Investment in technology pays offTaken from: Marine Electronics & Communications news desk 26 September 2012
Advances in satellite communication and electronic navigation are delivering further benefits to shipowners, but there are many challenges to overcome. Investment in the latest electronics technology can return an improvement in ship efficiency and costs control, and enhance crew welfare and their retention. Delegates at Riviera Maritime Media’s Marine Electronics & Communications Conference, held in association with the Admiralty, heard how shipowners had deployed the latest in satcoms and bridge technology. The 113 attendees, including 37 representatives from shipmanagers and operators, also heard about the issues with training crew to service onboard technology.
In a two-day event in London on 24-25 September, which also included a free to attend pre-conference workshop on ecdis regulations presented by Admiralty, vessel operators and shipmanagers discussed the advantages of investing in bridge technology and fast broadband communications. MOL LNG Transport’s manager of health, safety and the environment, Kaushik Roy, explained how electronics had enhanced operations across the shipping industry. He said electronic systems deliver better performance with less effort, and improvements in marine communications had brought more reliability.
“Shipowners and operators need to be proactive in investing in marine electronics,” he said. “Communication is a bridge between ship and shore and provides a critical link. Electronics can help enhance performance, reduce fuel consumption and a ship’s carbon footprint. As crew recruitment and training costs so much, it is much cheaper to retain skilled crew, so investment in crew is the best way to save money.” He said investment reduces the off-hire of MOL’s ships.
Ardmore Shipping’s marine superintendent, Capt Steve Malone agreed that investment helps minimise downtime. The company is investing in new tankers with the latest bridge systems on board. “We have four ships on order in South Korea and each newbuilding will have dual ecdis and VSAT, which is good for crew communications and data downloading speeds.” Capt Malone said training was a key investment. “We must make sure the guys that sail on our ships are fully trained on the modern systems onboard, such as ecdis and radar. They want to have reliable equipment that is fit for purpose.”
BP Shipping’s lead electronics superintendent, Bob Ball, said VSAT communications was an enabler for shipboard applications. “The VSAT ensures data can constantly be sent to and from our ships. It allows superintendents to call their ships everyday and the crew to access Internet. On one of our tankers when the VSAT went down for a couple of days we almost had a mutiny.”
The benefits of onboard broadband communications to shipboard operations and business efficiency was highlighted by Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement’s marketing and communications director, Adonis Violaris. He said, “Operators need to be able to manage, monitor, control, act and improve processes like online planned maintenance, key performance indicators, e-purchasing, e-learning, entertainment and to be able to deal with the various regulations and conformances.”
General Maritime Management Portugal (GMMP)’s marine operations manager, Capt Dominic Kapetanovic, told the conference about the benefits of implementing ecdis. Delegates heard about GMMP’s 10 years of experience of ecdis operations and the complexity of the full fleet adoption. Last year GMMP developed a specific implementation strategy to ensure the safety and efficiency benefits of ecdis are realised across the fleet.
“We consider the adoption of ecdis to be a significant navigational safety and efficiency improvement through enhanced situational awareness of the bridge team and improved efficiency in voyage planning, voyage execution, voyage monitoring and chart maintenance.” GMMP intends to ensure ecdis is operated correctly through training, procedures, and onboard assessment of the effectiveness of the system.
Delegates heard that it is vital for shipmanagers to prepare procedures of how to use ecdis to prevent operation problems. UK Hydrographic Office’s chief executive, Rear Admiral Ian Moncrieff, said there are operational advantages from implementing an approved ecdis strategy across a fleet. But those implementing the technology should ensure crew are properly trained and only official ENCs are used. He explained, “Around 300,000 mariners need to be trained on ecdis. The roll-out on Solas ships will peak in 2015-2016, so it is not long to get everything in place including training.”
Warsash Maritime Academy’s ecdis lecturer, Chris Lowe, said training should include generic ecdis and equipment specific courses. He also urged ship operators to run familiarisation courses. “So officers can use the systems, procedures and checklists, so they can navigate safely.” He said there were barriers to training including the lack of IT knowledge of many officers. “There is distrust in the technology and some officers are computer illiterate. Procedures need to be realistic, agreed and enforced on board by the captain. They should be used during ecdis training and there should be refresher courses.”
Technology has changed the role of the navigator into more of an administrator, where they have to apply for ENC licences and order relevant charts prior to the voyage, said ecdis supplier, Navtor’s managing director, Tor Svanes. “The role of navigator is less and less about navigating ships and more about paper-shuffling and box-ticking. The rising administrative burden is eroding the job satisfaction of the current generation of bridge officers,” he said. “With a traditional ENC service, the navigator has to plan the voyage and then order a calculated portfolio of ENC chart cells by email for the route. He then has to obtain the permits or licence files and make sure these are installed prior to setting sail.”
For more information visit: www.rivieramm.com/events