New standards are driving updates to critical navigation equipment, emergency communications and cyber security regulations, writes Martyn Wingrove in a round-up of sector developments
Modifications are being made to critical navigation equipment that is mandatory for tankers. New standards are demanding upgrades and updates to electronic navigational charts (ENCs) and the devices that display them - electronic chart display and information systems (ECDIS) - over the next three years that will require further investment from owners and managers.
Standards set by the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) and International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) govern IMO’s rules on the carriage and performance of ECDIS and the way that ENCs are displayed. IHO occasionally updates these standards, which forces ECDIS manufacturers, ENC producers and then shipowners and managers to invest in updates.
This occurred in 2017 when IHO’s new ECDIS presentation library and ENC specification standards were enforced by IMO. This led to an industry-wide updating of ECDIS software, the introduction of new hardware, some hardware replacements and in some cases complete ECDIS renewal.
Shipmanager Chellaram Shipping (Hong Kong), also known as Chellship, was an early adopter of ECDIS. Chellship general manager for technical operations Vikas Kumar told Tanker Shipping & Trade that some of the ships under its management have had ECDIS on board for more than 15 years. This led to challenges when it had to comply with the renewed IMO requirements, he said.
“When updating these [systems] to the latest IHO standards, we had to replace some of the oldest ECDIS with modern units,” said Mr Kumar. Some of the more modern units needed updated software and some hardware components. Chellship worked with ECDIS providers to ensure that its ships complied with the requirements in time for IMO’s 1 September 2017 deadline.
Singapore-based shipmanagement group Thome also overcame the challenge of having to update all shipboard ECDIS across the fleet. Thome president and chief commercial officer Claes Eek Thorstensen said the variety of systems on board, coupled with the “intense trading patterns and schedules of the ships” meant that it was not possible to update all onboard systems to IHO standards at once.
However, Thome was able to obtain extensions and temporary waivers to complete this work. “ECDIS could not be updated on every vessel straightaway so we sought dispensation from the relevant classification societies for the few vessels that were not updated initially, to avoid any issues with port state control,” Mr Thorstensen explained.
Thome’s fleet has ECDIS supplied by Furuno Electric, Headway Technology, Japan Radio Co and Kongsberg Maritime. Verification was needed to show that each navigation device was operating on the latest compliant software, or was being updated.
“The upgrading process involved physical attendance from the service technician,” said Mr Thorstensen. “After the system had been updated, the master of the vessel was required to send a screen shot of the ECDIS screen to confirm the software update.”
For those vessels where an upgrade was not completed in time, dispensation was taken and hard copies of Admiralty navigation charts were supplied “after carrying out a thorough risk assessment” noted Mr Thorstensen. Thome had upgraded all ECDIS across its fleet by the end of 2017.
Benefits from the IHO changes included the removal of anomalies and greater standardisation in ENC data and display, while reducing the number of ECDIS alarms to just one (for the point where a ship crosses a safety depth contour).
According to Tom Mellor, UK Hydrographic Office’s head of OEM technical support and chair of the IHO’s ENC working group, this improved the reliability of the ECDIS display and reduced the risk of alarm fatigue on the bridge.
More changes on the way
Mr Mellor says other changes are in the pipeline. One of these involves plans to change S-63 to improve cyber security of ENCs. The IHO working group on ENCs is reviewing methods of improving this standard, based on feedback from the IEC.
“If any changes were made then the release of a new standard would undoubtedly have a big effect on the shipping industry,” said Mr Mellor. This explains why the working group is carrying out a full impact assessment on the proposed changes and is engaging with ECDIS manufacturers and other shipping organisations, such as BIMCO and Intertanko.
“[The] ENC working group is tasked with completely mapping out the impact and proposed solution before any decision is made on a new edition,” said Mr Mellor. New standards are also being developed for ENC specifications, with expectations that S-57 could eventually be replaced by S-101. “We are finalising production of specific requirements for, and data conversion between, and data conversion between S-57 and S-101,” said Mr Mellor. This will enable ECDIS manufacturers to build testbeds for trialling S-101 and overlays.
“We are nearing the point of S-101 publication at the IHO, but these new ENCs will not replace S-57 data as carriage-compliant information for some time,” he explained.
“Having testbeds for S-100-based product specifications is important as it ensures interoperability of additional layers when displayed in the same operating systems.” said Mr Mellor.
Both S-57 and S-101 standards will run in parallel with two data services as “there will be a mixture of bridges, some running S-57 and some with S-101. There will be a gradual adoption to the new standard,” Mr Mellor concluded.
ECDIS & ENC standards
Governing standards for ECDIS and ENCs include:
Chevron invests in ECDIS management
Chevron Shipping Co has turned to Norwegian ENC specialist C-Map for its ECDIS chart provision and fleet management services.
C-Map, which was acquired by Navico in June, is managing ENCs and providing shore-based routeing and voyage optimisation services to Chevron. This means the US oil major’s oil and gas tankers are able to use Admiralty electronic navigational charts and digital publications.
Chevron will also use C-Map’s Pro+ charts and UpdateWizard for worldwide chart coverage on ECDIS on these ships. C-Map’s Integrated Maritime Suite (IMS), a cloud-based program for fleet management and route optimisation, will be implemented by Chevron on its tankers and in its onshore fleet management offices.
IMO approves changes to emergency communications
Changes are coming to emergency and safety communications that will provide more choice to tanker owners. Until recently, Inmarsat has had a monopoly on providing Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) services on ships. However, in May, IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) met at its 99th session in London and approved changes that enabled other satellite operators to offer emergency communications. MSC recognised Iridium Satellite, with its low Earth orbit constellation of satellites, as a future provider of GMDSS and it recognised Iridium Safety Voice’s short-burst data and enhanced group calling services.
IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) approved changes to GMDSS
Iridium has a lengthy process of approvals and certification before it can genuinely provide safety communications of GMDSS levels. It will be working with the International Mobile Satellite Organisation (IMSO), the inter-governmental organisation appointed by IMO to manage oversight of satellite GMDSS providers.
IMSO will monitor the implementation of the Iridium services and report to MSC when the public services agreement with Iridium is concluded and a letter of compliance issued.
Iridium expects all of these regulatory hurdles to be overcome before a commercial GMDSS service will be ready in 2020. At this point, tanker owners will be able to choose Iridium services and terminals, manufactured by companies such as Cobham Satcom and Lars Thrane, for their tankers.
MSC also adopted a statement of recognition for services provided by Inmarsat Fleet Safety to GMDSS, in the coverage area under the Inmarsat-4 satellite, which is the Middle East and Asia. This means FleetBroadband terminals can officially be used for GMDSS communications.
Further, MSC instructed the next Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue (NCSR) sub-committee to evaluate China’s BeiDou navigation satellite system as a future GMDSS provider.