Electronic Mail Techniques Save Thousands Of Dollars In Message Costs, According To NAV-COM Report

A study recently completed by NAV-COM Incorporated gives conclusive proof of the cost-benefits of using electronic mail for teletype message traffic ship and shore. A typical commercial ship can save $7,000-$ 11,000 per year in satellite calling charges, according to the NAV-COM analysis, while ships with a high volume of message traffic, such as passenger vessels or offshore oil rigs, can save upwards of $30,000 per year.

These results can be achieved through the use of advanced electronic mail techniques, which convert text digitally into data for transmission at higher speeds via satellite voice channels instead of slower-speed telex channels.

According to company president Gerald A. Gutman, NAV-COM has developed an electronic mail facility as a central feature of the BUSISHIP marine management information system. NAV-COM has devised specialized software to give maximum cost effectiveness in using satellite communications for electronic mail by minimizing call connection time.

"Most office-type electronic mail terminals are designed to function with terrestrial telephone networks, in which connection time is not a critical cost factor," said Mr. Gutman.

"When using the INMARSAT network, however, with calling charges running as high as $10 per minute for telephone service, the length of the call becomes of critical importance." For that reason, NAVCOM's BUSISHIP system uses specialized proprietary software to eliminate wasted time in the transmission.

Mr. Gutman added that BUSISHIP is the only electronic mail system designed specifically for operation with the INMARSAT satellite network.

Electronic mail messages can be sent between ship and shore in a fraction of the time needed for telex.

While telex is transmitted at 50 bits per second, electronic mail is sent at speeds of 1,200-2,400 bits per second— 24 to 48 times faster. Since satellite calls are charged by the minute (or fraction of a minute), faster transmission speeds means lower call charges. Although perminute rates for telex calls are lower than those for telephone service, the difference is more than offset by the faster speed of transmission. Cost savings will accrue even for short telex messages, and especially for longer ones.

NAV-COM's study compared daily and annual costs of telex and electronic mail for various vessel types. The analysis was based on the average daily telex message traffic for each category, as taken from INMARSAT reports. Comparisons were run for three different coast earth stations (U.S., U.K. and Norway) and for different baud rates (1,200 and 2,400 bits per second) for electronic mail transmission. Thus, it was found that a "typical" tanker, for instance, transmits eight minutes of telex per day. This translates into $35.20 per day in telex costs, or $12,848 per year (using the U.S.

coast earth stations). At 1,200 bps, the same amount of traffic would cost only $1,825 per year, for an annual savings of $11,023. Similarly, a typical bulker with an average of six minutes per day of telex traffic could save $7,811 per year using electronic mail.

"Our analysis shows that a typical BUSISHIP system will pay for itself in as little as 468 days in messagecost savings alone," said Mr. Gutman.

"Substantial additional savings can also be achieved through improved operating efficiencies resulting from computerizing such functions as on-board spares inventory and vessel accounting/administration." "The NAV-COM electronic mail cost-benefit analysis can be applied to any vessel," said Mr. Gutman.

"All we need to know is the average telex traffic per day, either in minutes or in pages, and we can tell a shipowner exactly how much can be saved." BUSISHIP is a marine management information system built around the IBM PC/XT and PC/ AT personal computers. It includes a total package of "ruggedized" hardware and specialized software for shipboard applications. The system has been structured so as to encourage standardized reporting procedures among all ships in a fleet, giving improved efficiency in exchanging vital management information between ship and shore.

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