After three years of development and testing, the EfficienSea 2 project will finish in April. It has been a success in demonstrating and testing e-navigation and communications technologies in the Baltic.
There have been several positive outcomes from this €11.8M (US$14.6M) project that has taken e-navigation from a testbed to reality. Two outcomes are the regional websites of navigation and weather information covering the Baltic and Arctic.
Another positive output has been a search and rescue tool that enables co-ordinators to pool the services of various vessels in the vicinity of an accident to attend and assist such a maritime casualty. This has been demonstrated with the ArcticWeb.
In addition, the project has led to development of smart buoy technology, which collates marine environmental information and can transmit this to port authorities and ships. This is in the prototype phase, but is likely to go ahead.
However, the project partners believe the greatest outcome is the development of the Maritime Communications Platform (MCP). Once considered as a cloud platform, this has grown into a fully-fledged communications service for transmitting safety and route data and much more.
MCP is a hub that links end-users and stakeholders with navigation information services and providers. It has an identity register of end-users and a service registry.
It also has intelligence for transferring between different communications routes, whether it is satellite, mobile phone networks, long-term evolution networks, VHF and WiMax when available.
It sounds like a great asset for shipping and maritime services, but there is a snag – who will take on its management and further development going forward?
After April, EfficienSea 2 appears to be heading to east Asia as the South Korean government is funding a smart navigation project. This should see continued development of MCP and other outputs such as route sharing and data exchanging that are key elements of e-navigation.
However, there is an opportunity for an organisation to take over management of MCP, to develop it as a true platform for e-navigation and services communications, not just in one region, but globally.
It may have to be managed as a not-for-profit host for commercial services, or it could be operated as a profitable service.
It needs an organisation that is willing to not only bring capital to further develop the service, but also to continue to manage it securely. It cannot be one government as this will lead to arguments over security of information and bias. It should not be a single service provider as there needs to be open access to all stakeholders and end-users.
It may need to be a consortium of companies and authorities run by an overarching agency. Perhaps as high up the governance chain as IMO itself.
Another question is how end-users (shipowners) can be attracted to spend cash on another information service as they will argue they already receive safety and navigation information through other means.
It is hoped that an answer can be found to the question of who continues to run this maritime connectivity platform in the future, as it will be a shame to let such a positive development go to waste.