2017 Mar 24

Ecdis will be the brain of e-navigation

While global e-navigation is still some way off, we are well into IMO’s lengthy implementation of the mandatory carriage rules for ecdis, with the majority of passenger ships already well versed in using these instruments.

Many tanker operators have been installing ecdis and using electronic navigational charts (ENCs) for a few years now, and an increasing number of dry cargo ships are using them, too. From 1 July 2016, all container ships and bulk carriers of more than 50,000gt have to be fitted with ecdis no later than their first survey on or after that date. From 1 July this year it is the turn of dry cargo ships of between 20,000gt and 50,000gt. Owners of dry cargo ships of 10,000gt and upwards but less than 20,000gt have another year.

This means that the majority of commercial ships of over 10,000gt will be fitted with ecdis by the end of next year. This should be the time for IMO to begin implementing a global e-navigation service that is based on the technologies developed in the regional testbeds. However, realistically we are probably a number of years away from getting to that stage.

If we do get to that point, then ecdis will be the intelligence that is behind e-navigation, according to Transas chief executive Frank Coles. He thinks that ship traffic control and e-navigation will become critical to ensure efficient and safe operations in the maritime segment of the shipping market (see page 5). This is all part of the digitalisation of shipping, while providing more vessel traffic co-ordination and better decision support infrastructure.

I am certain that a global e-navigation system will eventually be developed, but there are many hurdles to overcome, such as more standardisation of ecdis, investment in shore-based ship traffic control infrastructure and commitment from flag and port states. It may come in steps, such as multinational followed by multi-regional, or it may be a diluted version, but we will surely get there.

However, for the present, manufacturers, suppliers and shipowners have to tackle the challenge of updating ecdis to new International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) and International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) standards by 1 September. There is not long before port state control can enforce these standards, which means ships that do not have updated ecdis with the latest ENCs and crew familiar with these could face detention. A summary of the updated standards is outlined inside this edition (see page 6).

Seafarer training is a vital aspect of ecdis requirements, but it can be overlooked unless it is a key aspect of a deployment campaign. UK P&I Club loss prevention advisor George Devereese warns the industry that ships could be at risk if officers of the watch are not trained sufficiently in the use of ecdis and do not have the key navigation knowledge to continue safely if the instruments fail (see page 9). Training expert Christian Hempstead agrees that training should include traditional navigation skills in case there is an ecdis failure. He says that type-specific training is most effective when done on simulators (see page 14).

Advances in display technology have led to a new generation of electronic voyage planning stations on ships. We are now seeing 46in and 55in touchscreens that can be used with ENCs for passage planning. Navigators can overlay all types of information, including weather and efficient routeing on these back-bridge displays (see page 10). The delivery of all this information to ecdis back or front of the bridge is increasingly important in the connected ship age. In this edition, Michael Herson of UK-based consultancy The Strategy Works outlines the results of his research into how ecdis can be connected to shore. He notes that advances in data communications stimulate the development of ways for shore-based organisations to analyse onboard operations and optimise vessel performance. All this leads to different levels of e-navigation, with ecdis at the centre of these developments.

Source: Martyn Wingrove

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