Sperry Marine releases major upgrade to VisionMaster FT bridge software

Paul Gunton

Paul Gunton · 15 March 2019


Northrop Grumman Sperry Marine has released a major upgrade to its VisionMaster FT bridge software focussing on improved management of ECDIS and radar alarms, enhanced cyber security, a simplified user interface and easier data exchange.

A key driver behind the VMFT11 software update is to decrease the mariner’s workload in alert management, by reducing the number of high priority radar and ECDIS alerts, so that more of their attention is on safely operating the ship.

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“Managing alerts on radar and ECDIS has been a problem for years, because too many alerts were categorised as high priority and owners found that their officers spent too much time managing alerts when they should have been focusing on navigation,” said Simon Cooke, Technical Manager. “VMFT11 brings VisionMaster into alignment with the latest thinking on Bridge Alert Management, including the ability to temporarily silence alerts and refined prioritisation, so that alarms are reserved for conditions where the mariner needs to take immediate action to maintain the safe navigation and operation of the vessel.”

Alerts are now presented visually using standardised icons which are being adopted across the shipping industry, designed to shorten the familiarisation period for mariners. The icons are designed with human factors in mind using colour and shape to differentiate the messages, so making them as intuitive as possible.

VMFT11 integrates Sperry Marine’s newest cyber security tool, the Secure Maritime Gateway. The SMG is a Type Approved product which uses multiple firewalls and a ‘demilitarised zone’ to control the traffic that flows between front and back of bridge. This enables the connection of these two critical shipboard networks and an external connection to the ship owner or manager with a new degree of cyber hardening.

“Our participation at the IMO and other industry bodies gives us an unparalleled understanding of the maritime regulatory environment, while our direct service network gives us insight into how mariners really work,” added Director of Product Management Simon Pinkney. “This upgrade is a result of listening to our customers and supporting their desire to embrace more digital working but with an added layer of cyber security.”

Another new feature of VMFT11 is a new system of vessel route exchange using the RTZ format. This functionality has been available for some years but VMFT11 provides a standardised machine-readable process and so allows more efficient route exchange between ECDIS units and back-of-bridge systems, such as route optimisation software and when sending routes back to shore.

Finally VMFT11 includes a major enhancement to the Sperry Marine Central Alert Management (CAM) system, reflecting the increasing connectivity of navigation sensors that need to be managed on the bridge. The CAM has been totally re-engineered to addresses issues of familiarisation with the same harmonisation and presentation of alerts, improved prioritisation, categorisation and display with new industry-standard iconography.

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