Alongside the concept of the autonomous ship, e-navigation is perhaps the most controversial topic in the future technological direction of the shipping industry. However, unlike the autonomous ships which will fail or succeed depending upon the amount of private capital that may be invested in it, e-navigation is being actively pursued by regulators and regional authorities with the EU taking a leading role. Proponents and regulators alike see e-navigation as a universal force for good that will among other things; improve safety, protect environments and enhance the commercial operation of ships and ports. Others view it with suspicion believing that there are ulterior motives behind its development and that there is little support for some of the declared aims of the various projects espousing it. Before exploring the concept further it is necessary to look at the developments that have taken place in navigating technology and regulatory moves over the last two decades. Modern ships are obliged to carry an extensive array of navigation and control systems and equipment on the bridge most of which have evolved at different periods in time over the past 60-70 years. The most recent system to have been mandated under SOLAS is ECDIS but it will still be some years before all vessels are required to be equipped. As a consequence of the continual addition of new equipment, many ships have a bridge comprised of disparate stand-alone systems. On newer vessels it is possible to integrate systems so that two or more can share data or sensor input with most of the very latest vessels having integrated navigation systems (INS) or integrated bridge systems (IBS). There is a deal of confusion over the difference between the two terms and many consider them interchangeable. The IMO however does have different definitions, an IBS is defined in Resolution MSC.64(67) and an INS in MSC.86(70). Comparing the definitions shows that an INS is a combination of navigational data and systems interconnected to enhance safe and efficient movement of the ship, whereas IBS inter-connects various other systems to increase the efficiency in overall management of the ship. More specifically, the IMO definition of an IBS applies to a system performing two or more operations from:
- passage execution;
- machinery control;
- Loading, discharging and cargo control and safety and security.
- INS(A), that as a minimum provide the information of position, speed, heading and time, each clearly marked with an indication of integrity.
- INS(B), that automatically, continually and graphically indicates the ship’s position, speed and heading and, where available, depth in relation to the planned route as well as to known and detected hazards.
- INS(C), that provides means to automatically control heading, track or speed and monitor the performance and status of these controls.
Defining e-navigationExactly what constitutes e-navigation is difficult to pin down. As far as the IMO is concerned it has its roots in the MSC(81) meeting in 2006 when a roadmap aiming for eventual implementation in 2013 was drawn up. By 2009 it had defined e-navigation as;
- E-navigation is the harmonised collection, integration, exchange, presentation and analysis of marine information on board and ashore by electronic means to enhance berth to berth navigation and related services for safety and security at sea and protection of the marine environment.
- E-navigation is intended to meet present and future user needs through harmonisation of marine navigation systems and supporting shore services.
- Develop the technology concept needed to implement the autonomous and unmanned ship.
- Develop the critical integration mechanisms, including the ICT architecture and the cooperative procedural specifications, which ensure that the technology works seamlessly enabling safe and efficient implementation of autonomy.
- Verify and validate the concept through tests runs in a range of scenarios and critical situations.
- Document how legislation and commercial contracts need to be changed to allow for autonomous and unmanned ships.
- Provide an in-depth economic, safety and legal assessment showing how the MUNIN results will impact European shipping competitiveness and safety.
- Although an autonomous ships is already technically feasible, their use would not currently be permitted for anything but domestic operation and even then there would likely be problems with commercial support.
Implementing e-navigationAt NAV 59 in September 2013 the IMO re-established a Correspondence Group on e-navigation under the coordination of Norway. The group included many flag states and industry bodies along with organisations such as the IHO and IMSO. The terms of reference of the group for those interested in further research are set out in document NAV 59/20, paragraph 6.37. The Correspondence Group completed a report in March2014 which was discussed at the inaugural meeting of the IMO’s Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue (NCSR) in July 2014 and passed to the MSC meeting in November 2014. The report contained an e-navigation Strategy Implementation Plan (SIP) which can be accessed at the Norwegian Coast Guard website. The SIP sets up a list of tasks and specific timelines for the implementation of ‘prioritised e-navigation solutions’ during the period 2015-2019. Several ‘solutions’ are included in the SIP of which five have been prioritised. Using the numbering given in the plan, the five prioritised solutions are:-
- S1: improved, harmonized and user friendly bridge design;
- S2: means for standardized and automated reporting;
- S3: improved reliability, resilience and integrity of bridge • equipment and navigation information;
- S4: integration and presentation of available information in graphical displays received via communications equipment; and
- S9: improved communication of VTS Service Portfolio.
- Revised performance standards for Integrated Navigation Systems (INS) – it was agreed to review resolution MSC.252(83) relating to the harmonization of bridge design and display information. The MSC agreed to include this output in the 2016-2017 biennial agenda of the NCSR and in the provisional agenda for NCSR 3 with a target completion year of 2017;
- Guidelines and criteria for ship reporting systems – it was agreed to review resolution MSC.43(64), as amended, relating to standardization and harmonized electronic ship reporting and automated collection of on-board data for reporting. The MSC agreed to include this output in the 2016-2017 biennial agenda of the NCSR and provisional agenda for NCSR 3 with a target completion year 2017;
- General requirements for ship-borne radio equipment forming part of the GMDSS and for electronic navigational aids – it was agreed to revise Resolution A.694(17) relating to Built In Integrity Testing (BIIT) for navigation equipment. The MSC agreed to include this output in the post-biennial agenda (2018-2019) of the MSC with NCSR assigned as the coordinating body; and
- Guidelines for the harmonized display of navigation information received via communications equipment – it was agreed to include this output in the 2016-2017 biennial agenda for the NCSR and the provisional agenda for NCSR 3 with a target completion year of 2017.