Regional Route Sharing First in the Baltic Sea


Published Jan 22, 2018 5:49 PM by The Maritime Executive

The days may soon be over when mariners have to pick up a radio to take on the cumbersome task of reporting their vessel and route parameters every time they cross into a new vessel traffic services (VTS) area - at least for those sailing in the Baltic Sea. According to the European project EfficienSea2, maritime digitalization work carried out has now enabled effective route sharing between different VTS systems. The technology has the potential to drastically cut the reporting effort for the ship’s crew, while offering authorities a better ability to ensure safe traffic at sea, say project participants. 

By cooperating with the Finnish Transport Agency as a part of the E.U.-funded project EfficienSea2, the Norwegian surveillance system manufacturer Vissim has become the first operator to integrate voyage data from the ENSI-system (Enhanced Navigation Support Information) into their vessel traffic monitoring system. 

Max Semenov, Chief Technical Officer at Vissim, says this will allow VTS centers and navigators to drastically reduce their reporting burdens. “Today, a ship sailing from Helsinki to Oslo passes many VTS zones and has to share voyage data with all of them. Some require more than others, but in most cases some form of radio contact is necessary. Being able to integrate voyage information from a different route reporting scheme and distribute the information to all relevant actors along the route will make it possible to report only once per voyage.”

The ENSI system has been developed in Finland and allows ships in the Baltic Sea to share their electronic route plan and the mandatory reports needed for the voyage with any VTS or SRS system using it. The ship will shortly thereafter receive feedback on safety issues, weather conditions and so forth from automated sources. 

The ability to integrate ENSI with a VTS system is achieved by using the so-called RTZ format for route exchange, which makes it possible to share the electronic route with VTS centers or other stakeholders along the route. For Vissim, and potentially other equipment manufacturers, this will allow them to offer new possibilities for maritime actors using their technology, while ENSI may prove even more beneficial for its users.

“Often, VTS and SRS centers will have route recommendations or restrictions based on draft or safety hazards. With this integration they will have a much simpler time giving feedback,” said Mikko Klang, a consultant for the Finnish Transport Agency on ENSI-related issues. “They will receive the reports and route plans in a clear, digital, way with little room for misunderstandings – and they will have much more time, as they don’t have wait for the ships to enter their VTS domain before receiving information.” 

Global Potential

The EfficienSea2 project aims to have a global impact. By demonstrating how such route-sharing capabilities can be developed between different systems in the Baltic, EfficienSea2 hopes to lay the groundwork for future efforts toward smarter navigation. 

“The principles used to integrate ENSI’s and Vissim’s systems can be applied to many other regions of the world. When a captain knows his or her route and which waypoints they will pass, it makes little sense to have to report that more than once. Hopefully, we are helping to eliminate that burden,” says Klang.

Human Factors

Human factors testing is an integral part of the EfficienSea2 project, and the 32 project partners involved all work to develop solutions with an eye towards the impact on the mariners.

Last year, the project evaluated the human impact of a wide variety of e-Navigation solutions through a full-scale simulation test. The simulations involved eight navigators and took four days. They were conducted at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden and focused on the human factors in e-Navigation. Multiple services, ranging from a digitized form of navigational warnings to an interactive VTS-reporting system, were tested by the mariners on a full-bridge simulator while wearing eye-trackers and galvanic skin response devices to detect emotional changes. The simulations aim to ensure that new services offer fewer burdens for navigators while exploiting the benefits of the digital tools.