Vessel networks should use NMEA OneNet standards over Ethernet and have embedded cyber security to enable secure information transmission
Manufacturers of vessel automation and control systems have to tackle the issues of data transmission and processing restrictions and cyber security. To overcome the first of these challenges, they must consider different types of ship networks and data protocols.
Specifically, data restrictions on vessel networks can be overcome by using the National Marine Electronics Association’s (NMEA’s) OneNet data packet standard. OneNet is based on the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers 802.3 Ethernet standard to complement existing onboard NMEA 2000 networks. It enables bandwidth to be increased to hundreds of mbps, which is needed for transferring unprocessed sensor data and video.
NMEA component manufacturer Actisense’s chief executive Phil Whitehurst said OneNet enables data, including video, acoustics and measurements, to be constantly transferred from enginerooms and cargo control to ship bridges where officers can monitor parameters such as pressures, temperatures and tank levels in real time.
He said for decades the main specification for communicating marine electronics data has been the NMEA 0183* protocol. However, Mr Whitehurstwith noted that using this specification “it is rather complex to transfer measurements of quantities”, adding “a considerable amount of data simply cannot be sent over this standard”. To gather this data successfully, an additional supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system is needed.
Data transmission issues can partially be overcome by using the NMEA 2000** protocol for sending much of the information that cannot be sent over NMEA 0183. However, this has not been widely adopted on commercial ships because it has a maximum practical backbone length of 200 m and bandwidth of 250 kbps.
To overcome these shortcomings, NMEA 2000 can be used in conjunction with OneNet over Ethernet. Smaller networks can be created with just a few nodes that are connected to OneNet gateway. “This means that small subnets of self-powered units can gather data from NMEA 2000 sensors and interfaces,” Mr Whitehurst explained.
This makes the data available over the ship-wide Ethernet system as OneNet data and means video, audio, radar and high-speed feeds may be transported in a standard format as NMEA 2000-encoded data packets.
Network cyber security is even a problem when ship operators think they are separated from the internet, as penetration experts at Naval Dome proved. During tests in 2017, they penetrated a ship’s machinery control system (MCS) by using an infected USB memory stick placed in an input socket.
Naval Dome’s chief technical officer Asaf Shefi said a virus was transferred to the MCS, which started to change the functionality of the auxiliary systems. This virus attacked the ballast system so that the display was presented as normal, although the valves and pumps were disrupted and stopped working. “We could have misled all the auxiliary systems controlled by the MCS, including air-conditioning, generators and fuel systems,” said Mr Shefi.
These penetration tests demonstrated how shipboard systems can be infected by hackers using online tools, or using seafarers or service engineers to unwittingly transfer viruses. To counter these security risks, Naval Dome developed a maritime cyber protection system (MCPS). This integrates with existing systems and software, providing real-time cyber alerts and blocking malicious files to prevent unauthorised access to critical systems and data.
MCPS software prevented hackers from penetrating these same shipboard systems during a second phase of tests. It won the Marine Intelligence award at Riviera Maritime Media’s 2018 Marine Propulsion Awards, which were presented during a gala dinner on the first evening of the Sulphur Cap 2020 Conference, Awards and Exhibition, which took place on 17-18 April in Amsterdam.
Several contracts secured by automation suppliers demonstrate the complexity of current projects. Valmet DNA is supplying its latest automation to a cruise ship upgrade that Royal Caribbean International is conducting this year. It is upgrading the Damatic XDi automation systems on its 2003-built cruise ship, Mariner of the Seas, during six weeks in a drydock in Cadiz, Spain, in May and June.
This major overhaul includes a suite of new automation, air conditioning and electronic entertainment systems. The upgrade will include new Valmet DNA user interfaces, data storage and analytics and reporting tools. The control room and process controller parts of the system will be transformed to the latest Valmet DNA technology platform.
Automation will be based around a new Ethernet-based communication network that will link new DNA operator workstations, including a station for trend analysis, event archiving and reporting applications. There will also be upgraded Valmet application and control nodes (ACN), which support input and output (I/O) units and industrial process controllers.
ACN industrial controllers are platforms for all the process controls and connections to external computer equipment on board Mariner of the Seas. The automation controls propulsion systems, which include a diesel-electric powertrain that uses three Azipod azimuth thrusters.
ABB is supplying its Ability 800xA automation and power management systems for polar exploration cruise ships, built for Lindblad Expeditions Holdings by Ulstein Verft in Norway. Automation integrates power, propulsion and vessel management systems into one platform. This will display information for both crew and onshore teams to give them a comprehensive overview of data for optimal ship operation. There will be workstations with uniform control and monitoring applications in place.
In addition, new passenger ships will be connected to ABB’s collaborative operations centre, which monitors the performance of ABB technology on board and remotely connects operators with ABB experts.
Rolls-Royce is supplying a package of power and propulsion, electrical and automation systems for a 70 m long stern trawler, being built by Cemre shipyard in Turkey for Olympic Seafood.
The equipment to be delivered includes a B33:45 diesel engine with a hybrid propulsion system that can deliver both mechanical and diesel-electric drive. Automation, power management, hybrid shaft generator and permanent magnet electric motors will be delivered for this newbuilding project.
In a different field, Global Maritime and UniSea have gained a contract to provide SolstadFarstad with dynamic positioning (DP) assurance services. This involves using software over the next five years to implement and document DP testing on a fleet of offshore support vessels. Its main purpose is to avoid downtime on vessels while improving the owner’s knowledge and experience.
SolstadFarstad has also worked with Yxney Maritime on reducing fuel costs and emissions across its fleet. This involved using the Yxney fuel efficiency software MarESS, which enables charterers to track each vessel working under contract and monitor fuel consumption.
Milestones and agreements
Kongsberg Maritime reached a milestone in April when it completed testing its 10,000th AutoChief 600 automation system. This will be installed on a new gas carrier being built at Hyundai Mipo Dockyard for Solvang. AutoChief 600 manages all control, safety and alarm functions necessary for operating the main engine and all other accessories for propulsion control from a single station on the bridge.
It is modular, allowing flexibility in system architecture, covering a range of advanced propulsion control units. The latest generation has touchscreen operation for access to all functions and a GoGreen module, which enables optimal engine operations to reduce a vessel’s environmental footprint.
Servowatch Systems has appointed Governor Control Systems in Florida, USA, to service vessel automation and alarm monitoring systems in the Americas. This will include upgrading automation on naval vessels, passenger ferries and superyachts. It will support ServoCore alarm monitoring modules and ServoFusion integrated platform management systems.
China E-Tech (Ningbo) Maritime Electronics Research Institute (CETME) has introduced a main engine remote control device for bridge systems. Its VIR01-A engine controls and VIM6-A engineroom monitoring and alarm can be included in an integrated automation system.
CETME said these are modular human-computer interfaces that control propulsion and vessel speed. These devices enable operators to monitor main engine and auxiliary engine conditions in real time and will automatically alarm if there is a failure
VIR01-A has two modes, one for automatic remote control and another for manual control. It has protection measures for engine mechanical load and thermal load, and has limitations as regards increasing and reducing rates of speed and torque. It can monitor power systems, has an independent security function and can provide emergency and automatic collision avoidance if fed signals from radar and Automatic Identification Systems.
Norco Group has launched a range of uninterruptible power supplies and batteries for offshore facilities and vessels. This includes an N-Core central battery, a N-Bloc battery monitor and a UPS.
*NMEA 0183 was the first marine electronics protocol to be created that is still widely in use. Since its inception in 1987 there have been many updates.
**NMEA 2000 is based on a CAN Bus system built with DeviceNet standard cables and connectors. Unlike NMEA 0183, devices cannot be connected directly together. Instead, each network must be built around a ‘backbone’ which is the main trunking cable that devices then plug in to. A minimum NMEA 2000 network requires at least two NMEA 2000-certified devices, two T-pieces, two terminating resistors, a 12 V power source and one power tap.