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Maritime Digitalisation & Communications

ECDIS is at the heart of sea traffic management

Tue 26 Jun 2018 by Martyn Wingrove

ECDIS is at the heart of sea traffic management
Wärtsilä Nacos Platinum bridge systems are adapted for e-navigation in the STM validation project

The STM validation project enables better communications and route transfers between ship ECDIS and vessel tracking services

For the future of e-navigation, ECDIS has become an essential device. It is at the heart of current and future e-navigation technology and is used by ships that are already implementing the next generation of navigation, such as those involved in the Sea Traffic Management (STM) validation project.

This is operating in the seas and ports around Denmark, Sweden and Norway, in the North Sea and Baltic Sea. STM is designed to facilitate communication of ship routes and movements using onboard ECDIS, satellite communications and vessel tracking services (VTSs).

STM takes e-navigation a step further for ship safety with information exchanged between ships and ports using data standards and protocols. The STM project will eventually include 300 ships, 13 ports and five shore centres.

E-navigation technology in STM was demonstrated on DFDS ferry Pearl Seaways in January this year as it sailed between Norway and Sweden. Officers on this ferry used Wärtsilä Nacos Platinum bridge equipment to send the ship’s voyage plan to a VTS centre in Norway. The route was also sent by the Wärtsilä ECDIS Pilot to a shore centre in Sweden.

Information was processed by the Konsgberg-supplied systems at the Norway VTS and on the Saab-provided computers in Sweden. Data was transferred using standards developed by the STM team, including recommended arrival time, navigational warnings and route suggestions, displayed on onboard navigational systems.

Data is also transferred to surrounding ships indicating the expected route. A ship with STM-enabled ECDIS on board can identify nearby vessels and their planned routes to determine points of approach and avoid potential collisions.

The STM validation project also developed a method of transmitting navigational warnings in the Baltic region directly to the onboard ECDIS. These warnings can be sent only to those affected and deleted when no longer relevant.

Several integrated bridge systems providers are involved in STM. Wärtsilä and its new subsidiary, Transas, are both intimately linked with the STM project. Ships involved in this e-navigation testbed are using Wärtsilä and Transas ECDIS configured to handle STM requirements.

This includes Wärtsilä’s Nacos Platinum integrated bridge system and Transas’ Navi-Sailor 4000 ECDIS. The two companies combined in May as Wärtsilä acquired Transas, including its e-navigation and simulation experience and products, in a US$245M deal.

After completing this acquisition, Wärtsilä product manager for navigation products Eberhard Maass explained to Marine Electronics & Communications that STM connects ships to shore and defines standards for data exchange, including routes between these entities.

“Masters can predict movements and possible manoeuvres of surrounding ships, which should increase safety at sea”

“STM makes it possible to exchange routes, to optimise voyages and transmit route information with other ships, such as position and speed using AIS,” he said. It can also facilitate more types of information exchange, such as other vessels’ intended routes. “This means masters can predict movements and possible manoeuvres of surrounding ships, which should increase safety at sea,” said Mr Maass.

He expects more progress will be made in e-navigation and STM later this year and into 2019. “Acceptance tests are now ongoing and the next step will be implementation,” he said. ECDIS will be an important aspect to this implementation.

ECDIS standards

There are changes coming to standards for data used by ECDIS. “Implementation of new standards S-100 and S-101 is on the agenda and under proposal,” said Mr Maass. He expects these to be implemented in the next two to three years “with additional functionality and more information for ECDIS”, including more detailed depth soundings in S-100. “This will be the next milestone for ECDIS technology,” said Mr Maass.

It should be an easier introduction and integration than the changes in ECDIS and ENC standards manufacturers had to implement in 2016-2017 when the International Hydrographic Organisation (IHO) updated standards. Mr Maass said both Wärtsilä and Transas upgraded their products to the updated standards well before the 1 September 2017 deadline.

Northrop Grumman Sperry Marine also upgraded its VisionMaster ECDIS, including those already installed on ships, to the latest IHO standards before the deadline. Its head of product line management for commercial ships Ralf Magner said this was a huge programme as “worldwide our customer hardware had the updates by August 2017”.

He expects S-100 and S-101standards to be updated in the future and e-navigation technology to be developed rapidly using back-of-the-bridge voyage planning systems. These use ENCs and other route planning software with weather and ocean condition information.

“E-navigation is about making things more transparent, considering new technology and new decision processes”

“We are trialling with one of our large customers a voyage planning system for automatic route exchange and chart updates,” Mr Magner told MEC.  He said e-navigation will only be as effective as the information it can deliver, such as knowledge of when ships should arrive at ports. “E-navigation is about making things more transparent, considering new technology and new decision processes,” he explained.

Sperry Marine introduced its VisionMaster Net networked bridge solution in January this year, including workstations for multiple ECDIS, radar, conning, chart radar, alarm monitoring and control, engine and thruster controls, radio communications and other navigational aids.

Remote monitoring

As e-navigation technology is further deployed, there will be more emphasis on keeping it serviced and operational. “We are looking at remote assistance and remote maintenance of bridge systems to minimise downtime,” said Mr Magner. “If critical navigation equipment, such as radar or ECDIS is ineffective, we will have service engineers to ensure they can get to ships worldwide to fix the problem.”

Furuno Electric has introduced remote monitoring and diagnostics for its integrated bridge systems. Its HermAce gateway is connected to ECDIS, radar, speedlog, sonar, voyage data recorders and alarms through an Ethernet network and Dell-supplied hardware.

This can be used for real-time monitoring of performance and condition of bridge systems, said Furuno UK area manager Paul McKenzie. He said if there was an issue with ECDIS radar or other bridge equipment, the shipmanager would be alerted and review the problem through a portal. Furuno would also be alerted and “would advise the shipowner on how to fix the problem”, he said.


Data analysis improves navigation safety

Totem Plus has incorporated an e-navigation data analysis (EDA) tool on its ECDIS. This enables shipowners to analyse data from ECDIS monthly to identify if the crew have violated IMO’s International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS) and if vessels were close to having an accident. Its ECDIS will also alert officers if the GPS signal is switched off or tampered with, said Totem Plus chief executive officer Azriel Rahav.

EDA is a software tool that scans data recorded by ECDIS and voyage data recorders for near misses, such as violations of COLREGS, using parameters such as distance, speed and water depth. Management is alerted if these are identified. They can then message the ship involved or the whole fleet. Seafarers would have the opportunity to explain the situation and learn from experience. Capt Rahav said this has already improved navigation safety for fleet managers using this tool.

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