Friday, October 12, 2012

Turning The eNav Concept Into Action

By Brian Tetreault

The concept of e-Navigation has been developing in the international maritime community for nearly a decade, led by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and with the support and input of other international bodies, including the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO), International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities (IALA) and others. The member states of these bodies have been involved through their delegations, but as the e-Navigation concept develops, the United States has recognized that we can take a leading role in e-Navigation implementation in parallel with international developments. To that end, the US Committee on the Marine Transportation System (CMTS) has moved forward with e-Navigation efforts and established an e-Navigation Integrated Action Team to turn the e-Navigation concept into action.

The CMTS was chartered in 2005 to coordinate the myriad Federal partners involved in the Marine Transportation System (MTS). Chaired by the Secretary of Transportation, the CMTS is tasked to ensure the development and implementation of national MTS policies consistent with national needs and to report to the President its views and recommendations for improving the MTS. The CMTS organization includes a Coordinating Board that sets strategic goals affecting the MTS. These are captured in the National Strategy for the Marine Transportation System (available on the CMTS web site: Under the Coordinating Board are established Integrated Action Teams to address specific issues needed to implement the national strategy. From 2008 to 2012 the Navigation Technology IAT worked on several successful navigation technology efforts, coordinating efforts of the Coast Guard, Army Corps of Engineers, NOAA and other agencies. As a result of these successes and in recognition of the international developments in e-Navigation, the Coast Guard and The Corps of Engineers jointly recommended the CMTS develop a National e-Navigation Strategy. A working group chaired by the Coast Guard drafted this strategy, which was completed in August 2011 and approved and published in February 2012 as the “US e-Navigation Strategic Action Plan” (also available through the CMTS web site:

The e-Navigation Strategic Action Plan has the following principles:

  • It is action-oriented; taking e-Navigation from concept to actual capabilities.
  • It is in alignment with international efforts.
  • Implementation will be built on existing capabilities.
  • User needs will drive the development of these capabilities.

Guided by these principles, the e-Navigation IAT was created in March 2012, and set out an ambitious work plan, which was approved by the Coordinating Board in June 2012. The purpose of the IAT, per its Terms of Reference is to “develop and carry out a work plan for the implementation of the e-Navigation Strategic Action Plan.” The membership of the e-Nav IAT is open to all CMTS agencies, and is co-chaired by representatives from the Coast Guard, US Army Corps of Engineers and NOAA. In addition to these Federal members, the IAT is expected to “communicate and collaborate with MTS stakeholders as appropriate” and “work through accepted Federal channels to communicate and collaborate with international organizations… and appropriate non-governmental organizations… under the authorities and roles of the agencies participating in the e-Nav IAT.” Given this mandate, the e-Nav IAT plans to work closely with non-Federal e-Navigation stakeholders, including the navigation industry, navigation equipment and software manufacturers, vessel operators and the general public.

Also included in the e-Nav IAT’s Terms of Reference are the following objectives:

  • Identify existing e-Navigation capabilities
  • Identify e-Navigation users
  • Enhance e-Navigation systems interoperability
  • Cover inland, coastal and offshore regions of the marine transportation system
  • Evaluate the proper mix of e-Navigation systems and traditional aids to navigation and navigation services
  • Clarify roles and responsibilities of government, NGOs, technical standards organizations and industry
  • Align US and International e-Navigation efforts

Specific actions the IAT is taking to attain these objectives include development of an e-Navigation capabilities inventory. This inventory will identify navigation-related products, programs, or systems among the different agencies that can be better coordinated, harmonized, or leveraged. Using the inventory, gaps in services and capabilities will be identified and the need for any new value-added e-Navigation projects can be determined. Also incorporated as part of the inventory is a catalog of existing regulations that are considered e-Navigation related. This includes equipment carriage requirements and information reporting requirements. By including regulations in the inventory, the IAT hopes that any e-Navigation implementation can be done using the existing regulatory framework. For example, a key component of e-Navigation is communication between ship and shore. There are existing regulations that mandate carriage of communications equipment aboard vessels (e.g., VHF-FM radios, AIS); these should be leveraged to meet e-Nav communications capabilities, possibly with modifications, rather than creating new carriage regulations.

The e-Nav IAT is also working to identify US e-Navigation stakeholders, based on the IMO-developed list of potential e-Navigation users. Part of developing this list is stakeholder outreach to already-identified e-Navigation user groups. The IAT has participated already in several conferences, including the Joint Harbor Safety Committee/Area Maritime Security Committee conference in August 2012, and the Radio Technical Commission for Maritime Services (RTCM) Annual Meeting in September 2012 to reach out to those stakeholder groups. There will be a session at the upcoming e-Navigation 2012 Conference in Seattle 6-7 November 2012 focused on the work of the CMTS e-Nav IAT, where input will be sought from US e-Navigation stakeholders. The IAT is eager to engage with non-Federal e-Navigation stakeholders at these events, and encourages broad participation. A communications plan is being developed to outline specific outreach actions to take and timelines.

Ultimately, the work of the e-Nav IAT will, per its Terms of Reference, identify “collaborative opportunities to deliver short-term value added e-Navigation products and services.” By early 2013, through development of the capabilities inventory, review of the IMO e-Navigation Gap Analysis, and outreach to US e-Navigation stakeholders the IAT will have an initial, prioritized list of actions to take to implement e-Navigation concepts.

In order to implement the US e-Navigation Strategic Action Plan and meet the aggressive schedule the CMTS e-Nav IAT has set for itself, we will need cooperation from a broad range of e-Navigation stakeholders. Interested persons, organizations and entities are invited to participate in the process, through attendance at events such as the e-Navigation conference in Seattle and communication with the e-Navigation IAT through contacts in the participating agencies. The CMTS e-Nav IAT can be contacted through the CMTS web site at by clicking on the “Contact the CMTS” link.

Brian Tetreault is a navigation systems specialist with the US Army Corps of Engineers Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory. He is co-Chairman of the CMTS e-Navigation Integrated Action team and a representative to IALA, IEC and RTCM e-Navigation working groups.