ECDIS and e-navigation have benefited shipmanagers Thome Group and ferry operator DFDS, while Ray Carriers is trialling new technology
Ship e-navigation has completely changed bridge operations and opens shipping up to new technology applications. Moving from paper to electronic navigation and adopting ECDIS has provided ship operators, owners and managers with several operational benefits and new challenges.
There is less burden on crew to update electronic navigational charts (ENCs) with navigation information and maritime notices as this can be automated in ECDIS. This requires two ECDIS on a bridge for redundancy, so there is no need for paper charts.
E-navigation also allows weather information to be used for passage planning and radar images for voyage execution.
ECDIS lets fleet managers verify voyage plans and provide advice to bridge teams on optimised routes for lowering fuel consumption and ship emissions.
For shipmanagement business Thome Group, e-navigation has transformed bridge operations and interaction between managers and crew. Its vessels have two ECDIS on board so that if the primary navigation aid fails, there is another to take over operations.
“All of the ships now have dual ECDIS and these keep ENCs updated,” says Thome Group chief executive Olav Nortun. “ECDIS does this automatically and it means bridge teams have more time for navigation,” he tells Maritime Digitalisation & Communications.
“Going from paper to electronic has been completed and now we are getting all the benefits and seeing what is useful.”
The transition was over several years as ECDIS was installed on ships to meet and exceed regulatory carriage requirements. Crew and shore staff needed retraining on ECDIS and capturing the benefits it delivers.
“It was an interesting transition, from old to new technology,” says Mr Nortun. Now that is completed, Thome is reaping the operational benefits.
“Passage planning is much quicker and there is more transparency of voyages in e-navigation”
On board its ships, crew can devote more time to navigational safety, ship-shore communications, interacting with port authorities and regulators and monitoring operations.
“Passage planning is much quicker and there is more transparency of voyages in e-navigation,” says Mr Nortun.
Thome has identified that voyage planning can be more interactive for crew and shore managers through e-navigation. On board its ships, navigators can use weather information to plan routes more effectively and software for weather routeing, reducing voyage time and energy consumption.
Navigators also receive information on the latest regulations for the territorial waters vessels are sailing within. This can affect the types of fuel ships can use and the types of waste they can emit if, for example, ships enter emission control areas.
“To help officers with voyage planning, we can take charts and the environmental regulations information as an overlay on e-navigation systems,” says Mr Nortun.
“There are more interfaces for passage planning and alerts when ships are close to a boundary in regulations, such as when ships need to switch fuels or if there is a change in waste regulations.”
Thome also has an ECDIS in the fleet management office that enables shipmanagers to provide information and advice to crew. “We can verify voyage plans and check the routes against environmental regulations,” says Mr Nortun. “We track weather around the globe and provide advice to the vessels for weather routeing.”
It is then the captain’s decision whether to use the information and advice, as they are still responsible for safely navigating their vessel.
“We do not want to take away the human element and we need people on board to remain in charge,” says Mr Nortun. “We can provide information and advice to them to improve operations. But, we do not want to take away the responsibility from our officers.”
To maintain responsibility and operational competence, Thome’s seafarers go through vigorous training and retraining throughout their careers. Some of this is conducted in Thome’s own training centre on a Kongsberg K-Bridge ship bridge simulator.
This has 19 models of ships including crude and product tankers, bulk carriers, gas carriers, icebreakers, anchor handlers, offshore supply ships and rescue boats.
If officers need training on different operations to these, Thome can send them to simulator centres outside of the organisation.
“We have our own training centre, but we will rent capacity for advanced training as we are not able to keep everything in the centre,” says Mr Nortun. Thome also uses e-learning software for some training requirements.
Passenger ship ECDIS
ECDIS is also an important navigation aid for ferry group DFDS. Its ships have dual ECDIS on board to enable officers to plan and execute routes. Some even have a third ECDIS for additional redundancy.
ECDIS has its own independent power supply and GPS position input to minimise the risk of failures or incorporating incorrect information during voyages, says DFDS marine standards manager Jakob Lynge.
DFDS is a leader in developing e-navigation technology and industry discussions for its adoption. “We are of course very much into e-navigation and all the developments of any kind, as we like to see ourselves as a leading ferry operator,” he explains.
“We have an innovations department that are constantly following e-navigation developments. And they are testing 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.
Future technologies are being tested by Ray Carriers, which operates a fleet of eight pure car and truck carriers. It is trialling an artificial intelligent (AI) navigation aid to provide additional information to ship masters about surrounding vessels and hazards.
Ray Carriers uses Orca AI imaging to help navigators avoid collisions in crowded waterways and low visibility. Orca AI supplements existing onboard sensors, such as AIS, radar and GPS, with thermal and low-light cameras.
These are combined with an AI-powered navigation and vessel tracking system, which helps captains to detect ships and navigation hazards at both long and short distances. It delivers information on the future passage and track of other vessels to enable navigators to remedy their course and avoid a collision.
Orca AI will recommend course corrections and actions to avoid potentially dangerous situations. It is easy to retrofit ships with this technology, which is fully compatible with international shipping and safety regulations.
Modules on Ray Carriers harvest data from daily operations to enable Orca to build smarter systems for the future.
Snapshot CV: Olav Nortun
Thome Group chief executive Olav Nortun became chief executive officer of Thome Group in April 2015 as part of a long career in shipping. He joined from classification society DNV GL where he served for 10 years in various positions in Oslo, Norway and Hamburg, Germany. Mr Nortun was technical director, senior vice president and chief operating officer at DNV GL. He was executive vice president of classification at DNV GL before he joined Thome as CEO.
Thome fleet breakdown
Thome Group manages 199 ships and 15 offshore support vessels, including: