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The AST Group (AST) and its partner, Alphatron Marine, have supplied and integrated an Iridium Certus data and voice communication system on polar exploration vessel, m/v Hondius, owned and operated by Oceanwide Expeditions. The customer has also invested in hand-held Iridium Extreme 9575 satellite phones, to ensure passenger safety and logistical support during guided, on-shore expeditions in the Arctic and Antarctic regions.

The Iridium Certus® service is the only system that provides global and reliable, passenger and operational communications and data transmission, as well as emergency communication, even when the m/v Hondius is at extreme latitudes and atmospheric conditions are poor. The Iridium network features an overlapping mesh architecture that provides uniform coverage across the globe, and from pole-to-pole.

About Oceanwide Expeditions:

Oceanwide Expeditions is a specialist travel company offering ship-based adventures to the polar regions, onboard ice-strengthened, specially-equipped expedition vessels. Oceanwide offers opportunities for passengers to follow in the footsteps of the great polar explorers: to snow-shoe across polar landscapes, kayak, mountaineer, or see polar wildlife on-shore and up-close.

The Vessel, m/v Hondius:

Built-in 2019, Hondius is the first Polar Class 6 registered passenger vessel in the world, meeting the latest and highest Lloyd’s Register standards for ice-strengthened cruise ships. Surpassing the requirements of the Polar Code adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), Hondius represents the most flexible, advanced, innovative touring vessel in the polar regions, optimized and equipped for exploratory voyages.

The Challenge:

In the 21st century, voice and data connectivity is often taken for granted. But for travellers and tour operators venturing far from big cities and land-based communications systems, staying in contact is much more of a challenge.

An adventure to the Arctic or Antarctic regions with Oceanwide Expeditions offers travellers the trip of a lifetime. And, as with all luxury and high-end travel adventures, passengers on-board the Hondius expect to be able to stay connected to friends, family and colleagues, directly and through social media (an ever-more important part of the travel experience), to share their vacation highlights via photographs, video and emails.

Oceanwide has grown over the past 25 years, and guests on any particular voyage come from all over the world, so global, reliable coverage is essential.

Passengers often disembark an Oceanwide vessel to follow a guided expedition on foot. For safety and logistical support, the Oceanwide specialist and expedition guides on Hondius require reliable, un-interrupted communications with the crew and the vessel.

Oceanwide Expeditions operates a growing fleet of specially designed and equipped adventure vessels, all of which could be at sea simultaneously. For personnel at the Oceanwide head office in the Netherlands, keeping in touch with crew and captains, as well as monitoring vital, on-board systems, including engines and fuel, is increasingly important. Communications must be always-on and reliable, wherever a vessel is located.

The Solution:

The state-of-the-art vessels operated by Oceanwide Expeditions in extreme locations demand the latest communication systems. AST and Alphatron Marine provided Oceanwide with an Iridium Certus® system for reliable high-quality voice and data connectivity, globally.

For many years, the maritime industry has been accustomed to limited options for satellite connectivity. But now, with Iridium Certus®, ship operators can enjoy the truly global advantages of the Iridium network for business operations, safety services, connected ship/IoT (Internet of Things) applications, and crew and passenger welfare and enjoyment. For the first time within the mobile satellite communications market, superior connectivity is available to maritime operators and their passengers, anywhere on the planet.

According to Mr Mark van der Hulst, COO of Oceanwide Expeditions, Iridium Certus® was the obvious choice for Oceanwide Expeditions as it’s the only network to provide reliable coverage in remote polar regions, with the ability to deliver voice and data connectivity, whatever the conditions.

“Firstly, our passengers want to know they can keep in touch with home-base,” he says. “At the same time, our crew needs to stay in contact with the office and with our other Oceanwide vessels. We also need real-time ice information and, in the event of an emergency, we must be able to contact the authorities.”

M/v Hondius has accommodation for around 170 guests, so choosing a data-plan to provide ample communication for passengers and for the company is very important.

“Our expeditions vary in duration, but we know approximately how much data we will need on any particular trip,” says Mr. van der Hulst. “Flexible plans from AST make it easier to ensure we never find ourselves out of contact or lacking vital information. We want our passengers and our crews to feel safe and connected at all times.”

AST is a global provider of end-to-end satellite communications solutions with a comprehensive range of terminals and devices, high-quality voice and data services, and world-class value-added services such as INTEGRA Control, a complete solution that delivers the first real-time application control for satellite communications and the easiest on-board traffic management system. AST’s Global Customer Support department provides 24/7 support to customers around the globe.

“Iridium Certus gives us a reliable means to monitor our ships and their connected systems, including engines and fuel,” says Mr. van der Hulst. “I can also remain in voice contact with our captains and crew, even when all of our vessels are at sea in the polar regions."

The Hondius expedition department invested in several, hand-held Iridium Extreme 9575 satellite phones, which allow guides to stay in touch with the vessel and crew, and passengers to communicate using voice or data with family and colleagues anywhere in the world.

“Iridium Certus® gives us seamless, global coverage,” concludes Mr. van der Hulst, “from the bridge and from ashore.”