Albacora on its future communications plans

16 Jun 2011
Ruben Mugira

Ruben Mugira

Grupo Albacora SA is a leading tuna fishing company exporting all over the world. A pioneer in many aspects of its business, Grupo Albacora is one of the first to adopt the internet onboard its fishing vessels, support ships and reefer ships. By the end of 2011 it is the Albacora Group’s ambition is to have two FleetBroadband each onboard all its boats.

The installation of the Inmarsat FleetBroadband service took place during 2009, to leverage Inmarsat’s global coverage through a uniform system fleet wide. The decision followed successful field trials of the Inmarsat FB250 system onboard it’s 2004-built Purse Seiner Albatun Dos.

Albacora electronics department manager Ruben Mugira says he is in no doubt about the importance of broadband shaping the company’s future business. He is responsible for two refrigerated vessels, seven supply ships and 16 Purse Seiners - all of which have at least one FleetBroadband. In addition, 12 of the ships have two.

Says Mugira: “Fishing operations are coming to depend on the communications system. Every day there is more information from different sources, so efficient fishing is more and more about good communications.”

The challenges faced by the company, which operates in three ocean basins, Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean, include the requirement for reliable, global coverage which allows it to access near real-time fishing data as well as complying with increasing regulatory requirements.

Mugira is a firm believer in the value that communications can offer to business processes. Albacora currently has 10 Satlink 250 units and 29 Skylor (sp.) 250 units; the two different types were chosen for commercial reasons.

He explains: “Our fleets fish for tuna in tropical waters. Coverage has definitely improved. One interesting thing that we find is that there is now streaming video for conferences. FleetBroadband has been a great addition for us. The connection is much better, especially compared to the Fleet 77 that we previously were using.”

There are three main types of data communications that the Albacora group uses. The first is for oceanographic information, the second for e-mails which are fundamental and the third for the different systems of fishing. “It is nice that we can get on the internet and check everything.”

World Fishing asked Ruben Mugira:

WF: You’ve had FB now for almost two years – what are the three functions you can carry out that you couldn’t before?

RM: There are various things that can be done with FB. I think that the most important aspect of the service is the remote access that it permits us to have. We have a standard and fixed IP address which is crucial for us. I find the new voice and data connections we have as well as the capability for video conferencing very interesting.

WF: What impact has this made on your business?

RM: Remote access has made the biggest impact. It facilitates fleet support, which means less calls have to be made which in turn is less expensive for us. Also, the connection is reliable so the boat has become like an office with access to everything including e-mails, a facility which is very important.

WF: What impact has this made on the daily working lives of your skippers and crew?

RM: The skippers can now make calls 24/7 as there is a reliable connection. This improves their lives because they can stay in contact with their families and receive news updates necessary for business operation of ‘life onboard’.

WF: What advantages has FB given your fleet in terms of finding fish and increasing profits?

RM: The main advantage we now have is a reliable connection to ensure we go about our daily work. With the internet onboard there is always intelligence for the skipper and he can access more information in real time which facilitates and improves the search for fish and helps each skipper to be more efficient.

WF: What advantages has the internet given to your fleet in terms of business efficiencies i.e. doing all the administration before you get into port, fish prices and quotas received quickly to determine what and where to fish?

RM: By having internet on board, more administrative duties are now taken care of on the boat. One big thing FB has helped us take care of is provide the mandatory daily reports to the European Union. These reports are required so the EU can better control what is being fished for, and by having reliable internet, it is something the skipper can quickly put together and send out. Spain doesn’t require that we use FB for this however at the end of the day, FleetBroadband is the most effective.

WF: How have you found the quality of the system as a whole?

RM: In general, I think the quality is good. The service is good and we haven’t had any cuts in connection which is very important. It is nice to have a reliable connection that is of good quality. Also, the more capacity, the more speed, and the speed of the system is great. We also love that it has remote access. We do not feel limited at all.

WF: What difference has the internet made to the way your skippers use the oceanographic data? What impact has this had on the success of your catch?

RM: Data is invaluable delivering essential information, for example our skippers can download sea temperature, winds, current so they know where the fish will be. The more information a skipper has the better informed his business decisions will be. FleetBroadband gives better map resolution which also helps with successfully locating a catch.

WF: Do you find data from the tuna buoys is faster and more reliable with FB?

RM: Yes, data is definitely faster and more reliable from tuna buoys with FB. In critical moments, this has made a difference to the catch.  New buoys have GPS, water temperature, battery and along with FB we are able to improve how we identify the quality of our catch.

WF: Given the locations some of your vessels go to (i.e. Madagascar) how much protection do you offer crews in terms of emergency communication systems in case of pirate attacks? What have you got onboard?

RM: There are various communication systems we have in place in case of an emergency including radios and the internet. However what really is important during an emergency is that we have a connection we can rely on for clarity and global coverage.  The crew relies on the FB to work in case of an emergency. For example, we are part of MSCHO a service off of the horn of Africa that lets us know if there are any known pirates out there. In order to stay in contact with MSCHO and receive their updates we must have a totally reliable connection, which we have.

WF: For skippers – what advice or help would you give them to get the best out of having broadband onboard now you have had time the system for two  years?

RM: Skippers are better at their job because the internet delivers more information. Economically it is not possible for us to give the crew unlimited internet access so it is just the skippers who use the service and download the data and information they need.

WF: Do you have plans for the future to further innovate your vessels and their data communications?  

RM: Our main focus is to make sure every boat has two FleetBroadband onboard.  If any new applications come out, we would love to get them.

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