Saga Cruises, DFDS and Carnival discuss their investments in e-navigation technology, while AI and auto-docking is tested on bridges
E-navigation is the future for passenger ship voyage planning, processing and execution with ECDIS in the centre linked to other sensors to improve situational awareness. Radar, automatic identification system (AIS), satellite positioning (GPS) and compasses provide information to bridge teams and ECDIS enabling officers to plan and sail along routes, keeping passengers safe and engaged.
To ensure this continues with the newbuilding wave, top cruise ship operators work with their most experienced navigators when designing future integrated bridge systems (IBS) for their new ships.
Saga Cruises did this for its new US$400M Spirit-class ships, the first of which was named Spirit of Discovery in Dover, UK, in early July. During the ceremony, Saga Cruises newbuild director David Pickett told Passenger Ship Technology the business took advice from classification society Lloyd’s Register and from its experienced officers when selecting the IBS.
Saga then chose Kongsberg Maritime to supply and integrate the systems throughout the Spirit-class ships. On the bridge, this includes dual ECDIS, speed pilot, track pilot and digital navigation workstations, where voyages are planned and routes checked for safety.
These ships have S-band and X-band main radar, and stern radar for tracking hazards and surrounding ship traffic, says Mr Pickett. “We wanted navigation, automation, engine, power management and safety management systems to communicate without conflicts or issues,” he explains.
Also on the bridge are controls for the ship’s propulsion, manoeuvring thrusters and engine management. Bridge officers use ECDIS to navigate the route, working with the autopilot to control Siemens ESiPods propulsors during voyages and Brunvoll transverse thrusters for docking.
Saga chief operations officer Nigel Blanks says all of the ship’s bridge, automation and control systems were supplied by well-established providers that had already tested this technology. “We needed tried and tested technology so that it met regulations, was proven and would work from the start,” he explains from the lounge on Spirit of Discovery. It is all connected to VSAT for predictive maintenance, bridge systems’ remote monitoring and downloading the latest navigational charts and weather information.
“We needed tried and tested technology so that it met regulations, was proven and would work from the start”
IBS equipment is only as good as the data it processes and the seafarers that use it. Saga works with V.Ships Leisure in the UK for technical management of the cruise ships.
“We are with V.Ships in offices in Southampton, so our deck and technical teams work close together,” says Mr Blanks. Saga uses V.Ships’ management software and its crewing services for deck and technical officers.
V.Ships was also responsible for training these officers so they are ready to serve effectively on the new cruise ships. “Training the masters and chief officers involved simulator training on programs modelled on these new ships,” says Mr Blanks.
Carnival Corp uses Kongsberg and Wärtsilä for IBS on its ships. Its latest expedition cruise ships will be equipped with ECDIS, ice radar, dynamic positioning (DP), forward-looking and omnidirectional sonar integrated by Kongsberg. These ultra-luxury polar-class passenger ships, which will be operated by the Seabourn brand, are under construction at the T.Mariotti shipyard in Genova, Italy, and are scheduled to enter service from 2021.
They will be equipped with Kongsberg K-Bridge IBS featuring multi-functional workstations with touch-sensitive control panels and joystick controls, K-Pos DP, an integrated docking aid and ice radar.
For the complete fleet, Carnival is also deploying Sea Traffic Management (STM) interfaces to share and receive route information from surrounding ships. This follows trials using STM information exchange on ships within the Costa Crociere and Aida brands. These ships use STM-supported standardised formats and interfaces of exchange information to optimise voyages to mitigate collision risks.
STM was incorporated into Costa Crociere’s fleet operations centre software Neptune. This enables Carnival to interact with other STM services, ports and shore centre operators, said Carnival Maritime IT director Franco Caraffi, who is part of the Information Technology Costa Group.
“With our fleet operations centres we have further increased safety on board our ships,” he says. “With STM we can use this solution to share voyage plans with all other STM-enabled services, such as route optimisation and vessel traffic service centres to create a shared situational awareness.”
Neptune software evaluates voyage optimisation suggestions received by shore centres through the maritime digital infrastructure. Carnival then shares voyage plans automatically with vessel traffic services along the route.
STM information interacts and is displayed on Wärtsilä ECDIS on Carnival’s ships involved in the STM validation project, which is a regional e-navigation testbed operating in the Baltic region.
Carnival is also rolling out ChartCo’s Regs4ships on its entire fleet to help shore managers to identify and implement future changes in maritime regulations and synchronise compliance across brands and head offices.
STM has spawned other e-navigation testbeds such as Real Time Ferries which uses onboard awareness of ferry delays to inform passengers, goods handlers and public transportation. Also, STM BALT SAFE will increase tanker safety in the Baltic Sea by providing information on ferry cross-traffic.
ECDIS is a vital navigation aid for ferry operators to improve safety. Particularly for DFDS, which was a pioneer with all its ships having two, and some having three, ECDIS on board for redundancy and reliability.
Its ships have dual ECDIS to enable officers to plan and execute routes, says DFDS marine standards manager Jakob Lynge. ECDIS has its own independent power supply and GPS position input to minimise failures or incorporating incorrect information during voyages, he says.
“We are very much into e-navigation and developments of any kind, as we like to see ourselves as a leading ferry operator,” he explains. “We have an innovations department that is constantly following e-navigation developments. And we test equipment that could make our navigation even safer.” Mr Lynge says this could include using unmanned aerial vehicles to provide visual information to ship captains.
DFDS also hosts the annual International e-Navigation Underway Conference on board its passenger ships. This year it was on Pearl Seaways, where industry leaders discussed current and future e-navigation technology and regulations.
For other ferry operators, implementing ECDIS has been a slower process with some still using paper charts as a back-up to a single ECDIS as a primary device for navigation.
ECDIS must have updated electronic navigational charts (ENCs) with the latest safety notices included for them to be compliant with IMO regulations and useful as a navigation aid. It also needs accurate information from the sources and alarm ranges set by bridge officers.
A captain from a northern European ferry operator told Passenger Ship Technology that ECDIS on a ferry sailing from a UK port was fed incorrect gyrocompass data for months before the issue was detected. This compass was 1.5˚ out, which meant the ferry’s navigation and docking was also out by 1.5˚ until the master fixed it himself using a tool kit.
ECDIS should be accessible e-navigation technology, but for some seafarers, operating its functions and applications is challenging.
This European ferry captain says it is cumbersome to view and create routes on ECDIS, even using a large display. Because, unlike paper charts, the screen can only show a slice of the voyage – like looking at the route through a spyhole. However, unlike paper charts, safety navigation notices can be swiftly added, and more information can be displayed.
This captain says some ECDIS from eastern Asian manufacturers (not wanting to name any particular suppliers) are not intuitive enough for users. He thinks they are developed by computer experts and not seafarers, citing the forms in the menu system as evidence. In comparison, he found that ECDIS by European manufacturers was better designed for users. These issues can be overcome through familiarisation training and redesigning ECDIS software, which manufacturers are working on.
AI integrated for automatic docking and navigation
Artificial intelligence (AI) can help captains to navigate and berth ferries, as demonstrated in trials earlier this year. Norwegian operator Norled used Wärtsilä’s SmartDock auto-docking system on 85-m ferry Folgefonn during sea trials.
Norled regional director Inge Andre Utåker says SmartDock helped vessel teams to berth, undock and sail between destinations.
“It works hand-in-hand with the captain to ensure the best performance on every docking, every day,” he says. “It is the perfect collaboration between an experienced crew and technology.” Smart Dock uses Wärtsilä Guidance Marine’s CyScan positioning sensor to determine proximity to quaysides and communicate with ECDIS.
Wärtsilä also introduced AI and hazard identification into its new NaviPlanner voyage planning and optimisation solution. This uses AI to auto-create safe navigation routes using the latest ENCs and optimises routes against forecast weather and potential navigation hazards.
“The Wärtsilä NaviPlanner is a safe, type-approved, cyber-secure system that addresses complete voyage planning and optimisation needs in a single service,” says Wärtsilä business unit managing director Torsten Buessow. “It improves safety and provides fleet operators and crew with higher-level situational awareness.”
NaviPlanner automatically updates ENCs and enables onshore managers to remotely monitor ships in real-time and advise seafarers on adverse navigation incidents.
Wärtsilä will continue adding functionality to NaviPlanner to enable navigators to optimise routes for port arrivals and to assist shipping companies in remaining a step ahead of environmental regulations.
Connectivity drives e-navigation future
Advanced connectivity to passenger ships means more navigation data can be shared and shore managers can provide more real-time decision support. Northrop Grumman Sperry Marine technical director Nick Hollaway expects IBS developments will “create the opportunity to share the information load with shoreside systems that process the information and present specialist teams with options that support navigators on board.”
He expects navigation aids will become “smart and connected products combining remote monitoring, control and optimisation” taking more support services ashore.
More sensors will be integrated into bridge systems and crew could be “overwhelmed with information and data that could distract them from their mission,” says Mr Hollaway.
The next challenges will be to “simplify the presentation of information in more intelligent ways” and share the information load with shoreside systems.
Sperry Marine has developed Sperry Sphere to integrate navigation technology deeper into vessel operations and wider maritime networks. It already incorporates elements of Sperry Sphere in its latest IBS, networked VisionMaster Net, which includes remote decision-making and combines radar with high-precision location sensors and security video.
Port navigation enhanced through radar
Ferry operations in a major European port have become safer after implementing vessel tracking radar. Port of Dover contracted Marico Marine to upgrade safety systems, which turned to Cambridge Pixel to supply radar trackers and display technology for a new vessel traffic service (VTS) system.
This is a low-cost, open, software-based radar tracker that will integrate with the VTS.
It needed to work seamlessly with a range of proprietary radars and have plot merging capabilities to combine multiple echoes from large ship reflections into single plots.
Port of Dover chief executive Doug Bannister says the technology is part of a revival of the harbour. “Our Western Dock revival is our biggest investment,” he said. “It means we will be able to handle more freight and we will free up more capacity at the Eastern Docks for more ferry traffic.”
The installed radar is designed to detect commercial and smaller private vessels at a significant distance from the port, and monitor vessel movements within the harbour.
Other navigation technology developments