A Tale of Three Ships

The amazing advances in bridge management systems and integrated technologies are showcased in the LNG carrier Christophe de Margerie, the expedition cruise ship HANSEATIC nature, and the futuristic Yara Birkland.

SCF ship Christophe de Margerie
Christophe de Margerie

By Wendy Laursen 03-29-2018 06:41:23

(Article originally published in Jan/Feb 2018 edition.)

Three ships exemplify the latest developments in navigation, marking the way forward for bridge teams and the technology revolutionizing their world.

The first is the Polar Class ARC7-icebreaking LNG carrier Christophe de Margerie, which commenced operation for the Yamal LNG project last year and set a new standard in systems integration. The ship has two fully integrated bridge systems that make it possible for the ship to move both forward and aft.

Both navigation bridges are equipped with a multifunction display system, consisting of 12 multifunction workstations including ECDIS, Radar, Conning, BAMS and Navi-Planner for advanced route planning. The workstations are fully integrated into a unified system that allows the main operational functions to be duplicated, thereby improving safety of navigation.

Blueprint for Progress

As part of the project, a unified platform that centralizes fleet operations, voyage optimization, training and ship-traffic control. The platform aims to expedite the flow of data between ship operational functions that have historically functioned largely in isolation.

Core Yamal LNG operations take place at Port Sabetta on Russia’s Yamal Peninsula. Conditions include temperatures down to -52oC, heavy ice, polar night, restricted visibility, mists, electromagnetic disturbances, blizzards, lack of shore-based infrastructure facilities, a long narrow channel outside VTS coverage and high latitudes.

The platform will be delivered to 26 vessels operating on the project. The vessels will be able to exchange data automatically including VTS targets, weather data, ice-field data, pilot boarding points, tracks of icebreakers, SAR patterns and continuous recordings of vessel position even if a vessel is outside of VTS coverage.

An E.U. project, Sea Traffic Management (STM), is pursuing another technology that connects and updates ships and ports in real time. The most recent development is a new EfficientFlow project that will contribute to more efficient traffic flow in the ports of Gävle, Sweden and Rauma, Finland as well as in the ScanMed corridor between Stockholm and Turku by implementation of STM.

Last year, the STM Validation Project successfully installed its first STM-compatible bridge systems, connecting ships with shore-based services. The ships equipped were Stena Germanica and two rescue vessels from the Swedish Sea Rescue Society. Stena Germanica, while enroute from Gothenburg to Kiel, automatically shared her route with the two rescue vessels and received their routes and displayed them on her ECDIS.

The route message format used, developed as part of the STM Validation Project, is transmitted to other ships over ordinary AIS. Ultimately, the project anticipates involvement from 300 ships, 13 ports and at least five shore centers.

Integrated Technologies

The link between navigational platforms and broader ship management functions is being made in a different way by ChartCo., which is integrating its range of digital navigational products with its environmental, safety management and regulatory solutions.

“Navigation is going to stay the core of what we do, but we are moving toward more of a compliance view,” says Chief Commercial Officer Howard Stevens. “We have four product lines that are integrated today – PassageManager, Regs4ships, EnviroManager and Docmap – and we are further developing a single open architecture to enable integration with other onboard systems and the provision of a compliance dashboard view.” The end-result will help bridge teams focus their time and prioritize tasks, he adds.

Stevens sees the industry making a patchy transition in the uptake of increasingly integrated technology. Satellite communications will be key in the development of data-heavy value chains that will lead eventually to autonomous ships. However, the most interesting part of the value chain are the applications themselves, the things that give decision-grade information to operators.

This part of the industry continues to develop. For example, Tidetech has a solution suited to the expanded regulatory-operational perspective provided by additional bandwidth. Penny Haire, Managing Director, agrees that operators are focused on near-term issues dealing with the reality of impending regulation and the need for better performance on existing vessels. As a result, there has been growing interest in the use of metocean data for voyage optimization.

Tidetech provides high-resolution modeling of coastal tides and currents including those in critical locations such as the Malacca Strait and the English Channel. “While it seems obvious that weather can have a big effect on performance,” she explains, “often the total benefit that can be derived from this data is not always understood. The confusion stems in part at least from the misconception that weather services only have a benefit when sailing in blue water.”

Tidetech has shown that, for example, on the North Atlantic there are more potential cost-savings from optimizing against currents in U.K. coastal and Northern European waters than there are across the whole Atlantic.

Obstacle Detection

Cheryl Zimmerman, Chief Executive Officer of FarSounder Inc., says ever-increasing bandwidth is helping different sources of data be collected, merged, interpreted and displayed: “The expectations from customers are that this will one day simplify the bridge. The reality is that these tools must be used with forethought to maximize their effectiveness. This is necessary to result in a more useful, less cluttered bridge, rather than complicating the bridge with information overload.”

FarSounder has created a new software feature called Local History Mapping that allows navigators to paint an intuitive 3D image of the bottom contour and obstructions ahead of their vessel in real-time and store this information for future use. This leads to the second inspirational ship, Hapag-Lloyd's expedition cruise ship HANSEATIC nature, scheduled for delivery in 2019. The ship highlights developments in obstacle detection.

FarSounder is contracted to provide its longest-range 3D Forward Looking Sonar, FarSounder-1000, to the ship. The sonar will provide real-time data on obstacles and ice ahead. Zimmerman sees the company's technologies being widely used by the expedition cruise ship and superyacht markets to plot their routes, find good anchoring areas and enable a safe return from what are usually poorly charted areas.

Other manufacturers continue to add to their ice navigation offerings. Furuno recently introduced a new ice radar to its X7 Series Radar, enabling navigators to easily visualize ice structures and determine optimum routes. FICE100 quickly shows the best track, even in poor visibility, and can detect the structure of ice out to a three-nautical-mile radius, says the company. Operators can find old rifts, clean ice and channels previously made by icebreakers and other vessels.

Last year, Rutter Inc. completed an initiative with Statoil Canada to improve offshore oil and gas operations in ice that resulted in the development of new remote-sensing technology for the automatic detection and tracking of ice. Now Rutter’s Sigma S6 System is capable of outlining and drift-tracking ice floes, pans, ridges, icebergs embedded in pack ice and open water leads.

Meanwhile, the expedition cruise industry is helping itself. The Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO) coordinates the crowd-sourced collection of depth soundings from cruise vessels in Arctic waters. The collected data is shared with operators and authorities and serves as a supplement to official charts. Members of AECO operating vessels carrying more than 12 passengers are obliged to share their position and trajectory when sailing in the Arctic, and an online portal gives all members access to real-time information about the position of other vessels – valuable for voyage planning and safety risk assessments.

Last year The Nautical Institute introduced the Ice Navigator Scheme, designed to provide the first truly international standard of certification for mariners in ice operation competency. Launched in July, the scheme complements the requirements outlined in the Polar Code, adding the necessity for practical “ice time” and extending certification to ships and operations outside the limited confines of polar waters. The scheme also provides guidance for training institutions wishing to be recognized as meeting the Institute’s Ice Navigation standards.

Toward the Autonomous Ship

And that leads to the third vessel, the battery-powered container vessel Yara Birkeland, expected to conduct fully autonomous operations in 2020 and therefore to change the ship management and ship navigation landscape forever. Yara Birkeland is a collaboration between Norwegian agricultural company Yara and Kongsberg, DNV GL, Marin Teknikk, SINTEF Ocean and Norwegian maritime authorities. Kongsberg is responsible for the development and delivery of all key enabling technologies including the sensors and integration required for remote and autonomous operations.

Yara Birkeland will eliminate 40,000 road trips from Yara’s Porsgrunn fertilizer plant in southern Norway to the ports of Brevik and Larvik, significantly reducing local NOx and CO2 emissions produced by haulage trucks. A 20-foot (six-meter), 2.4 ton-model of the fully electric vessel commenced tank-testing last year.

“The hottest maritime topic today is autonomous vessels, and we are committed to be at the forefront of this technology,” says Kongsberg’s Børre Flaglien, Product Manager for Integrated Bridge Systems. “Navigation plays a key role in the development towards autonomy, but we’re also realizing benefits for today's manned vessels. A recent update to our radar includes a situational awareness enhancement that visualizes for the navigator how autonomy would handle collision avoidance. Essentially, advances in autonomy will also help drive classic navigation forward.” – MarEx

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.