Hapag-Lloyd to Install Satellite Internet on Containerships

SpaceX’s Starlink Service a Game-Changer for Communications at Sea
A Hapag-Lloyd containership
The Hapag-Lloyd AG Leverkusen Express sails out of the Yangshan Deepwater Port. (Qilai Shen/Bloomberg News)

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Elon Musk’s satellite internet service is heading deeper into one of the world’s oldest and vast economic frontiers: the high seas.

Hapag-Lloyd AG, the biggest container shipping line based in Germany, said Sept. 21 it will install SpaceX’s Starlink service aboard the ships it owns and manages after a pilot program involving four vessels proved successful. Charters won’t receive the service under the current plan. According to Alphaliner data, 122 of the 259 ships that Hapag-Lloyd operates are company-owned.

For crews that spend months at sea, reliable on-board connectivity is a luxury if it’s available at all, partly hinging on proximity to land-based networks. During the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, seafarers’ sense of isolation only intensified as they kept working months after their employment contracts expired because global goods trade surged and border restrictions made returning home difficult.

In a statement, Hapag-Lloyd said “the high-speed satellite internet has revolutionized communication for seafarers, enabling seamless video calls and streaming services.”

Hapag-Lloyd Chief Operating Officer Maximilian Rothkopf added that the connections will “enhance their well-being on board.”

Next steps in the rollout include ordering more equipment and installing antennas by year-end and activation of the service starting in early 2024.

The broadband network has capacity of as much as 250 megabits per second, the Hamburg-based carrier said. That helps facilitate “not only private use but also enabling Hapag-Lloyd to conduct remote maintenance and vessel inspections,” the company said.

Hapag-Lloyd ranks No. 15 on the Transport Topics Top 50 list of the largest global freight companies.

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