Voyage planning is a key element to the Solas regulation on the implementation of ecdis on ships. Deck officers should abide by the IMO Resolution A.893 (21) regarding the guidelines for voyage planning. This states that a passage plan should take up-to-date information regarding many issues into account.
Applied Weather Technology (AWT) vice president for business development George Schlinkert says this should include information from the latest maritime routeing guides and passage planning charts. It should also include current and tidal atlases and tide tables, available weather routeing services, as well as climatological, meteorological, hydrographical and oceanographic information, where appropriate.
He said the execution phase of the voyage planning section of the resolution states the meteorological conditions and weather routeing information should be taken into account. This is particularly critical in areas known to be affected by frequent periods of low visibility. He added: “The integration between ecdis and weather routeing tools should be increasingly transparent to the ship captain and officers in order to effectively execute all phases of the IMO voyage planning mandates.”
Weather routeing has long provided recommendations to ship captains for safe navigation of their vessel and onboard weather routeing solutions also aim to aid the captain. “However, the goal must be to make the voyage planning process, and integration into ecdis as seamless as possible,” said Mr Schlinkert.
The solutions provided by AWT include the Bon Voyage System (BVS). This includes onboard software for route optimisation that can be easily transferred to and from various ecdis stations. It takes all IMO traffic separation schemes into account, as well as wind, wave and ocean currents to calculate an optimum route according to the required speed. It can advise on a route that reduces fuel costs with relation to environmental control areas. The weather and route planning software can be integrated with ship motion predictions, as well as a motion sensor.
Facilitating this communication between ecdis and weather routeing tools, the BVS track files can be imported to and from various passage planning tools. “This enables the navigator to plan the route for the intended voyage without interfering with the ship’s navigation,” said Mr Schlinkert. “The BVS platform serves as a workstation for the efficient planning and the direct transfer of the planned route to the navigation workstations, as set out.” BVS exchanges route data with Japan Radio Co, Transas and Sperry Marine ecdis models. In addition, BVS is compatible with passage planning tools including UKHO e-Navigator, ChartCo passage manager and GNS Voyager.
Jeppesen has developed software applications for voyage planning that owners can use for fuel optimisation. OceanView is a powerful planning system that combines navigational charts, environmental information and automatic nautical route planning. It is based on the Jeppesen Professional+ service and official ENC chart databases, the latest weather information and piracy incident reports. Jeppesen also offers the Vessel and Voyage Optimization Solution (VVOS) for onboard ship officers, shoreside operations and cargo planners, technical staff and commercial managers to improve operational efficiency and performance.
“VVOS utilises advanced routeing algorithms to accurately and comprehensively optimise each route for on-time arrival while minimising fuel consumption, maintaining seakeeping limits and avoiding heavy weather,” said original equipment manufacturer strategic business manager Paul Elgar. “The VVOS guidance system also recommends speed and heading changes to manage ship motions. It helps minimise heavy weather damage based on sophisticated hydrodynamic modelling, optimisation algorithms and high-resolution ocean forecasts.”
VVOS includes a detailed, ship-specific model of vessel motion, as well as engine and propeller characteristics. This ship model computes the speed for forecast wind, wave and ocean current conditions at a given engine power and propeller revolutions, as well as ship motion limitations uniquely defined for each ship.
Mr Elgar explained how VVOS can be used on board ships: “At sea, ships download the latest ocean area forecasts via satellite communication. Masters can update and re-optimise passage plans as new forecasts become available or operational requirements change during a passage. With this process of daily continued refinement, a safer and more economical passage can be achieved.”
Nautisk offers its Neptune service for voyage planning and navigation information delivery. It also provides a pay-as-you-sail (PAYS) service for ENC ordering, licensing and delivery. Nautisk head of global sales Peter J Pran said the Neptune real-time vessel information service reduces the workload for deck officers and improves navigation. “Neptune streamlines workflow and improves chart control by only sending the information required for the task in hand,” he said. “It is compatible with both bridge and shore-based systems, ensuring consistent operation across the entire team.”
Neptune combines electronic notices from the British Admiralty, the Norwegian Hydrographic Service and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration with an update service for ENC cells from the UKHO and Primar. It integrates Admiralty digital products (ADP) including the List of Lights, TotalTide and radio signals, which can be downloaded and updated through the system. Neptune also includes marine management tools, reports, weather forecasting, routeing, as well as online news and information.
Nautisk’s PAYS+ solution enables ecdis users to access global ENCs for route planning, while only paying for those that are actually used on the voyage. The PAYS+ service utilises data from Primar, but without the premium cost associated with the service. “In short, PAYS+ removes the premium on ENC cells for certain trading areas,” said Mr Pran. “In addition, it allows the vessel to predefine a standard trading area where the ENC cells will be licensed on a longer period than the standard three months. Once the area is set up, this process is automatic, which of course leads to simpler ENC management for the vessel and reduced cost for shipping companies.”
Last year, Nautisk introduced the NaviTab tablet computer to enable navigators to access digital information and navigation documents from a data portal. “Modern navigators have a multitude of bridge equipment, and large numbers of publications and operational manuals required for compliant voyage,” said Mr Pran. “NaviTab effectively brings a complex back of bridge operation to the palm of the navigators’ hand. Users can search in seconds to find the relevant publication for a particular voyage. Once the relevant publication is selected, users can check quickly for essential updates and bookmark important notes.”
ChartCo’s PassageManager improves voyage planning by taking officers through a 13-step wizard to compile a comprehensive and customisable passage plan within 15 minutes. According to sales and marketing manager Robert Corden, this plan can then be amended digitally as the voyage develops. He added: “It has the added benefit that across a fleet each vessel will produce an identically formatted plan to ensure it meets company’s safety management system standards. It can also be sent back and forth to the vessel superintendent ashore if necessary.”
He said the software compiles all of the required information from the PassageManager databases for the planned route. Another benefit is the ease of keeping digital publications and ENCs up to date. “One of the major benefits of digital products and publications is that updating them, the bane of many a second officer’s life, becomes a few moments’ work,” Mr Corden added. “Simply copy and paste a few downloaded files, transfer ENC updates to the ecdis via a memory stick, press a button and all your navigational charts and publications are updated.”