Experts involved in ongoing e-navigation testbed projects are reportedly making tangible progress in developing the Maritime Cloud. This would address the need for a logical maritime information structure to support, in a co-ordinated and reliable manner, the electronic exchange of navigational and other information relevant to the safety, security and efficiency of marine navigation.
This was the unequivocal message of the Danish Maritime Authority (DMA) at the International e-Navigation Underway Conference on board the DFDS ferry Pearl Seaways. This year the conference was devoted to the theme of achieving a co-ordinated approach. DMA director of technology Omar Frits Eriksson said that the Maritime Cloud could support a harmonised communication framework for e-navigation.
Mr Eriksson is in charge of overseeing the DMA-led EfficienSea2 project, part-funded by the European Commission, which is instrumental in the development of the Maritime Cloud for e-navigation. The ongoing efforts within EfficienSea2 are now being co-ordinated through an evolving Maritime Cloud development forum that also involves co-operation with the Sea Traffic Management Validation Project. This is led by the Swedish Maritime Administration to test regional implementation solutions for e-navigation in the Baltic Sea, building on the preceding MonaLisa 2 project. In addition, the expert forum will also draw on research work from the Smart Navigation project, underway in South Korea.
The Maritime Cloud is defined as the logical solution to provide a service-oriented communications infrastructure to support seamless information transfer between authorised maritime stakeholders using available communication means, such as digital radio links, satellite systems and the internet, and to ensure authenticity, integrity, confidentiality and security of data. Legitimate participation would be managed through an authenticated maritime identity register. Issues of transparent governance and robust validation would be addressed, alongside the need to meet demands for controlled access to the right kind of information, when and where it is required, to support correct decision-making.
Mr Eriksson also chairs the e-Navigation committee of the International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities (IALA), which co-hosted the conference with the DMA. He told the audience of approximately 150 delegates, representing more than 90 organisations from 22 countries, that promising trials related to the
Maritime Cloud were currently underway. In addition, work was being undertaken on unique identifiers for maritime resources and information with a view to creating a unique global numbering system, which was essential for the full implementation of a harmonised connectivity framework.
It remains to be seen if the Maritime Cloud solution will be formally tabled at a future meeting of IMO, or how the collective IMO membership might respond to its possible addition as a new output under the organisation’s Strategy Implementation Plan (SIP) for e-navigation.
So far, the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), which approved the implementation plan in November 2014, has decided to focus work solely on five prioritised solutions during a four-year work programme that finishes in 2019. These are harmonised and user-friendly bridge design, standardised and automated ship reporting, and harmonised display of navigational information received via communication equipment. In addition, during the 2018-2019 biennium, work would be undertaken on the standardised mode (S-mode) of operation for shipboard navigational equipment. Work will also be carried out on revised requirements for Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) related shipborne radio equipment and for electronic navigational aids to address built-in integrity testing for navigation devices.
In his keynote address to the conference, IMO secretary general Kitack Lim gave a strong indication that he was open minded about the organisation taking on additional tasks in the future, bearing in mind the iterative nature of e-navigation developments. He highlighted the need to revisit the gap analysis that had been undertaken in preparation of the SIP in order to address the remaining, potential e-navigation solutions that were not initially prioritised. “This is so that we can identify further tasks and then incorporate them into the SIP, as and when required,” he added.
Mr Lim reminded delegates that all five priority solutions were concerned with achieving seamless data transfer in all directions. Harmonisation of equipment and system interfaces, of data formats and of symbols used was therefore of vital importance and IMO had a central and co-ordinating role to play in the innovation required to achieve this, he said.
DMA director general Andreas Nordseth said that the potential for combining data and connectivity had become enormous as shipping was moving fast towards being online everywhere all the time. However, it was up to legislators to provide the right regulatory framework to support a co-ordinated approach to innovation and, most importantly, its take-up. The latter was a process that had to be both market driven and user driven to ensure that shipping could be successful in being smart.