Each organisation in maritime transport has gone through its individual evolution to get where it is today. Thanks to standardisation in shipping, many of the required results are the same. Cargo gets loaded onto a ship, the ship safely sails to its destination and the cargo is unloaded and handed over to follow-on transport. However, the procedures organisations follow can vary widely, and the same goes for the changing environments they operate in.
The Maritime Service Suite (MSS) takes a different approach from traditional solutions that use dedicated software to accomplish a specific task. Instead, it relies on reusable building blocks that perform very specific tasks that can be combined to form a:
- Port Management Information System (PMIS),
- Port Community System (PCS)
- Terminal Operating System (TOS),
- Pilot Dispatch Management System (PDMS)
- Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) system, or even a
- Coastal Surveillance System (CSS).
Although at first glance these systems look very different from each other, they all share many basic functionality needs. Take for example business rules. If well designed and configured, a generic business rule engine can flag such diverse things as vessel traffic violations, berth limitations and cargo manifest discrepancies.
As a first step, we are now introducing the AIS/VDES data and network service, with many more to follow soon. Over time, the Maritime Service Suite will gradually replace our traditional solutions for all the systems listed above. In fact, some customers will be served with a configuration that might not even be specifically one type of system or another, but a combination of functionality that exactly meets their needs.
Modern solutions adapt better to changing circumstances
The Maritime Service Suite is a cloud-native solution. Why would such an architectural aspect be important to the user? When you buy a house, you definitely want to know whether it is built in wood or stone. It makes quite a difference to what you need to do for fire safety. Likewise, software architecture has a profound impact on what is needed to make it cyber secure.
Another reason why this is important is the total cost of operation. Our cloud-native solution is easier to maintain, easier to secure and easier to configure for high availability.
Secure by design
Gone are the days that systems can operate in isolation. They need to have internet access because in this just-in-time delivery world, receiving timely data is essential. That internet connection requires a hardened internal system that can deal with outside threats. The last thing you want in a system is to have a hard firewall outer shell that is soft inside once a hacker breaks through.
Finely built to what you need
A further architectural detail is that we have built our solutions around micro-services. What that means is that we can create the exact set of functionality that your organization requires using the micro-services as building blocks.
Need to invoice your customers? We have a set of micro-services for that. Likewise for radar tracking, vessel visits, implementing business rules or keeping track of building leases. You pay exactly for the functionality you need and not a penny more.
The nice thing about this is that each micro-service is a small, contained set of well-defined functionality. It can be maintained, tuned, performance upgraded internally, or even fully replaced without affecting how the rest of the system operates. This is the principle of loose coupling. It results in a system that can evolve with external circumstances and at the same time remain stable for years on end.
At Saab, we have taken the connectivity a step further. All of our micro-services are accessible to authorized applications, based on open standards where possible. Not just to our own, but also to 3rd party applications. To this end, we provide a well-defined Application Programming Interface (API) so that other software can directly talk to our software, enabling fast, seamless exchange of information. This is a fundamental reason that our software must be secure by design with strong user authentication.
Matching the finances of your operation
Given the broad range within the maritime community we serve, it is no surprise that each organisation has its own specific way of handling the cost of their operations. One of the benefits of the Maritime Service Suite that it also has a highly adaptable cost and implementation models.
If you prefer monthly costing with no investment up front, this can be arranged. If you prefer not to have the burden of looking after central servers, we can host it in a public cloud service or in a private cloud at Saab. If you rather have everything running on-premise, that is equally possible as well.
Furthermore, you do not have to go all-in at once. You can start small with specific functionality and expand later on. Volume based subscriptions are possible as well. This means that even if you have a smaller operation, Maritime Service Suite is still the right solution for you.
Third architectural detail: we use a containerised solution based on Docker and Kubernetes. What is important is that it bring great flexibility to your setup. Containers with your specific configuration are easily copied and setup in parallel. This will allow your staff to train on a real system without affecting your current operations. You can test-drive new features risk free.
If all of this is so fantastic, why are not all suppliers doing it?
Creating a cloud-native solution is not something you can bolt on to an existing solution. It requires a total redesign from the ground up. It requires a fundamental shift in thinking from software engineers and system designers. It is also a completely different business model. It affects the way we operate as a company. At Saab we have made this investment because we truly believe that this is the way forward in a maritime world that is ready to reap the benefits of modern digitalisation.