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New initiatives on collaboration, transparency and data-sharing for today's smart ports and interconnected vessels.

Navigation and autonomy: The biggest stories of 2019 [Part 1]

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The first 6 months of 2019 have been a busy time for innovation and digital in the maritime sector.

From trials and reports, to strategies and acquisitions, there has been a sizable shift with respect to navigation and autonomy in the maritime sector.

To put it into perspective, we’ve put together a list of the some of 2019’s top stories in new tech and the digital ship of the future to date.

Please note, the stories below do not appear in any order of importance, but in a (loosely) chronological order.


The Future of Work report

In January, IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim was speaking at the launch of a report, Transport 2040: Automation, Technology and Employment - the Future of Work, where he highlighted the importance of the shipping industry to consider seafarer training and standards as shipping evolves.

Speaking on the rising levels of technology and automation, Secretary-General Lim highlighted the seafarer's role in an automated future. More importantly, he posed some crucial questions: "How will the seafarer of the future manage the challenges related to an increasing level of technology and automation in maritime transport? How will the new technologies impact on the nature of jobs in the industry? What standards will seafarers be required to meet with respect to education, training and certification to qualify them for the jobs of the future?"

The report was the launched under the combined efforts of International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and the World Maritime University (WMU), and is the first-ever, independent and comprehensive assessment of how automation will affect the future of work in the transport industry, focusing on technological changes and automation in road, air, rail and maritime transport.

It is a forward-looking report which foresees automation in global transport sector to be "evolutionary, rather than revolutionary," and concludes that "despite high levels of automation, qualified human resources with the right skill sets will still be needed in the foreseeable future".

The IMO's welcoming of the report is a very important strategic step as it must look at the integration of new tech into the regulatory framework - weighing up the costs to the industry and the impact on personnel, balancing the benefits against safety and security, all while keeping an eye on environmental impact while allowing for international trade facilitation.


 UK Gov launches Maritime 2050 strategy

The Maritime 2050 strategy was developed in close partnership with industry heavyweights and is the first long-term strategy - with the UK government’s recognition - that highlights the importance of the maritime sector to Britain’s future success.

When one considers that 95% of all UK trade is enabled by the maritime sector and the increased competition from competing maritime nations (the Far East, Northern Europe, Gulf and North America to name a few), the importance of this strategy is only increased in the context of Brexit. Furthermore, the strategy outlines efforts to lead the setting international standards at the IMO and ensure interoperability of systems.

The Maritime 2050 strategy focuses on seven core ambitions: technology, trade, environment, people, infrastructure, security/resilience and national competitive advantage. Innovation and technology are key elements across all these ambitions. Diving into these we see that priorities detailed in the strategy include 'Smart Port' development, with the creation of a 'Maritime Innovation Hub' at a yet unnamed port by 2030.

"Ports will adapt toward full supply chain integration, maximising land use for ancillary activities. Enhanced transparency and use of real time data will increase operational efficiencies, while pioneering cutting edge technologies such as 3D printing," the strategy says.

Exploring new tech to enable paperless processes and transactions across the transport chain is a particularly clear goal of the strategy - the UK maritime sector expects to have complete paperless governance by 2030, including a fully-digital UK Ship Register by 2025.

Government will also look to legislate a domestic framework for autonomous vessels. Part of this goal is to attract international businesses to perform testing in the UK's territorial waters.

Technology is once more central to goals of growing and upskilling the UK’s maritime workforce. There is focus on future UK seafarers to develop transferable IT-based skills which will allow for transition between sea and shore-based roles - supported by training programmes maximising new tech such as virtual reality and augmented reality.

With the bulk of focus on innovation and technology, cyber security is noted as an important consideration, with the government pledging to offer its support to maritime businesses in developing and maintaining robust cyber defenses.

In summary, autonomy, low-carbon technologies, skill building, and the development of new areas to compliment the maritime offering (like green finance), are clear areas of focus in the UK's Maritime 2050 strategy.


NYK’s guiding light for ECDIS operations

Nippon Yusen (Nippon Yūsen Kabushiki Kaisha, Japan Mail Shipping Line or NYK Line) is one of the largest and oldest shipping companies in the world. The company has a fleet of approximately 800 ships, that includes container ships, tankers, bulk and woodchip carriers, Ro-Ro car carriers, reefer vessels, LNG carrier and cruise ships.

In March of 2018, the company announced a new medium-term management plan titled, Staying Ahead 2022 with Digitalization and Green.

In late January NYK Shipmanagement, an NYK Group company, launched iPlus ECDIS digital guidance. The platform was created to serve one purpose, helping officers acquire expert knowledge of Electronic Chart Display and Information Systems (ECDIS) operation in a short time. To our understanding, becoming proficient in the use of ECDIS requires a fair amount of time. Add in the fact that manufacturer and model can have different layouts and one can understand that being competent in using an ECDIS can take some time.

The iPlus ECDIS utilises the ECDIS checklist provided by the Nautical Institute (NI) and covers the use of 66 ECDIS operations, improving efficiency of on-board operations by assisting officers with their speed of use of ECDIS.

The program can be displayed on a tablet on board next to the ECDIS and comprises of over 3 000 images and screenshots complete with signage and pop-up messages guiding users through steps.

Currently, iPlus ECDIS is being distributed to 200 NYK ships and is applicable to ECDIS produced by four Japanese manufacturers. The program is expected to expand to ships managed by the NYK Group soon.

Under the last step of "increasing efficiency and creating new value," "Digitalization and Green" initiatives, the subtitle of the medium-term management plan, have been set forth.

In a New Year’s speech, NYK president Tadaaki Naito noted, "2018 was a year in which advances were made in connecting our technology to business opportunities, such as the development of diagnostic software for the engine combustion chamber and a water-content alarm for the fuel oil in order to prevent mechanical failures."

"We had the first major updates in 25 years to the vessel safety management system. Consideration is being given to the commercialization of an onboard cashless system. Also, in May of last year, we were the first company in the ocean shipping industry to issue green bonds, which narrow down the use of the funds to projects that benefit the environment."

The NYK Group are making clear headway in boosting digitalisation to realise more efficient operations and create new value, and at scale.


StormGeo and DNV GL consolidate on fleet performance solutions

In February, StormGeo and DNV GL agreed to consolidate their respective fleet performance solutions. The agreement brought together DNV GL’s ECO Insight and Navigator Insight with StormGeo’s FleetDSS and ship reporting.

The consolidation would offer shippers a complete fleet performance portfolio under one banner. According to StormGeo, the consolidation also created the largest vessel performance data set and developer team in shipping.

Bringing together the solutions in the back-end sought to provide an improved data infrastructure for better decision making, and DNV GL’s 26.4% share held in StormGeo since 2014 will also ensure it retains a strong connection to the new solution.

"Partnering with DNV GL enables us to accelerate the development of our fleet performance management offering by pooling the competence, software, and insight of both companies," noted Per-Olof Schroeder, CEO, StormGeo.

"Bringing these solutions together will give our clients even more ways to enhance the safety, efficiency, and transparency of their operations. Finally, it builds on our vision of establishing StormGeo as the leading provider of performance management solutions to the shipping industry," added Schroeder.

Trond Hodne, senior vice president, DNV GL - Maritime, commented, "Since its introduction in 2014, ECO Insight has grown into the largest performance solution in shipping, with installations on more than 2 000 vessels. In addition, already 22 industry partners connect their data and analytics to the solution."

By combining ECO Insight with StormGeo’s services, DNV GL are looking to not just offer broader functionality and insights to their customer solutions, but ultimately enrich their data sets.

Successful start to 2019 for OneSea

One Sea describes itself as "a high-profile ecosystem with a primary aim to lead the way towards an operating autonomous maritime ecosystem by 2025. The Finnish collaboration gathers together leading marine experts and is a strategic combination of top research, state-of-the-art information technology and business.

Since 2016, the Finnish collaboration has been focused on creating an environment suitable for autonomous ships by 2025. Earlier in 2019, One Sea secured new funding and added Shipbrokers Finland as a new partner.

"Digital technologies could transform every aspect of shipping and maritime logistics, but these benefits will only be realised through strong cooperation. One Sea was established expressly to facilitate such strategic collaboration," said Sari Turkkila, executive director, Shipbrokers Finland.

One Sea ecosystem lead Päivi Haikkola, added: "We intend to keep working in the same cost-effective manner we have followed from day one, diligently exploiting our own resources and collaborative capabilities as much as possible. The continuing funding from Business Finland supports our co-creation platform until 2021 in sustaining its mission on all fronts. We have come together to pursue a unique opportunity – one which promises to generate millions, if not billions, of Euros in new business value."

A series of vessel trials in Finnish waters at the turn of the year highlighted significant progress with Wärtsilä, ABB and Rolls-Royce demonstrating remote ship control and autonomous operations without any human intervention.

Each offered alternatives in positioning solutions for navigation and sensor-based technologies for manoeuvring at close quarters.

Speaking at the event Päivi Haikkola, DIMECC Ecosystem Lead for One Sea, noted that two significant hurdles must be crossed for autonomous ship technology are to be realised on a global level.

"There is strong momentum for greater connectivity ship to shore and digitalisation; but no single organisation can reap the full benefits," noted Haikkola.

"It is in everybody’s interest that different systems can talk to each other and that ship owners are free to choose their technology providers, for example. We believe that both can be achieved by standardising interfaces; this is something that needs the buy-in of the companies providing the products." She continued, "Standardisation for the maritime industry so that autonomous ships can cross international waters also demands a regulatory framework to support buy-in from owners, and this can only be enabled through the International Maritime Organization."

Haikkola went on to recognise that getting the international regulations in place would be crucial for the business case for autonomous shipping, and noted that One Sea were, "delighted to see that IMO has taken steps to tackle this matter as fast as possible and we expect to hear output from the current scoping exercise."


Establishment of the Maritime Connectivity Platform Consortium

In 2015, EfficienSea2 and the SMART Navigation project joined together on the common use and further development of technology in the maritime industry. The Maritime Connectivity Platform (MCP) was established as a result to enable infrastructures for efficient, secure, reliable and seamless electronic information exchange among maritime stakeholders.

Four years' later, and the Maritime Connectivity Platform Consortium (MCC) has been established as a neutral and independent consortium of stakeholders in the maritime industry.

The objective of the MCC is to bring common internet standards to maritime navigation and transportation systems, acting as a coordinator for the provision of guidelines and standards.

The MCC is an open, vendor-neutral technology and encourages parties to join this initiative and bring in their visions and competencies.

Upon launch, the initial consortium consisted of OFFIS, Germany, KRISO, Republic of Korea, RISE, Sweden, University of Copenhagen, General Lighthouse Authorities of UK and Ireland.

The Danish Maritime Authority (DMA), Swedish Maritime Administration (SMA) and the Ministry of Ocean and Fisheries of the Republic of Korea (MOF) are joining as Governmental Observers.


ABS offers 24-hr global remote surveying, Smart Guide & RIT guidance

It has been a busy start to the year for ABS, not only have they announced a 24-hour worldwide remote surveying, they published a guidance on the Use of Remote Inspection Technologies (RIT).

The ABS Remote Survey service will enable certain surveys to be performed without the surveyor being physically present on-board. Currently, they are supporting the following survey types, with more to follow in the near future:


  • Continuous Machinery Survey,
  • Tail Shaft or Tube Shaft Survey Three-Month Extension,
  • Minor Damage Survey,
  • Rectification of Outstanding Recommendation (OSR) or Outstanding Deficiency (OSD),
  • Remote Underwater Examination of Offshore Units with ROV.


The Guide for Smart Functions for Marine Vessels and Offshore Units (Smart Guide) is aimed to help marine and offshore owners and operators capitalise on their operational data.

Ultimately, smart functions can proactively manage asset health and performance, providing a mechanism for sustainability, improved up-time and could also lead to increasingly condition-based approaches to maintenance strategies and class surveys.

The Smart Guide covers functions related to performance, health, and crew support. It also introduces three new notations that support the recognition of a vessel’s data infrastructure as well as health monitoring functions, which can be utilised to directly support survey activity.

What makes the Smart Guide unique is class approach which has led to the creation of the marine and offshore industries' first set of notations to help owners and operators qualify and utilise smart functions.

The guidance on the RIT published by the ABS, details best practices for the use of drones on class surveys and non-class inspections, and notes cover the spectrum of RIT, including; pilot-operated Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicles and Robotic Crawlers.

According to ABS, the notes were developed following extensive marine and offshore testing, and the use of digital technology and high definition cameras will allow ABS will collect data and provide trends in the future.

"This guidance facilitates safer, more effective and efficient, use of these technologies," said John McDonald ABS senior vice president, Western Hemisphere Operations. "The use of RITs can reduce risk for surveyors and inspectors by lessening the need to access potentially hazardous locations at height, or other hazardous inspection areas."

We continue our list of the top stories in of 2019 here.

Read Part 2:



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