Human communication

Mercy Ships sends a clear signal of hope with Intellian technology


Image courtesy of Mercy Ships / Intellian

Posted Oct 24, 2021 6:08 PM by

The maritime executive

Two years ago, Intellian established a close working relationship with the international surgical care charity Mercy Ships. With its International Support Center (ISC) located in Garden Valley, Texas, Mercy Ships has branches in UK, West Africa, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Korea, France, Switzerland, Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium. Through its floating hospitals, the organization’s work encompasses a range of procedures, including orthopedic, maxillofacial, eye and reconstructive surgeries; mental health services; health care training projects; and palliative care.

Since its inception in 1978, Mercy Ships has provided free medical aid as well as physical and moral support to people in countries ranked in the bottom third of the World Health Organization’s Human Development Index. The organization has shown unwavering determination in its quest to eradicate diseases of poverty.

For the most part, these diseases should be relatively simple to prevent or treat, but the World Health Organization has estimated that more than 50 percent of the population in poorer parts of Africa and Asia do lack regular access to essential medicines and health care. With only about half of children in sub-Saharan Africa vaccinated against childhood illnesses, many die from preventable diseases such as diarrhea, measles, malaria and causes related to malnutrition. The work done by Mercy Ships couldn’t be more vital.

The pandemic was a devastating setback – a global catastrophe that only served to make extreme situations even more dire. However, the challenges of the past year have only made Mercy Ships more determined, and Intellian Technologies is with them every step of the way.

Starting in 2019, Mercy Ships successfully used an Intellian v240C C-band VSAT solution on board its hospital ship Africa Mercy. This has now been updated to an Intellian v240M 2 dual-band, multi-orbit VSAT system using a connectivity solution from SES, “which has been our supplier of choice for the definition of antennas for World Mercy, the new ship from China, ”said Jonathan Dyson, director of corporate infrastructure at Mercy Ships.

“We wanted to perpetuate our installation. Historically we had the antenna leased from another supplier, so now that we are moving forward and building our vessel for this purpose, we have decided that we want to own our antennas and change suppliers ”, did he declare. “If we need to upgrade, downgrade, move from GEO constellations to MEO or even LEO, we can do that with SES using the antennas provided by Intellian. “

Seamless connectivity

World Mercy, Mercy Ships’ new ship is the world’s largest civilian hospital ship. It can accommodate up to 950 people in port, including 641 volunteer crew members, and its six operating theaters and hospital wards are designed to handle 200 patients at a time. The company estimates that it will more than double the current surgical and training capacity of Mercy Ships. By the time the ship reaches its expected lifespan of 50 years, more than 150,000 lives will have been improved and saved through surgeries performed on its specially designed hospital decks.

Global Mercy completed its deep water tests in May 2021, during which exhaustive testing was carried out to ensure engine performance, handling and fuel consumption were all on target. Safety assessments have also been conducted, along with a series of tests to confirm that all on-board equipment and systems are fully operational, ahead of the vessel’s entry into service in sub-Saharan Africa next year.

Global Mercy is equipped with two 2.4m Intellian v240MT 2 antennas, integrated and controlled by Intellian’s intelligent mediators, which ensure seamless connectivity by switching between the antennas if the ship’s superstructure blocks a satellite signal. The installation of the antennas was completed just a few weeks ago, and it was a concerted team effort that overcame several logistical and circumstantial challenges, as Dyson recalls.

The 2.4m Intellian v240MT 2 antenna

“Intellian and SES worked together to install all the hardware and remove it during the last sea trial to make sure it worked. It was good that all these teams worked together in a positive way and that this was accomplished, ”he said.

Mercy Ships increased investment in Intellian hardware – system upgrade on Africa Mercy and the installation of a high-end v240MT 2 dual antenna solution without orbit on Global Mercy – directly reflects the company’s operational growth and the changing connectivity landscape, according to Dave Shwadlenak, vice president of IT at Mercy Ships.

“As Mercy Ships has matured more and more, we’ve had an increased need to not have on-premise servers and applications, and that’s what drives a lot of what we do in terms of technology. . Our technology stack has grown so large, and so in the cloud these days, that having data centers onboard ships is problematic for us, ”said Shwadlenak. “So one of the reasons for upgrading and moving towards more bandwidth is the ability to communicate dynamically and immediately with our vessels. We move a lot of data back and forth – a lot of our apps are in the cloud, so being able to access them is critical. In most countries we can get onshore connections, but satellite is our cornerstone. It is our mainstay, the one thing we constantly rely on.

“The work we do in the hospital, and indeed everything we do on board, is centralized here at the ISC. Most of our servers are here or in the cloud, so this element of communication has become essential for us: and it is only because we have been able to upgrade this bandwidth that we are able to switch to this technology ” , he added. “Just a few years ago, when I joined us, we had a 3 MHz pipe with the satellite. It was impossible to do some of the things that we are doing today.

Essential communications

Global Mercy is to be deployed in sub-Saharan Africa – Madagascar, Cameroon, Guinea, Senegal and Benin – in 2022. In addition to the vital medical support and reinforcement it will provide in these regions, it will also host mentoring and training programs for professionals of health.

Satellite connectivity is at the heart of Mercy Ships’ work. It enables the smooth running of day-to-day business, including essential communications with sponsors and donors whose contribution is essential to the continuing ambitions of Mercy Ships. It also enables teleconferencing applications for capacity building and distance training; sharing of images; diagnostic discussions with specialists located around the world; and connectivity very important for the well-being of the crew for accessing social media and browsing the web.

Dave Shwadlenak has no illusions about the potentially disastrous effects on business capabilities if connectivity fails. “It could be catastrophic, in all fairness. We could still operate, but only for a short time. For example, staff turnover is fully centralized here at the ISC, so we would have to go back to a paper environment where we try to track chamber registrations and so on. Our finance department would struggle, while the ability for interns to remotely monitor and learn from surgeries would also be unavailable. Much of our work would be greatly diminished or ceased altogether. “

Dave Shwadlenak and Jonathan Dyson keep praising Intellian. “I was very, very happy with them,” says Shwadlenak. “Frankly, they have been great working with us and helping us overcome the many pitfalls we encountered. Especially in China it was great what they did there.

“We basically needed letters of clearance from the Chinese Foreign Ministry,” Dyson explains, “but the travel restrictions meant that it was suddenly going to become a major problem to bring people on site for the facilities. Intellian and SES worked very well together to come up with a plan. It was very out of the process, but from a customer service point of view, it was great to be able to lean on them and to have a team from Shanghai that came to build the system, to put everything together and put it together. check it out, and make sure all the gear was there when we couldn’t get anyone there. It was just fantastic.

“I’ve worked with a lot of different service providers,” Dyson adds, “to figure out the bandwidth costs per MB per month, because we have to be financially accountable to our donors. So I spoke to a wide range of vendors, and all of them recommended Intellian hardware. All. That says a lot about the quality of the equipment, materials, products that Intellian provides. Thanks to a fiscally responsible investment in Intellian products, this partnership allows us to fulfill our mission and provide quality access to safe surgeries.

“I appreciated everyone I worked with at Intellian; they are all very professional. The partnership between SES and Intellian looks very strong from our point of view, so if we contact SES, we know that it will be managed by Intellian, and it is transparent to us as a customer as it should be. Intellian’s customer service has been consistent from our perspective, ”he concluded.

This post is sponsored by Intellian.

The opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.


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