Electronic navigation essential by 2030, says a Riviera news source.
The UKHO will stop producing paper charts by 2030, forcing owners to upgrade wheelhouse technology.
Wheelhouse technology has always been important for improving navigational safety, but now there is more urgency to upgrade bridge electronics. New tugboats usually come with a full suite of navigation and communications equipment including radar, electronic charting system, gyrocompass, autopilot, echosounder, speedlog, automatic identification system (AIS) transponder and display and a global positioning system (GPS).
However, many tugboats and workboats still use paper charts or early versions of radar and plotting systems, which will need to be upgraded this decade.
The urgency comes as the UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO) announced its strategy of phasing out paper navigational and thematic charts under its Admiralty brand by 2026. After negative feedback and even outcry from many shipping sectors, especially the smaller vessel sectors, UKHO extended this transition phase to 2030, leaving all maritime industries with seven years to adopt electronic navigation chart systems such as ECDIS, or be faced with using outdated charts and notices to mariners.
“As we further develop digital navigation solutions, our long-term intention to withdraw from paper chart production remains unchanged and we will continue to withdraw elements of our chart portfolio over the coming period, on a case-by-case basis,” says UKHO chief executive Peter Sparkes.
“However, having listened to the feedback we have received and in light of the consequential impact of the international technical and regulatory steps required to develop digital alternatives, we will be extending the overall timetable for this process.”
Stop producing paper charts
After the UKHO announced its plans to stop producing paper charts, it consulted with the UK’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency, distributors, defence customers, commercial and leisure users, international regulatory authorities and colleagues in the global hydrographic community to determine the impact.
These conversations highlighted several important transnational and regulatory factors that needed further consideration.
“It became clear that more time was required to address the needs of those specific users who do not yet have viable alternatives to paper chart products, so we will continue to provide a paper chart service until at least 2030,” says Mr Sparkes.
The UKHO is promoting a transition to digital products, including electronic navigational charts for ECDIS, as mandated by IMO for most SOLAS commercial ships, and for electronic chart systems for commercial vessels and workboats.
“Digital solutions offer significant safety and operational advantages to mariners, including the potential for near real-time updates, which greatly improve the accuracy of navigation and ease of use,” says the UKHO. “These benefits will be further enhanced as we bring forward the next generation of navigation solutions, underpinned by the S-100 data standards.”
The UKHO is developing a new generation of digital Admiralty services for all these maritime markets, along with supporting paper chart distribution. It will work with international organisations and partners, including through IMO and the International Hydrographic Organisation, to move forward at an appropriate pace together.
ECDIS units are increasingly installed on new tugs, but there are other electronic devices available and under development for safer navigation.
Groke Technologies gained an innovation endorsement for its digital watchkeeper and sensors that enhance situational awareness during voyages from classification society ClassNK.
This was granted to the Groke Pro, an object recognition system using machine vision and sensor fusion. Groke Pro can detect, track and fuse information on objects in real-time, and display them on electronic navigational charts. It has a wide field of view and blends visual and thermal camera images to provide a clearer picture of maritime hazards.
Furuno has introduced two large NavNet TZtouch3 multi-functional displays to present different types of electronic information simultaneously. These are 22-in and 24-in high-definition displays with touchscreens to view, move or hide navigation data, access extra information layers and menus on a six-way split-screen layout.
Apart from electronic charts, TZT22X and TZT24X can also include solid-state and X-class radar, NavPilot autopilots, weather tracking, satellite compasses and DFF3D multibeam sonar.
AMI Marine, a manufacturer of the speed movement information display system (SMIDS), has introduced the SMIDS Pro system to aid offshore cargo discharge, vessel lightering and ship-to-ship transfers. It calculates and displays vessel movement information, reporting the ground speed of the vessel’s heading and sideways movement at the bow and stern, with an accuracy of 0.01 knots, helping the navigating crew to make informed decisions when docking, irrespective of the sea state or weather conditions encountered.
SMIDS Pro records a vessel’s movement data and offers an easy-to-use playback software for future performance evaluations, crew training, and when necessary, incident investigation.
There is an optional transmitting heading function as a standalone back-up to safe navigation, particularly when there are critical navigation system failures. The system comes with full data recording capabilities, the internal storage retains over 50 days of accurate ship movement information and all data can be reviewed using the embedded AMI data replay software, with free lifetime updates on each system installed.
Sea trials data
Robert Allan Ltd (RAL) has developed an electronic device to record high-quality data from tug manoeuvring and seakeeping motions on sea trials for performance and design analysis.
The goal of the Canadian vessel designer is to have a portable kit that can be set up quickly and taken anywhere to collate information that could be used for future design, simulation and tug operations.
“This new capability will allow us to demonstrate the accuracy of our computational analyses, to support third-party vessel simulator development or to demonstrate tug performance,” says RAL computational fluid dynamics and ship simulation specialist Michael Shives.
The kit will use a combination of GPS and inertial navigation system (INS) technologies to obtain high-quality motion data.
“We are testing commercial systems including dual-receiver GPS to obtain high-accuracy heading data using algorithms similar to real-time-kinetics, but without requiring a separate base station,” Mr Shives explained.
The systems use either enhanced Kalman filtering or neural-network artificial intelligence to combine data from the INS and GPS systems to give high-accuracy motion data.
“It is critical to record timeseries data of the tug master’s controls to have time-synchronised input and response data,” says Mr Shives.
“This must be done with zero possibility of impacting the vessel control, so we are using footage collected by GoPro cameras and subsequent image processing to convert the collected video to data.”
This provides audio and visual information much richer than a pure data-logger or pure video recording, giving a comprehensive recording of exactly what happened during each sea trial.
So far, two sea trials have been conducted on SAAM Towage tugs in Canada. Manoeuvring data from the agile Salish was used as a benchmark to inform the design of RAL’s new battery-electric ElectRA-2300 tugs. These are under construction at one of Sanmar’s shipyards in Turkey, ready for completion this year, and which SAAM will use for similar towage and ship-handling jobs when it arrives in British Columbia.
Data from the escort-specialist Grizzly tug has been compared with RAL’s simulation results with very good agreement, says Mr Shives.
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