrete KPIs and monitor performance to reduce fuel costs and enable pre-emptive engine improvements.

As a company we’re focussed on technology innovation, developing flexible solutions for the needs of this growing industry.

How has WindEurope membership benefited your organisation?

It is important to collaborate to drive the industry forward, and WindEurope membership is a brilliant opportunity to do so. Coming together at events allows us to identify the areas of the industry with the greatest potential, and to push for progress.

There’s also the immense amount of knowledge, insight and expertise that the WindEurope community has to share. We can see synergies with our existing products and services to adapt and make them applicable for the wind energy sector. It’s also useful to have challenges highlighted to us to see how we can use our expertise gained from other sectors in developing innovative solutions for the wind energy industry.

We’re a company very much driven by the needs of our customers. It’s through membership of organisations like WindEurope that we can keep an eye out for customer needs but also showcase the possibilities and solutions available to the industry that can help make them more competitive and to look after their crew, which can only help with cost efficiencies longer term.

As a leader in satellite communications, we need to keep our finger on the pulse of the wind industry as new trends, technologies and challenges come to the fore.

If we look ten years ahead, what do you hope to have achieved?

In terms of our impact on the wind industry, we’re looking to further drive efficiency in operations to bolster performance and sustainability. Oceanic Dynamics, for example, is a powerful tool in terms of vessel monitoring that enables major improvements in fuel economy, routing efficiency, engine operations, and more. As the technology and vessels develop, and operational efficiency becomes even more important than it already is, NSSLGlobal will be the go-to partner to improve performance.

NSSLGlobal is continuously innovating in order to maintain its status as a technological and engineering market leader in the satellite communications industry. We’re setting the benchmark for the agile management and new technology needed via a combination of organic growth (by diversifying our portfolio) and targeted acquisitions (such as the “SatLink” Hub and Modem technology), which is at the core of NSSLGlobal’s world class award-winning VSAT network. Alongside this, we’re expanding our value add-on service to include the increasingly important area of crew welfare, through our acquisition of and its crew entertainment service CrewVison. We want to offer the maritime industry unique solutions that combine data mining and crew welfare with communications in ever more sophisticated ways.

We’re living in a connected digital era and increasing digitalisation and new technologies are bringing some really interesting products and services to our everyday lives, at home, in the office, transport and on vessels. However, this also exposes us to certain risks. We probably all know someone who’s had their account hacked and even the shipping industry has had some spectacular attacks. This costs money, causes delays, can affect our supply chains and customers. We conducted a poll this year and it was interesting to see that crew members are really concerned for their jobs in the event of a cyberattack. We’ve been investing in providing state-of-the art cybersecurity as standard in all of our products. We work with some of the largest governments across the globe and have experience in securing data and networks to the highest levels. However, cybersecurity isn’t just about preventing hackers gaining access to a ship’s systems. It’s about making sure that your IT systems are robust and resilient and that your crew are getting relevant ongoing cybersecurity training and education. So we’re constantly evolving and upgrading our cybersecurity solutions so that everyone, from the smallest individual vessel to the largest fleets, has confidence in their network and system security.

Over the next decade, I’m sure the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), digital twins will come to the forefront, with blockchain crypto-currency potentially becoming the norm for payment. Digitalisation and technological developments are going to change the shape of the wind industry in ways that we can’t even think of. NSSLGlobal is an agile organisation capable of adapting very quickly to the latest trends, and this is immensely valuable to wind operators looking to benefit from cutting-edge tech solutions.

Find out more about NSSLGlobal

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