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Maritime Digitalisation & Communications

New bridge systems enable advanced e-navigation

Tue 09 Jan 2018 by Martyn Wingrove

New bridge systems enable advanced e-navigation
Alphatron unveiled its latest version of AlphaBridge at the Europort exhibition, Rotterdam, in November 2017

New bridge products from JRC subsidiary Alphatron, Praxis, Navico and Sperry Marine were unveiled during Q4 2017

Manufacturers are developing bridge systems with greater levels of integration that can be used for future e-navigation applications. This latest generation of bridge electronics has simpler network architecture and more flexibility with integrated workstations that can be used for more advanced navigation and alarm monitoring applications than has been possible before.

For example, Japan Radio Co (JRC) subsidiary Alphatron Marine introduced an integrated bridge system for workboats and commercial ships in October 2017 that was designed to be simple to use. This latest version of its AlphaBridge is designed and integrated by Alphatron using JRC bridge equipment.

Alphatron divisional manager Rogier van Roon told Marine Electronics & Communications in November 2017 that AlphaBridge’s design should enable optimised views from the wheelhouse and full control of displays and equipment – including autopilot, VHF and propulsion controls – from the master chair.

AlphaBridge has three 26 in navigational displays in the front consoles. It is also fitted with JRC’s latest JMR-5400 marine radar and a new conning system and can also come with a new adaptive autopilot and a new VHF radio that has a 5 in touchscreen. For inland operations, this updated version of AlphaBridge can come with a JRC river radar, such as JMA-610 and Alphatron’s new track and control unit.

One of the most recent installations of AlphaBridge equipment was on Damen Shipyards-built yacht support vessel, New Frontiers. Alphatron supplied the navigation and communications package that included a dynamic positioning (DP) module and VSAT.

The DP automatically controls the heading and position of this YS 5009-design vessel, based on data received from position reference sensors, gyrocompasses, wind sensors and motion reference units. The auto track mode allows New Frontiers to move along a pre-defined track at low speed.

In 2017, Alphatron also developed, in association with Argonics, a track and control system for inland shipping. AlphaRiverTrack, as it is called, is an autopilot that enables ship masters to set routes on electronic charts for vessels using inland waterways. It calculates rudder output for steering a vessel while compensating for drift.

Vessel masters can overrule the automation to make adjustments during navigation by using a compact joystick control panel on the bridge. Three steering modes from existing Alphatron river pilot devices – automatic, follow-up and track – can be chosen by the vessel’s captain.

AlphaRiverTrack will automatically optimise a route by adjusting it to account for water levels and vessel load conditions. It analyses progress of the planned route using prediction lines and reduces fuel consumption by decreasing rudder movements.

For open sea operations, JRC has developed a JMR-5400 radar with 19 in or 26 in displays, greater processing power and an updated human-machine interface. For commercial ships, Alphatron has introduced the NeCST route planning station. This is an interactive chart unit that enables operators to plan voyages on a 46 in touchscreen. The planning station would be connected to other bridge systems enabling officers to transfer a route to an onboard ECDIS.

Like Alphatron’s ECDIS capabilities, new graphical interfaces from Praxis Automation Technology can also link bridge systems into a ship’s ECDIS. Its Mega-Guard integrated navigation system can be supplied with between three and 10 integrated operator workstations. These can display and control X-band and S-band radar with automatic plotting capabilities, ECDIS with radar overlay, autopilot and conning.

Mega-Guard integrated bridges also include a centralised alarm monitoring system and controls for vessel systems, such as main propulsion, thrusters, ventilation and emergency response systems. There can also be an integrated manoeuvring system with propulsion and steering controls and heading controls that automatically manages a vessel’s direction of motion using rudder or azimuthing thrusters. This can be extended with DP in classes DP1, DP2 and DP3.

Each Mega-Guard operator workstation is equipped with a marine computer, a 22 in to 26 in thin-film-transistor colour display and a trackball. These are interconnected with the radar antenna via a redundant Ethernet link, said Praxis software engineer Lars van Ruiten, who explained that workstations display alarm information and feedback on what is causing the alarm and advice on what action to take.

Instead of analogue control panels, Praxis has developed configurable digital panels with touchscreens that can serve different purposes. “It was just a matter of changing the software,” he told Marine Electronics & Communications.

“It was just a matter of changing the software”

Praxis has also developed controls for its new Mega-Guard Green hybrid propulsion suite. The controls include a manual mode selection, motor start-stop function, emergency mode selection, control position, dimming and parameter mode selections and load trim settings. The hybrid propulsion package includes battery packs, electric motors, generators, thrusters, controls and a power management system. The first system is set to be tested on a vessel in Q1 2018.

As with Alphatron and Praxis’ ECDIS connections, Northrop Grumman Sperry Marine’s new networked bridge solution, VisionMaster Net, also connects to multiple ECDIS units. This is a network of integrated workstations that enables bridge builders to connect any combination of equipment over an Ethernet ring by using standard cables.

VisionMaster Net has a modular design that enables easy integration of workstations for ECDIS, radar, conning, chart radar, alarm monitoring and control, engine and thruster controls, radio communications and other navigational aids. There is flexibility in the way panel PC displays can be configured for any vessel type.

Northrop Grumman Sperry Marine managing director James Collett said VisionMaster Net’s architecture will enable future navigation and communications applications. “It enables e-navigation and ship-to-shore solutions, helping shipowners and shipyards remain competitive,” he said, adding that the intuitive interfaces minimise the need for re-training while “increased software functionality enables more efficient maintenance and upgrades”.

VisionMaster Net needs fewer point-to-point connections than existing Sperry Marine bridge systems without compromising redundancy in the network. It has a central alert management module and links to a ship’s satellite communications and voyage data recorder equipment.

Navigation aids unveiled

Navico has introduced two new bridge products for workboats that improve navigation and monitoring: an echosounder and a speed log.

Its IMO type-approved S3009 echosounder for commercial vessels and workboats is based on the non IMO-approved S2009 sounder that is used in mainly leisure and fishing vessels. It comes within a package that includes transducer options for both shallow and deep waters and, like its forebear, is said to be easy to install.

Navico sales director for commercial marine sectors Jon Krohn told Marine Electronics & Communications that the company’s new speed logs form a portfolio of simple-to-install Simrad IMO-approved speed logs. Their “easy tank-mounting technology means installing the transducer is very simple without the need for costly or customised gate valves and transducer tanks,” he said.

Navicom Dynamics has introduced an updated version of its GyroPilot portable pilot unit (PPU) to help improve safety during vessel manoeuvres. GyroPilot V3 has applications that pilots can use for precise navigation, monitoring ship handling in ports, coastal pilotage and ship manoeuvring in congested harbours.

It is intended for pilots wanting to use the ship’s pilot plug on the bridge who also need independent navigation information while being wirelessly connected to the charting software on the display unit. It has sensors that are interfaced with a display unit, such as a laptop or tablet, which is loaded with navigation software and charts.

The sensor measures important data points of the vessel, such as its position, heading and rate of turn, along with velocities and the relative positions of other vessels and of fixed port infrastructure. This data is then fed into the software to create a synchronised and real-time image of the vessel and its surroundings.

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