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Ever Lost Your Keys to the Car? What Happens When the Captain Loses the Key To The Ship?

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During the course of my day at Seatrade- Cruise Shipping Miami Conference- I visited the booth of Ving Card, one of the major suppliers of door locking systems for the cruise lines, along with identity recognition equipment.

In discussing the equipment and latest technological advances with Ving Card’s Vice President of Marine Operations, Gerald McMillan from Norway, I learned the ship’s Captains have a Master Key which will unlock every door on the ship. And YES, it has happened that Captains have on occasion lost their Master Key. In fact, onboard they even have a name for the response to a Captain losing their Master Key; it’s called “The Walk”.

With the systems presently in place, if a Master Key is lost, it requires a crewmember to physically visit every lock on the ship which that key operated to change the coding, and that job is called “The Walk”. The Walk is a job no one wants! Can you imagine the hours it takes to visit every cabin door to change the programming?

With the new system Ving Card has introduced in many land based hotels already, which has also been put into place on the soon to be released Norwegian Epic, “The Walk” will be a thing of the past.

To describe the new system I’ll revisit what I wrote in our CruiseMates thread featuring our live reports from Seatrade.

<<< NCL Epic to be the First to Use a Radio Operating System for Cabin Door Security

NCL Epic is to be the First to Use a Radio Operating System developed my Norwegian company Ving Card, who has been supplying door entry systems for cruise ships and hotels world wide.

The currently used systems are all off-line; that means all details of exit, entries, etc. are kept only in each doorways mechanics, and they presently only maintain the history of 600 “events”. If any questions about entry arise anyone investigating has to physically go to the door and download to retrieve the information.
With the new Radio Operating System, each door system is equipped with an antenna, and sends radio signals on every type of “event” to the ship’s servers in 30 seconds. The signal goes from the lock, to a gateway, through the Ethernet to the ship’s Zigby server.

It was explained that with the previously used system, if a card was lost, and then replaced by guest relations, the old card would still work in the door until the new card was first used.

For example, if a person found a key card in the hallway, they could conceivably walk down the hallway, trying the card in every door they pass…. And they could get “lucky” and find the cabin door it opened.

With the new system, not only is the lost keycard made useless immediately, the system will pick up the attempted use of a suspicious/ incorrect card after 5 attempts in different doors and send a warning.

These warnings, as well as any events like break-ins etc. can then be transmitted by text messages to the onboard telephones of the appropriate personnel, who can react immediately.

The system also reports doors that have been accidentally left ajar, which could potentially make for an unsafe situation. The operators/monitors of the system would have the ability to pre-set an amount of time before warnings are raised about the door ajar.

With the new Ving Card system REAL TIME action is the key!

Of course, some may have thought that these types of systems were already in functional on ships. And that does raise some questions about existing ship’s systems, such as how long it might take for all cruise ship doors to get such new equipment installed. >>>

As I thought about those questions I raised in yesterday’s report it led to more questions, and that resulted in my visit to the Ving Card booth today. And as luck would have it, Gerard McMillan was at the booth to answer some of my follow up questions.

I wondered aloud if all the cruise lines would be running to his doorstep to move to this much more simple, much more technologically advanced, and seemingly much more secure system. His response, rather expectedly, was that he certainly hoped so.

Many ships currently sailing feature Ving Card’s old door locking system, as Mr. McMillan acknowledged his company has a “healthy market position”.

He confirmed that the older systems can be fairly easily refitted and adapted to the new system. He estimated the cost of changing the card readers, and adding the extra 4 switches necessary to be about $160 per door. Plus about another $250 to install the networking components. But those are not required for every door.

Though those numbers can certainly add up to significant sums when refitting an entire ship, it’s hard to imagine the cruise lines wouldn’t be interested in spending the money which improves safety and security issues so significantly.

Many of the hotels in Las Vegas, such as The Venetian, Mandalay Bay, Excalibur and other properties in the casinos in Macau, have already installed the Radio Operating System. And now with NCL putting it to work on Epic, hopefully every ship will follow suit.

I have to admit, I perhaps naively assumed this sort of technology already existed, and was surprised to hear some of the limitations of the existing systems.


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