Combining machine learning, IoT, weather and port information will lead to smart voyage optimisation in real-time, reducing fuel consumption and emissions
Artificial intelligence (AI) is filtering into the latest e-navigation technology to improve voyage planning and navigational safety, making ship navigation more intelligent without removing the human element entirely from the bridge.
Instead, AI is being adopted for e-navigation to reduce the administrative burden on bridge teams, enabling officers to increase their focus on safe navigation.
A new generation of ship navigation systems is combining internet-of-things (IoT) technology, machine learning and cloud computing to advise navigators on the ocean environment, potential hazards, ship performance and surrounding vessels. All this is enveloped into a cyber-secure system for enhanced route planning and voyage execution.
Wärtsilä subsidiary Transas has introduced AI with machine learning and hazard identification into its new Navi-Planner voyage planning and optimisation solution. This uses AI to auto-create safe navigation routes using the latest electronic navigational charts (ENCs) and notices to mariners. These routes are then optimised against weather forecasts and potential navigation hazards.
“The Wärtsilä Navi-Planner is a safe, type-approved, cyber-secure system that addresses complete voyage planning and optimisation needs in a single service,” says Wärtsilä’s Transas business unit managing director Torsten Buessow.
“It improves safety and provides fleet operators and crew with higher-level situational awareness.”
All ENCs within Navi-Planner are automatically updated with the latest navigation notices, cutting this time-consuming task from bridge operations.
It also benefits fleet managers as onshore operators can remotely monitor their vessels in real-time and advise seafarers on adverse navigation. Navi-Planner records navigational near misses and supports incident investigation and digital information playback.
“We are utilising the latest technologies, including connectivity, machine learning, IoT, cloud computing and cyber security measures"
Mr Buessow says adding digitalisation technologies improves workflows on ships and shore offices. “We are utilising the latest technologies, including connectivity, machine learning, IoT, cloud computing and cyber security measures to provide tangible improvements to the work of our customers,” he says.
Wärtsilä will continue to add functionality to Navi-Planner to enable navigators to optimise routes in terms of port arrivals and to assist shipping companies to stay a step ahead of environmental regulations.
In the future more information, such as port arrival data, could be seamlessly incorporated into the voyage plans. Based on a recommended time of arrival, Navi-Planner will be able to dynamically adjust the route and speed of a vessel’s approach to a port for a just-in-time arrival.
Navi-Planner will use accurate speed information and connectivity with ports to optimise voyages in smarter ways, so shipowners can lower CO2 emissions and reduce fuel consumption without impacting navigation safety.
Mr Buessow anticipates that smart systems will be deployed on vessels to provide automated voyage optimisation in real-time. Shipowners can retrofit their vessels with the latest Navi-Planner ECDIS to achieve these operational benefits.
When ships arrive at ports at the allotted time, technology will assist captains to berth them. Wärtsilä has successfully tested its SmartDock auto-docking system in northern Europe.
Sea trials were carried out on 85-m ferry Folgefonn, operated by Norwegian operator Norled, with a Wärtsilä Guidance Marine’s CyScan positioning sensor.
SmartDock assists ships when they enter and leave tight docking spaces, mitigating potential human errors. It manages the ship while departing the dock, manoeuvres the vessel out of the harbour and can sail it to the next port of call if required. SmartDock then manoeuvres the ship into the harbour and docks alongside the quay, all without human intervention.
Norled regional director Inge Andre Utåker says SmartDock “works hand-in-hand with the captain to ensure the best performance on every docking, every day. It is the perfect collaboration between an experienced crew and technology.” This technology will also assist shipping to develop autonomous ships in the future.
Partnerships combine ENCs with weather routeing
Shipowners, operators and managers can benefit from ECDIS by combining weather information with updated electronic navigational charts (ENCs) in one system. These services have been introduced through partnerships between e-navigation experts and weather data providers and can result in artificial intelligence (AI)-based solutions being developed.
The latest of these partnerships is a collaboration between Norway-based Navtor and Japan-headquartered Weathernews Inc (WNI). Together they deliver updated ENCs and global weather information.
For Navtor, this arrangement upgrades the weather information offered within its route planning software NavStation and enables the business to offer a fully integrated navigation solution. WNI gets direct access to ENCs and passage planning for its own services. Together, Navtor and WNI will develop AI routeing services to assist bridge officers, vessel operators and shipmanagers to improve their navigation decision making.
“Weather can make all the difference between profit and loss for shipowners and operators,” says Navtor chief executive Tor Svanes.
“The most comprehensive weather data available enables navigators to minimise risks and plan the safest, most cost effective and optimal routes for their individual vessels.”
NavStation will provide all the information navigators, ship officers and shore-based staff need in one intuitive platform.
Navtor introduced version 5.0 of NavStation in Q2 2019 with a further-refined passage planner, Marpol manager module, and an e-publication reader providing access to other digital publications. NavStation 5 will also be adapted to seamlessly integrate to WNI OSR (optimum ship routeing) service.
Not only will ship operators gain from the weather and route planning information, but so will the suppliers. “We will have access to tremendous amounts of data from thousands of vessels,” says Mr Svanes. “Together we will leverage that data to develop a solution that learns to perceive its environment and recommends optimal actions. We are plotting a new course for a more sustainable, predictable and cost-efficient maritime industry.”
Ship operators will also access environmental regulatory information in NavStation after Navtor signed an agreement with Total Marine Solutions (TMS).
This will see TMS’ Ocean Guardian information included in voyage planning software. Ocean Guardian provides information on environmental regulations pertaining to a specific location worldwide advising shipboard operators what can and cannot be discharged.
It provides searchable data relating to international, national, regional and port regulations, plus alarms and notifications concerning relevant regulations for local compliance.
In another partnership, StormGeo and GNS will combine weather routeing with ENCs and ECDIS on 20,000 ships. Together, they are creating situational awareness and route optimisation solutions using data analytics.
GNS is extending its Voyager Fleet Insight online service to include weather-related services for captains and shore managers. StormGeo and GNS will collaborate on developing methods of delivering ENCs direct to ECDIS with routes optimised by GNS’ Voyager Hub and planning station software. They will also introduce tailored route optimisation services that can be simultaneously imported, viewed and used ashore and on board.
StormGeo introduced new versions of its Bon Voyage System (BVS) and NaviUpdate in June. It launched NaviPlanner BVS for optimising routes, obtaining charts and creating voyage plans. NaviUpdate connects NaviPlanner securely to the ECDIS to directly transfer routes and charts.