Part 3: Sound at all pricey?
By Capt. Bill Pike — March 2003
Genmar is the first big-time builder to adopt the SeaKey system throughout its product lines, bundling its existing FirstMate program (which is already handled at Volvo's VAS center and includes Sea Tow dispatch assistance, fishing information, a boat operation help line, and other services) with SeaKey, and calling it FirstMate+. While the cost of the system is rolled into the base prices of most 2003 boats that are 24 feet and up, Genmar hopes to offer SeaKey on smaller vessels in the future. After the first free year of service, the annual cost is $250 (for FirstMate) and $30 per month for FirstMate+. Although the annual sum for both programs is $610, Genmar is offering the whole thing for $599. Text messaging units or "pings" cost $.49 per minute in excess of the 150 free units that are part of the program. SOS and other alert-type pings are free.
Sound at all pricey? The cost of marine telematic services is likely to come down substantially over the next few years as the technology becomes more popular and better understood. Additional builders are likely to jump on the SeaKey bandwagon this summer, and Volvo Penta plans to offer a SeaKey package for after-market installation next year. Other major marine players--Brunswick Corp. being the largest--are reportedly exploring telematics options as well. And other providers are taking the field, most notably Boaters MiniWEB, a hardware/service entity that offers text-only e-mail access, positioning data when teamed with a GPS, bilge and voltage monitoring, and other telematic features (see MiniWEB Satellite Communications, PMY Tested, in February 2003).
Hopefully, all this means one thing: Someday soon, despite the cutesy buzzword connotation, we'll all have some form of telematics installed onboard.
Genmar Phone: (612) 339-7600. www.genmar.com.
MiniWEB Phone: (866) 646-4932. www.boatersminiweb.com.
Volvo Penta of the Americas Phone: (757) 436-2800. www.volvo-penta.com.
This article originally appeared in the March 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.