Joining STM testbeds could help shipowners prepare for IMO’s e-navigation implementation plan
Investing in more than the mandatory ECDIS requirement for smarter navigation will reduce operating costs, vessel emissions and time for shipping companies.
ECDIS is the central hub for all forms of e-navigation, including voyage planning and execution, weather routeing and artificial intelligence (AI)-driven navigation.
ECDIS is a mandatory carriage requirement and, as a technology, is regularly under-used. Since 1 July 2018, all tankers of more than 3,000 gt and dry cargo ships of more than 10,000 gt are expected to carry ECDIS and use updated electronic navigational charts (ENCs) for primary navigation. They also need a secondary navigation aid, either paper charts or a second ECDIS to be compliant, but more benefits come from going paperless.
To remain compliant with IMO requirements, owners must ensure ENCs remain updated with the latest safety and navigation notices and crew are familiar with ECDIS features and functions. Training is therefore an essential aspect of e-navigation and a regulatory requirement. Navigators are expected to complete a generic ECDIS IMO model course and have type-specific training to ensure they are familiar with the device’s workings. This will be checked by port state control inspectors.
ECDIS and ENCs must be compliant with the latest International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) and International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) standards. These cover ENC specifications, validation, security, ECDIS performance, display specifications and test data.
Uncompliant shipowners could have vessels detained by port state control inspectors until issues are remedied. Smart navigation equipment can produce a report for inspectors to highlight technical compliance and crew training certificates.
ECDIS is a key aid for reducing fuel costs and gaseous emissions, and complying with regional rules. Navigators can plot voyages using ECDIS and software can optimise these for the most fuel-efficient route. Passages can be planned to avoid adverse weather or to take advantage of ocean currents and tides.
Weather routeing has become popular for bridge teams and onshore management. Some managers have ECDIS in their offices to check and optimise planned routes and provide advice to captains.
These processes are becoming more automated as software, algorithms and AI is developed to provide further advice and situational awareness to navigators.
On the bridge, ENCs can be overlaid by information from radar and the automatic information system (AIS) to make navigators more aware of hazards and surrounding vessels. During Arctic voyages, ice coverage can also be plotted.
Captains can ensure ships are compliant with regional and local regulations, such as fuel type and waste storage, as this information can be displayed on route plans during voyages.
Awareness is further advanced if ships are involved in e-navigation trials, such as Sea Traffic Management, where voyage plans of surrounding ships are transmitted between vessels, port authorities and vessel traffic controllers.
E-navigation is being demonstrated in regional trials, but IMO is preparing regulations and guidance for demonstrating and adopting e-navigation worldwide.
MSC 101 approvals
During IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC)’s meetings in June (MSC 101) the committee approved circulars related to developing e-navigation including guidelines to standardise user interfaces for seafarers to monitor, manage and perform navigational tasks. IMO expects these standards will enhance situational awareness and improve navigation safety when applied to integrated navigation systems, ECDIS and radar.
MSC approved amendments to performance standards and presentation of navigation-related information on shipborne displays, which is expected to come into force on 1 January 2024. It also approved an update to the presentation of navigational-related symbols, terms and abbreviations to harmonise bridge systems.
MSC then approved guidance on the definition and harmonisation of the format and structure of e-navigation services to ensure maritime-related information and data exchanged are implemented internationally in a harmonised, standardised and unified format.
All maritime services should conform to IHO’s S-100 framework standard, which specifies the method for data modelling and developing product specifications.
STM projects validates e-navigation
Sea Traffic Management (STM) has demonstrated the benefits of e-navigation to global shipping through a validation project that concluded in June 2019. This €43M (US$47.5M) project ran from 2015 and involved 13 nations, 311 ships, 87 organisations in nine ports, six shore centres and 12 simulator centres.
STM validation was led by the Swedish Maritime Administration. It resulted in three e-navigation standards being developed – S-211 Port-Call message format, S-421 route exchange format and S-100 Secom for secure exchange and communications of S-100 products.
It also led to an approved standard format for exchanging route data and an STM clause for charter parties adopted by BIMCO in standard contracts.
Other benefits were demonstrated during the validation project, including fuel savings of 20-24% from reduced waiting times near and in ports and increased effectiveness of voyage plans. STM also highlighted improved situational awareness and navigational safety, better ship-ship and ship-shore communications and decreased onboard workloads.
STM validation completion does not mean the end of e-navigation testing. There are four ongoing implementation projects and more on the drawing board. There is continued work on global standardisation of data and communication formats and further development of the maritime digital infrastructure – Maritime Connectivity Platform.
Carnival Corp will continue using STM in its navigation and information sharing to optimise voyages, improve situational awareness and reduce collision risks. It will share voyage plans with other users in northern Europe, including ports, shore centres and other ships.
STM has spawned other e-navigation testbeds. Real Time Ferries will use onboard awareness of ferry delays to inform passengers, goods handlers and public transportation.
EfficientFlow will implement STM in two ports and help ships to plan encounters in narrow passages at an earlier stage to save fuel and increase safety.
STM BALT SAFE will increase tanker safety in the Baltic Sea, accounting for ferry cross-traffic. An STM shore centre will be established in Cyprus and implement PortCDM in Limassol, exchanging information with ports in neighbouring countries.
Partners will continue collaboration with the Smart Navigation project in South Korea and with SESAME Solution II in Singapore.
Connected ports and vessel traffic centres
STM connected ports
Connected vessel traffic centres
IMO defines e-navigation as “the harmonised collection, integration, exchange, presentation and analysis of marine information on board and ashore by electronic means to enhance berth-to-berth navigation and related services for safety and security at sea and protection of the marine environment”.
MSC’s initial description of e-navigation marine services includes vessel traffic service information, navigational assistance, traffic organisation, maritime safety information, pilotage, tugs, vessel shore reporting, telemedical assistance, local port information, nautical charts and publications, ice navigation, meteorological, hydrographic and environmental information and search and rescue.
These are expected to be periodically updated, taking into account developments and related work on harmonisation being conducted in collaboration with other international organisations, such as International Hydrographic Organization, World Meteorological Organization, International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities, International Maritime Pilots Association and the International Harbour Masters Association.
New IHO/IEC standards
New standards from the IHO and IEC came into force in 2018, including: