Thursday, March 11, 2010

eNav 101: A Question of Governance

By Robert Moore

Since this series of articles has generally followed the framework of the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) eNavigation documentation this one normally would discuss what the IMO considers as the “General Principles for the Development of eNavigation”. Nine general principles are discussed in a document prepared for the 54th Session of the IMO’s Subcommittee on Safety of Navigation (June 2008) and, while all of them are significant, the one that caught my attention was the second in that list: “Clear Ownership and Control”. Of the nine, that one struck me as critical to future success and so this article focuses on it.

The descriptive paragraph for that principle led off with the words “Realization of the eNavigation vision requires a clear, global commitment, articulated through a viable and coherent framework, which sets out a migration plan to guide Governments and industry. eNavigation is a global concept that will be implemented and operated at global, regional and local levels across all user groups” and went on to say that, at the global level “…[the] IMO is the only organization that is capable of meeting the overall governance requirement.”

The document goes on to enumerate the IMO’s responsibilities but is silent on regional roles, giving little help with the vital question of how the governance of eNavigation should be handled here in the United States – or elsewhere, for that matter. In the US, little leadership is in evidence and one concern is that without careful management our broad maritime community may not realize the full benefits of eNavigation. For example, mariners may not be provided with the common operating environment so important to safety, and resources may be squandered through duplication of effort or by decisions made in a vacuum. Near term resolution of the question of who’s in charge is becoming critical, particularly since there are things going on related to eNavigation, with a lot of money being spent, primarily on security-related programs.

Closely related to this leadership issue is the question of the proper role of national governments in a "user driven" system. Those responsibilities can be extrapolated from what the IMO has said about its own eNavigation governance:

• Conduct an educational and outreach program for those affected by or who are potential users of eNavigation. Considering the present-day low level of knowledge about eNavigation this step is critical to insure that the full potential of eNavigation is realized across the entire spectrum of users, that user needs are accommodated incident to implementation and to build support for the establishment, operation and maintenance of the requisite infrastructure.

• Participate in the international activities relating to the development and implementation of eNavigation to provide input to that process and keep current on developments. Contribute to international standard setting and adjust national requirements to reflect those standards. Maintain close liaison with the IMO, international organizations such as the IHO and IALA, as well as other standard-setting bodies. Assist in the IMO's eNavigation developmental planning.

• Define the eNavigation services appropriate to the region, including identification of their scope in terms of users and geography, and formulate a regional concept of operations, which takes account of international treaties, national laws and regulations, and the rights, obligations and limitations of eNavigation users.

• Develop and coordinate the execution of an implementation strategy that facilitates early realization of benefits and accommodates existing and emerging technology and infrastructure. This should include, among other things, prioritizing of the development and operation of supporting infrastructure, including Research and Development where required.

• Monitor eNavigation activities to insure consistency with treaty obligations, national laws and regulations and the provision of a common standard operating environment for mariners.

When looking elsewhere for examples of regional governance, I've found relatively few. The nearest may be the European Union (EU) with its common transportation policy, maritime policy coordination, and its targeted developmental research. The results of that research, by the way, constitutes a major input to the development of eNavigation and also seems to give the European companies involved a leg up in the maritime technology market. Examples of the European effort include, among others, ATMOS IV (Advanced Technology to Optimize Maritime Operational Safety – Intelligent Vessel), MarNIS (Maritime Navigation and Information Services), and the EfficienSEA project.

To our north, Canada has published the Canadian Coast Guard eNavigation Strategy (October 2008) the purpose of which is:

• To define a strategic eNavigation vision for incorporating the use of new technologies in a structured way, while ensuring that their use is compliant with various navigational and communication technologies/services that are already available.

• To develop an eNavigation implementation strategy for Canada that can be the basis for national implementation within the broader context of international conventions and maritime initiatives (e.g., by IMO and IALA).

The Canadian effort represents an example of a good start, but unfortunately leaves much still to be resolved.

Other examples of regional maritime cooperation seem to have narrower aims and interests, and thus do not readily translate to eNavigation governance, even though they do embrace eNavigation concepts and practices. These include the Helsinki Commission (HELCOM) and the Marine Electronic Highway project in the Malacca and Singapore Straits.

In any discussion of what should be done in the US it's probably well to start with the words of the IMO's preamble to the ISM Code: “The cornerstone of good safety management is commitment from the top. In matters of safety and pollution prevention it is the commitment, competence, attitudes and motivation of individuals at all levels that determines the end result.”

A second thing to keep in mind is that the basic definition of eNavigation is “the collection, integration and display of maritime information aboard and ashore by electronic means to enhance berth-to-berth navigation and related services, safety, and security at sea, and the protection of the marine environment”. This makes clear that eNavigation has a wide range of stakeholders, public and private. (Emphasis supplied)

Finding an effective way to provide leadership and promote, coordinate and manage eNavigation policy will be a complicated undertaking. It's made more difficult by the fact that, as I've indicated, significant efforts relating to eNavigation are already underway. Prime examples of such activities are implementation of the National AIS System, the Maritime Domain Awareness Program (MDA), P.O.R.T.S. and the various Rulemaking for the carriage requirements of the basic shipboard components. From the standpoint of governance, particularly orchestrating development and applications, it's clear that the Federal government will of necessity have a primary role, and its efforts need to be coordinated to a common end. Otherwise there is a high likelihood of duplication, wasted resources and an end product resembling a camel, which we all know is a committee-designed horse. This is reinforced by recognizing the major role of the federal government in providing, operating and maintaining essential eNavigation infrastructure.

Management and coordination issues are complicated by the number of government entities involved, including those with responsibilities for regulations and infrastructure as well as the consumers of data the system generates. Those include the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Interior, Transportation, and a number of agencies such as the EPA. If one adds to that mix the number of Congressional Committees potentially involved the size of the resulting list is enough to boggle the mind.

I believe four things should happen, and happen soon.

First, (and this may be unrealistic and wishful thinking) constrain the number of Congressional Committees and Subcommittees involved to a workable number. There are three primary reasons for this. First is the old adage "Too many cooks spoil the broth", translating in a legislative sense to delays and infighting over who does what to whom. This, I think, is not a misplaced concern, considering that something over eighty Committees and Subcommittees are involved with the Department of Homeland Security. Second, infrastructure funding is and will be required in significant amounts, including money to pay for management of the eNavigation process, and the involvement of a small group of committees may offer a better chance of getting done what is needed. The last reason is that there should be a focused legislative review and winnowing out of knee jerk legislative proposals surfacing after marine “incidents” – like Cosco Busan – that capture the media and public interest.

Second, a lead agency for eNavigation must be designated by the Administration. This would provide unified representation of the US needs and position in international deliberations, serve as traffic director for governmental involvement and be the ‘educator’ of the US maritime community, including government, about eNavigation and its benefits. Such a lead agency should also be able to halt developments the effects of which would be detrimental to maritime safety. Given today's trend toward multi-agency task groups this may, like reducing the number of Congressional Committees involved, be wishful thinking.

Third, a federal coordinating committee should be formed representing the governmental entities involved to insure that all are working to the same common end. Such a committee could well be modeled upon some of the language in the October 2005 "National Plan to Achieve Maritime Domain Awareness for the National Strategy for Maritime Security". That plan "...lays the foundation for an effective understanding of anything associated with the Maritime Domain that could impact the security, safety, economy, or environment of the United States..." and serves to ",,,unify United States Government [actions] and support international efforts to achieve MDA across the Federal government, with the private sector and civil authorities within the United States, and with our allies and partners. It directs close coordination of a broad range of federal departments and agencies for this lasting endeavor. Implementation of this Plan will be conducted under the oversight of an interagency implementation team." Actually, it might be possible to utilize an existing organization, the Committee for the Marine Transportation System, for this role.

Fourth, a structure should be constructed to capture the needs of and deal with the concerns of the broad maritime private sector, perhaps institutionalizing something like the earlier National Dialogue group that provided input to VTS development and expansion. Convened by the US Coast Guard in 1997 the effort brought together maritime and port community stakeholders to identify the needs of waterway users with respect to Vessel Traffic Services. Incorporating the private sector in the eNavigation implementation process is the only way to insure success and to convey a sense of ownership.

Make no mistake. Failure of leadership at the national level could have significant consequences for the maritime industry.