TT-Line gets ship-shape network

TT-Line gets ship-shape network

Tasmanian reseller Computerland has solved a unique business problem for shipping company TT-Line, setting up a wireless network to link the company's vessels and ports.

While it may not be the largest contract in the history of the channel, the deal involved innovative use of wireless technology in an unusual environment.

TT-Line operates ships that make daily trips across the Bass Strait to transport cargo between Tasmania and the mainland. TT-Line recently retired its Spirit of Tasmania vessel and purchased two new ships, named the Spirit Twins, to double the frequency of its Tasman crossings.

TT-Line always found the issue of data and voice connectivity somewhat of a challenge, and generally downloaded most of the data between ships and their ports by physically plugging in communications cables when ships were docked at port.

But with the new vessels in operation, the company was keen to pick up its turnaround times and seek alternatives to the clumsy process.

Although no formal tender was released, Computerland won a competitive bid against many of its larger mainland peers. Its professional services group worked with engineers from networking vendor Cisco Systems to design a wireless LAN solution.

Every time a ship comes within the wireless LAN network (within around 500 metres of the East Devonport or Port Melbourne wharves) a router recognises the IP address of the ship. The system uses Cisco Aironet wireless and voice-over-IP technology to open up voice channels between the port and ship and begin downloading and uploading data. All e-mail, faxes, and business documents that have been queuing up while the ship was at sea begin transferring between the ship and port systems. The end result is a better turnaround time for the ships.

Computerland sales manager Jim Lange said his engineers "really stuck their teeth" into the project and saw it as a personal challenge. He considers the implementation to have been a huge success for the Tasmanian reseller, considering the customer paid the bill on time and not one support call has been required.

"We created the professional services group so that we could use our skills to come up with innovative solutions to real business issues like this," Lange said.

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