Of satellites, unmanned ships and ECDIS standards

August 6, 2015

The shipping industry continues to look to the future – perhaps it is more positive than the present – with plans for new e-Navigation programmes, satellite navigation constellations and research into the ships of the future. Programmes announced this month include projects to improve the design and operation of the next generation of conventional ships and another which will explore the feasibility of future generations of unmanned vessels. Meanwhile back in the present, ECDIS display standards are slowly improving, while the risks of using low sulphur fuel refuse to evaporate.

EU grants €21 million for e-navigation project

The European Union has agreed to fund a demonstration and validation project for the Sea Traffic Management (STM) e-navigation concept. The project will incorporate test beds in Northern Europe and the Mediterranean Sea involving 10 different ports, three onshore centres and an estimated 300 vessels.

The project leaders say concept validation will pave the way for deployment of a much wider traffic management programme, help avoid setbacks in deployment and increase industry stakeholder participation.

STM is intended to overcome the challenges of communication and information sharing along the supply chain and was defined under the previous MonaLisa 2.0 project which concluded in June. That project saw a technical protocol for route exchange developed which is in the process of being recognised as an international standard.

IHO updates ECDIS standards

The International Hydrographic Organisation (IHO) has updated some of its ECDIS Standards to reflect ‘lessons learned’ from incidents of unexpected chart display behaviour in some bridge systems.

IHO says the updated versions of the standards are a significant contribution to supporting navigational safety and are designed to ensure that all the ambiguities and inconsistencies relating to the display of ENCs in ECDIS have been resolved.

“When the various parts of the revised Standards have been implemented by ENC producers, ECDIS manufacturers and ECDIS testing authorities, it will result in an improved ECDIS experience for the mariner,” said Robert Ward, president, IHO.

“One of the biggest benefits of upgrading ECDIS systems to the latest S-52 Presentation Library will be a reduction in the number of audible alarms triggered by ECDIS, helping ease the issue of alarm fatigue on the bridge, whilst still maintaining safety at sea,” added Thomas Mellor, chairman, IHO ENC Standard Maintenance Working Group.

China launches Beidou satellites

China has launched two satellites using its ‘Long March 3B’ rocket, in a step forward in the deployment of its Beidou global navigation network. The satellites are the second and third units of a planned 35-satellite constellation which China aims to have in operation by 2020.

When complete, the Beidou system will join the US Air Force’s Global Positioning System, Russia’s Glonass satellite network, and Europe’s Galileo fleet (which is still being deployed) as the world’s four navigation services with global reach.

The Beidou expansion comes after the system achieved initial operating capability over Asia-Pacific in 2012. Officials say the constellation will provide positioning services with an accuracy of 10 meters, or about 33 feet, speed estimates within less than one foot per second, and time measurements within 10 nanoseconds.

More low sulphur concerns

Recently-appointed Loss Prevention Director of the UK P&I Club, Stuart Edmonston, has warned about the increased use of low-sulphur fuels in shipping. He said shipowners need to be aware of the differing rules and costs across jurisdictions as well as the fines for non-compliance.

“There are increasing demands on shipowners to comply with mandates regarding the use of low-sulphur fuels in ships,” he said. “The move towards using cleaner fuels supports a global drive to reducing carbon emissions, with many countries forming new or reforming old regulations. Hong Kong and Australia are the latest to introduce their own bespoke requirements.”

Edmonston notes that Hong Kong’s regulations impose criminal sanctions against the owners (including any bareboat charterers and ship managers) and the Master for non-compliance. A contravention of the provisions relating to fuel use attracts a maximum fine of HK$200,000 and six months’ imprisonment.

In addition, significant operational concerns remain, including technical issues of low viscosity, lack of lubricity and low density as well as higher costs and low availability, UK P&I Club added.

HHI looks to the future

Shipbuilder Hyundai Heavy Industries and the Korea Institute of Ocean Science & Technology have jointly developed a ‘Sea Weather Forecasting System’ capable of hourly analysis of wave height, wind speed and current patterns.

The system will enable HHI to manage sea trial schedules for newbuildings at its Ulsan yard 72 hours in advance, by focusing on seven specific offshore areas. The Geographic Information System–based program can also display marine weather information for specific locations on Electronic Navigation Charts.

HHI has also partnered with consulting firm Accenture to collaborate on the design of a ‘connected smart ship’, with the aim of applying digital technologies to improved fleet management and operational efficiency savings.

The project partners said they plan to create a new generation of vessels integrated with the ‘Internet of Things’. A network of sensors will be built into the ships to capture a range of voyage information including location, weather and ocean current data, as well as onboard equipment and cargo status information.

The project will include applying real-time analytics to new and historical fleet data and using data visualisation technology to present the insights gained, allowing for monitoring of a vessel’s status and condition in real-time to support better decision-making.

Rolls Royce to lead autonomous ship project

Rolls-Royce is to lead the Advanced Autonomous Waterborne Applications Initiative, a project funded by the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation, to produce specifications and preliminary designs for a range of ship solutions related to unmanned vessel operations.

The project will bring together universities, ship designers, equipment manufacturers, and classification societies in a two-year, €6.6m programme to explore the economic, social, legal, regulatory and technological factors which need to be addressed before autonomous ships can become a reality.

The work programme, to be led by Rolls-Royce will encompass the implications of remote control and autonomy of ships for propulsion, deck machinery and automation and control, using, where possible, established technology for rapid commercialisation.

The project will run until the end of 2017 and will combine academic input from five academic or research institutions with input from maritime industry stakeholders including NAPA, Deltamarin, DNV GL and Inmarsat.

Ends