Bridge networks will integrate with wider shipping networks for remote support and lower manning levels
Bridge operational technology (OT) will remain at the heart of the vessel, but its integration with the wider maritime industry will change shipping beyond all recognition.
OT will, in the future, be connected to port and terminal systems for monitoring and control, and to shoreside vessel management for optimisation and maintenance.
Northrop Grumman Sperry Marine technical director Nick Hollaway expects OT developments, particularly radar, e-navigation and decision support devices, will enable shipowners to reduce manning on ships.
Technology developments “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 explains to Maritime Digitalisation & Communications.
He acknowledges this could lead to autonomous or remote-controlled vessels in some segments of maritime. “But such an outcome in mainstream shipping is far from a foregone conclusion,” Mr Hollaway says. “What is likely is crew numbers will be progressively reduced as technology advances and a globally connected bridge system can enjoy remote operational and maintenance support.”
Navigation OT will be integrated into vessel operations to enhance safety and efficiency. OT already features advanced software, digital user interfaces and integrated sensor data. They have become “smart and connected products combining remote monitoring, control and optimisation,” explains Mr Hollaway.
“Data services designed to promote optimisation and efficiency will be seamlessly connected and the operator can share selected information with charterers and partners,” he continues.
Current and future developments in OT will be driven by shipping’s need to embrace greater digitalisation and connected operations and reduce its environmental footprint.
“The efficiency gains required to meet long-term sustainability targets will require shipping to embrace vessel efficiency and voyage optimisation on a completely new level,” says Mr Hollaway. “It will place a stronger emphasis on connectivity to the wider transport and logistics supply chain.”
He says shipping companies need to consider how to absorb and understand these disruptive influences, embrace digitalisation and continue to push bridge technology boundaries.
But, the trend towards enhanced connectivity and networks creates further challenges for owners and system integrators.
Integrating more sensors into bridge systems has become the industry standard, while creating problems for shipmanagers. “We need to avoid users being overwhelmed with information and data that could distract them from their mission,” says Mr Hollaway.
The next challenges will be moving beyond simply sharing data with navigators to “simplifying the presentation of information in more intelligent ways” and sharing the information load with shoreside systems.
Part of this challenge will be maintaining cyber hygiene across all networks and integrations, which will require advanced cyber security and access controls.
Sperry Marine has developed Sperry Sphere to integrate navigational OT deeper into vessel operations and wider maritime networks. It already incorporates elements of Sperry Sphere in its latest integrated bridge systems, such as those installed on a series of very large container ships currently under construction in China, says Mr Hollaway.
Components include networked bridge solution, VisionMaster Net, “designed to provide the navigator with the maximum situational information in all conditions” he says. VisionMaster Net also provides the platform for enhanced navigational aids for onboard and remote decision-making, combining radar technology with high-precision location sensors and security video.
These systems also have Sperry’s cyber security layer, Secure Maritime Gateway, which uses multiple firewalls and a ‘demilitarised zone’ as a staging post between the front and back of a ship’s bridge. These maintain cyber hygiene on connections between the navigation systems and the ship’s main network.
Sperry is celebrating the 70th anniversary of Decca radar by developing the technology for another 70 years of smart ship navigation.
Snapshot CV Nick Hollaway
Nick Hollaway is technical director at Northrop Grumman Sperry Marine where he is responsible for augmenting new technology into the existing product portfolio of sensors and marine navigation systems.
He has spent 28 years in the marine industry working primarily on navigation radar and platform management systems in both the commercial and defence markets.
His team is leading the digital transformation of Sperry as it responds to the challenges and opportunities in an increasingly digital marine business.
Combining bridge systems and digital services improves safety
Integrating bridge technology with digital services will improve operational efficiencies, lower maritime risk and enhance safe navigation. Integrated services provide captains with information on the environment and surrounding vessels to prevent collisions with nautical hazards and deliver operational performance information.
Navico’s vice president of the commercial marine division Mike Fargo says this integration will reduce collision risks and ship damage, while cutting vessel operating expenditure.
“Adding integrated digital services improves operational efficiencies as it relates to voyage planning and nautical information management,” he explains to Maritime Digitalisation & Communications.
“It provides solutions for shipping companies to help reduce cargo damage and improves safety,” Mr Fargo adds.
This is why Navico integrated C-MAP’s digital services with its Simrad portfolio of commercial ship radar, autopilot, ECDIS and other bridge equipment.
This integration helps shipowners “improve schedule predictability while lowering fuel consumption and operational costs,” says Mr Fargo.
Another trend is adapting bridge systems to different vessel types in the wider maritime industries.
“Our navigation solutions for commercial marine are dependable, adaptable and smart,” says Mr Fargo. “Our focus on radar and autosteering covers the needs and regulations of tugs, patrol vessels, commercial fishing vessels, ferries, cruise ships, megayachts and merchant ships.”
Navico introduced a new pulse compression dome radar for short- and long-range tracking on workboats, search and rescue boats and law enforcement vessels. Simrad HALO24 dome radar has a speed of 60 rpm and target distance up to 48 nautical miles.
It has VelocityTrack Doppler technology that provides instant visual feedback on the motion of radar targets in relation to the vessel, while de-emphasising diverging targets for increasing situational awareness and decreasing collision risks.
The company also revealed new GPS systems with a navigator and compass in one. P3007 GPS provides information on position, course, speed and time to other bridge systems, including radar, ECDIS and autopilot.
New autopilot series approved
JRC/Alphatron Marine received full European Commission approval for its new AlphaPilot MFM series in Q2 2019.
This is an intelligent bridge system scalable from a standalone autopilot up to a full main steering unit. It can control single or double rudders, azimuth thrusters and waterjets to manage a vessel’s heading.
AlphaPilot MFM has a 5-in touch display for configuration and controls the heading and speed of various vessel types.
It has other functions for when vessels are sailing at slow speeds or need to remain in one position.
AlphaPilot MFM can be connected to a bow thruster to keep the bow of the vessel head up when sailing dead slow or in case the vessel is stopped. There are functions for low-speed heading control and rate of turn steering.