Palantir AS, a Norwegian firm that standardizes, simplifies and automates vessel IT management, has been working with Innovation Norway over the past year on an outreach campaign that has included opportunities in British Columbia among other targeted markets.
While reaching worldwide recognition as the market leader in supplying user-friendly and problem-free IT operations, both Palantir principals and Innovation Norway’s Canadian office see the West Coast market as a sector worth pursuing. “There is an exciting vibrancy in British Columbia,” said Alana Prashad, Senior Advisor, Energy and Environment Lead, Americas, with Innovation Norway’s Canadian office. “It is such an interesting and diverse market that is seeing growth.”
Background — Innovation Norway
The partnership between Palantir AS and Innovation Norway (IN) provides a good example of how the program works. IN — a collaborative initiative between Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Trade and Industry — combines local industry knowledge and international networks to assist Norwegian businesses to expand into new markets. “We have offices throughout Norway as well as in 30 countries around the world,” said Prashad, adding that they have 750 staff worldwide. “Norwegian companies work with our colleagues in Norway and then we take that work and find opportunities abroad.”
IN focuses on four main services: cluster development (for example, Palantir is a part of the cluster known as National Centre for Expertise on Maritime Clean Technology); business network support; competence development (i.e., making relevant expertise more accessible); and regional development in the form of regulatory guidance and quality assurance. In some cases, IN assists with funding and has a number of grant funds through which a business can access support but the key to their success is through collaboration in identifying international opportunities for Norwegian companies.
Background — Palantir AS
Palantir AS was established in 2000 by Arvid Dregelid and Johannes Jacobsen. Arvid Dregelid, an electrical engineer who originally worked with hydro power production and power plants in Norway before entering the oil and gas industry. “A lot of the work we did in the hydro power sector involved automation of operation centres. For example, we consolidated five power stations down to one through modern technology and automation,” said Dregelid, adding that automation and standardization were also provided for the oil and gas sector. “Stemming from that, we realized it was possible to use the same method for IT operations on board vessels.”
Palantir’s first major contract was with a large shipping company that had decided to outsource their IT vessel operations. “And it grew from there,” said Dregelid. “We now have over 1,100 vessels in our portfolio and a proven track record of increasing IT operational stability, reducing both operational and support costs and at the same time, facilitating the needed flexibility to handle future growth and a controlled change process.”
Palantir’s solution for vessel owners and managers looking to standardize their IT framework comes in the form of KeepUp@Sea — a system for standardizing and automate operation of fleet-wide ship management applications. There are several modules and, as Tor Skeie, Palantir’s Managing Director noted, “the needs of vessel owners and operators can vary greatly so there is a lot of flexibility built into our system to provide for a whole range of services.” He further emphasized the importance of developing a close relationship with clients to develop a tailor-made solution, whether that involves simply purchasing software, working with existing onboard systems and applications or providing an entire IT management package. “This is critical to ensure they get exactly what they need and are not paying for features they don’t use.”
The KeepUp@Sea modules — such as Dashboard, Inventory, Antivirus and Backup — provide for a comprehensive IT operational framework specifically designed for vessel management — any vessel, any size, anywhere in the world. Dregelid added that “with our vessel IT system, we go on board once and never again.”
KeepUp@Sea Dashboard is a web-based platform which provides a complete overview of the status of critical components on board a vessel. It verifies that backups are performed and antivirus definitions are up to date through a central control that can manage an entire fleet of vessels.
KeepUp@Sea Backup is purpose-built for maritime use and protects against accidental or intentional loss of data. With a cloud-dedicated portal, safeguards are in place that allow for restricted access to storage (for example, captain or senior officers only).
KeepUp@Sea Antivirus takes into account the remoteness of workstations and servers on board vessels and the challenge of providing a high level of protection that will ensure the integrity of a vessel’s IT system. KeepUp@Sea Antivirus comes with the option for automatic updates from a central point inside the vessel’s network to allow for fleet-wide monitoring and reporting via the KeepUp@Sea Dashboard.
KeepUp@Sea Inventory scans a wide range of computer apps and hardware such as printers, routers and switches. Reports, which are integrated from vessels to shore and can provide for fleet-wide monitoring, provide alerts which can identify non-compliance issues before they become a problem.
Above and beyond
One of the biggest challenges for vessel owners is limited bandwidth. “Because of this, vessel operators don’t update their systems as frequently as perhaps they should,” said Dregelid. “To address this, Palantir is able to update systems from the last update onward without having to resend the full application. While the entire system could be as much as 1.6 gigabyte, we take the binary difference from the last update and only send the data required, which can be as low as 64 megabytes. That’s our core knowledge — to script, automate and standardize.”
Another issue for vessel owners is that of cyber security. Palantir’s solution recognizes the importance of ensuring a tight regime so that systems are up to date with the most recent data and there are rules and regulations in place to ensure the integrity of onboard systems. “We’re able to establish firewalls between the various networks. We have a professional structure in place which allows us to work with vessel operators to develop the best solution for them,” said Dregelid, adding that security today must be about more than just the technical component. “We work with both crew and on-shore personnel to set best practices. Policies with routines and described processes are a critical part of what we do.”
A key value-add for Palantir comes in the form of partnerships. In 2017, Palantir was purchased by Marlink and are now part of the Marlink Group, the world’s leading provider of end-to-end managed connectivity and IT solutions. “This has brought a huge benefit for ship owners,” said Dregelid. “We’re able to provide everything in one package including bridge electronics, reliable broadband communications and IT as well as 24/7 global customer support.”
Marlink’s 70+ years’ experience in providing business critical communications has resulted in a market share of one-third of all vessels in the world and connectivity that includes over 540 land sites with a broad range of satellite communications solutions ranging from global on-demand MSS services to regional, multi-regional and global Ku-band, C-band and HTS ready maritime VSAT systems.
Palantir has also partnered with Seagall Maritime AS, a leading provider of competence management solutions and e-learning material for seafarers including a comprehensive library of training and onboard courses for regulatory compliance and improved seafarer knowledge. “Over 10,000 vessels use Seagall’s computer-based training modules,” said Tor Skeie. “The training modules used to be delivered to stand-alone PCs but through our partnership, we can install it on our server and it is automatically updated on all PCs. It’s a huge savings for the ship owner and peace of mind knowing that the latest and most up-to-date material is always available.”
For the hardware side of operations, Palantir has been a partner with Hewlett Packard for many years. “A critical part of HP’s business is the predictive maintenance of components,” said Skeie. “We can take that information and incorporate it onto our dashboard to alert operators on the status of equipment and tell them if there is a high probability of failure coming up.” Skeie added that this type of proactive analysis takes Palantir above and beyond regular storage services.
While Palantir itself has about 40 staff, they’re able to use Marlink technicians for installations. “As a group, we have over 1,000 service points around the globe — to illustrate how large an operation that is, we’re on board about two vessels every hour around the world,” said Dregelid, noting that the maturity of their IT management and adaptive solutions have been attracting an ever-growing clientele. “We are seeing great growth in Europe and Asia,” he said.
Dregelid and Skeie are enthusiastic about the potential of the B.C. and Canadian market and are seeing that their efforts to reach out to local vessel owners are starting to pay off. “We deliver a unique tool that provides for user-friendly and problem-free IT operations that come with reduced costs and increased efficiency,” said Dregelid. “The value that we bring and can offer to vessels in this market is catching the eye of local operators and we are seeing increased interest in our products and services.”