Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Special Feature: eNavigation 2009 - User-Driven Technology

By: Chris Philips, Managing Editor  (As seen in the December issue of Pacific Maritime Magazine | Photo credit: John Erik Hagen, was the first speaker at this year's conference, and discussed a structured approach to the development of eNavigation , focusing on interoperability of systems for safety and efficiency - Philips Publishing Group File Photo)

Pacific Maritime Magazine’s ninth eNavigation Conference, eNav 2009, broke a new record for attendance. Speakers, attendees and exhibitors at the two-day conference came from Europe, South America and Asia as well as all three coasts of the US. This year the conference focused less on AIS and more on Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS).

This year’s theme, ‘User-driven’ Development and Application, was driven by the evolution of eNavigation as well as the users and those responsible for its development and application.

Since last year’s conference the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has developed and approved a methodical and logical eNavigation implementation strategy, shipboard carriage requirements for the principal shipboard equipment have been incorporated in SOLAS and a significant number of eNavigation related applications are in use or under development.

In his introductory comments, Program Director Robert Moore called for a logical and methodical approach to eNav. “The devil is in the details,” he said, voicing a concern that the government’s needs could overshadow the mariner’s needs and contribute to “ECDIS-related accidents”.

In the opening address, keynote speaker Michael Sollosi, Chair of the IMO’s Subcommittee on the Safety of Navigation (NAV), pointed out that AIS came about through the work done by that committee, but that problems with AIS were solved by the market, rather than regulatory bodies. Mr. Sollosi suggested that application-specific AIS messages would be the next step in the refining process, and predicted that the lack of a comprehensive display might be rectified by future mandatory carriage of ECDIS, but voiced a concern that, “…further development could be hampered by a lack of standardization and compatibility.”

The first panel was introduced by Dr. Lee Alexander, Research Associate Professor at the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping, University of New Hampshire. The first panelist, John Erik Hagen, is the Chair of the IMO eNavigation Working Group and Correspondence Group. Mr. Hagen discussed a Structured Approach to the Development of eNavigation, focusing on interoperability.

David Patraiko, Director of Development of The Nautical Institute, reported on the 55th Session of the NAV Sub-Committee (NAV 55). He spoke of the need for a user-selectable presentation, and a focus on the “three-legged stool” of technology, procedures and training, but warned against complacency.

“A good navigator is one who’s never quite sure where they are,” he joked, and cautioned against “knobology”, or simply learning the operation of navigation technology, rather than using technology as a navigation decision support tool.

David B. Enabnit, of NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey pointed out that mariners who have navigated electronically don’t want to go back to paper, and noted that Electronic Navigational Charts (ENC) now cover the applicable coastlines worldwide.

Captain Prash Karnik, Deputy Director of Nautical Operations for Holland America Line, discussed the impact of eNavigation on bridge resource management and watchstanding, and how to supply mariners with the technology they require. Captain Karnik described what his company is doing to provide the tools its mariners need, including a new joint training center in The Netherlands operated by parent company Carnival Corporation. The training center is outfitted with simulators identical to the standardized bridges on the Corporation’s cruise ships, allowing the crew to train on the exact equipment they will be using aboard the vessel.

Brian Sherwood Jones, a consultant to Lloyd’s Register Group, addressed bridge resource management. Geoffrey Gill, with the law firm of Countryman & McDaniel, described the consequences of the shipboard violation of regulations and procedures. Mr. Gill used the aviation industry as an example of a successful four-step safety process, known as PACE, that should be followed shipboard:
  • Probing for better understanding– “I need to understand …” 
  • Alert to anomalies– “It appears to me that … the result will be …”
  • Challenge appropriateness of strategy– “This course places the ship in immediate danger from [describe].”
  • Emergency response to immediate danger– “Captain, if you do not immediately … , my duty and responsibility is to take command.”
From the California Maritime Academy, Captain James J. Buckley, Associate Dean for Simulation, and Captain Samuel R. Pecota, Chair of the Department of Maritime Transportation, discussed the changing instructional paradigm (see Mariner Training: New Technology Demands Maritime Education Reform, on page 25 of this issue).

Mr. Robert Markle, President of the Radio Technical Commission for Maritime Services (RTCM), gave a communications overview, and used the Gulf of Mexico’s Hornbeck Offshore Services as an example of a company that is successful because of the training programs it provides for its crews.

Captain John Fuechsel, USCG (Ret), Chair of the National GMDSS Task Force, spoke on the Role of GMDSS in supporting eNavigation. Alan Weigel, of BlankRome, LLC, warned the attendees to not forget the legal side of eNavigation, and gave examples of the legal ramifications of disregarding electronic information. He noted some cases where AIS data was thrown out by a judge as unreliable, while other cases were won and lost based on the AIS data. Examples included a cross channel ferry that grounded while approaching the port entrance. The court found that ECDIS safety features not been correctly enabled. A container vessel that went aground was determined to be using a fully approved ECDIS whose depth contours had been inappropriately set.

The second day of the conference was introduced by CDR Brian Tetrault, USCG (Ret), and focused on technology. The session began with a presentation by Irene Gonin, of the US Coast Guard Research and Development Center, who discussed application-specific messages for VTS users. Some of the benefits would include reduced workload on the bridge, removing much of the VHF voice traffic and making crucial information available on an as-needed basis. Improved VTS efficiency could offer the possibility of “silent” traffic advisories and automatic encounter lists, and offer better information to mariner in a more usable format.

Darren Wright, PORTS Program Manager at NOAA, discussed the possibility of sending Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System (PORTS) data over AIS, providing real-time tide and current data and greatly enhancing the accuracy of electronic and paper navigation systems.

Captain Jorge Viso, Chairman of the Navigational and Technical Committee of the American Pilots Association, spoke about issues pilots face when visiting the bridge. These ranged from hidden or poorly wired pilot plugs to improperly programmed AIS or PGS units.

Captain Viso noted that MSC.1 Circular 1252 calls for the installation of AIS, as well as testing of static information, dynamic information, voyage related information and performance, including instrument testing and a live air test. He noted that these guidelines are not presently enforced. There is presently a draft amendment to SOLAS 1974, Regulation 18.9, that would require that AIS be subjected to an annual test, conducted by an approved surveyor or an approved testing or servicing facility, to verify the correct programming of the ship static information, correct data exchange with connected sensors as well as, verifying the radio performance by radio frequency measurement and on-air testing.

Professor Reinhard Mueller, of the German Hochschule Wismar University of Business, Technology and Design, Maritime Branch, presented a paper on the Automated Monitoring of Compliance with Rule 10 of COLREGS via AIS. Prof. Mueller gave examples of a test in October 2007 in the Traffic Separation Scheme north of Ruegen, Germany. The test involved all vessels shipping in the vicinity, and monitored compliance with rule 10 of COLREGS regarding traffic lanes.

Analysis of the results showed 1,217 AIS tracks, of which 82 (more than 6 percent) had detected rule violations, with 70 vessels crossing at the wrong angles in the lanes and 12 heading the wrong direction in the lanes, some for more than 54 minutes!

Professor Mueller raised the possibility of an automated monitoring and evaluation of compliance of Rule 10 via AIS, and suggested the application could be integrated into existing technical infrastructures like transponder fitted buoys, Vessel Traffic Services Centers and ECDIS.

Andrew Loretta, Director of AIS Business Development for ORBCOMM discussed real world satellite AIS Applications, and USCG CDR Greg Tlapa, Chief of the Visual Aids Division at US Coast Guard Headquarters, discussed the continued need for traditional aids to navigation in an eNavigation world.

Hugh Phillips, of the UK Hydrographic Office, described some of the weather information available that can help save time and fuel. Providing route optimization based on ocean current, wind, wave, tidal and swell data, as well as understanding and responding to environmental factors in real time, has led to results such as faster voyages or gaining one or more knots of speed while using the same amount of fuel.

The final session addressed applications, and included a presentation by Cees Glansdorp, Chairman, CETLE (The Netherlands), who described the commercial benefits of shore-based eNavigation, and Eric Meger, of COM DEV International Ltd, who addressed space-based AIS.

Peter Granger, of Washington Sea Grant, spoke of the vitality of coastal communities and maritime operations, the barriers to coastal community development, maritime infrastructure and safe dredging.

US Navy Captain George E. McCarthy, Chief of the Outreach & Coordination branch of the Office of Global Maritime Situational Awareness, described the benefits of the Maritime Safety & Security Information System, a non-classified, multi-lateral, freely shared data network exchanging AIS data between participating governments.

At the end of the conference, the floor was opened to questions, moderated by David Patraiko of The Nautical Institute.

The main topic of discussion was the concern over the perceived disparity between what the industry is using and what might be mandated by IMO or the US Coast Guard. A need for user-driven development seemed to be the consensus among both users and regulators, but as Captain Moore pointed out at the beginning of the conference, the devil will be in the details.