News Item

Innovation in Maritime Navigation - Summary of Outcomes

The RIN, along with the GLAs and the KTN held a seminar on Innovation in Maritime Navigation on 2 March. Here's a summary of the outcomes.

1. The operational environment for future maritime navigation is becoming more challenging, with the growth in numbers and sizes of vessels, increasingly limited manoeuvrability and the proliferation of wind farms reducing the navigable sea room and funnelling traffic through pinch points.

2. Technology solutions must be driven by mariners’ needs and take account of human factors in their development, which has not always been achieved easily.

3. Mariner training should maintain traditional nav-skills through continued professional development, recognising that fully resilient navigation technology is unlikely by 2030. It should focus on the human factors and limitations associated with existing and new technologies.

4. There are promising complementary technologies that could offer greater resilience, accuracy, integrity and availability of navigation information, but there is no ‘silver bullet’ solution. Therefore devices that integrate a mix of diverse inputs are needed.

5. Availability and integrity of maritime navigation will continue to improve as multiple GNSS constellations and augmentation systems become operational. A new paradigm should be considered, where inertial sensors become the primary component of future navigation, with other sensors used to constrain inertial drift. Even with recent improvements in FOG and MEMS sensors, existing navigational drift of affordable sensors limits ‘harbour-approach’ operation without GNSS to one minute or less.

6. Candidate complementary technologies for dead reckoning and position-fixing include: Ranging Mode (R-Mode) from Medium Frequency coastal DGPS beacons; absolute positioning using ship’s radar with a coastal infrastructure of active radar responders (adapted racons) or passive contour/feature matching; signals-of-opportunity (AM broadcasting would be best but is being switched off across Europe; digital television is promising but range-limited); bathymetric seabed contour navigation; low earth orbit, satellite ranging and Doppler signals; Lidar local relative positioning; Quantum Technologies using cold atom sensing of rotation and acceleration, with affordable compact devices in longer timescales. A sensor integration architecture could use a Universal Integration Filter with each sensor configured through a standard interface.

7. The rapid pace of digital technology and the familiarity and dependence of the younger generation of mariners leads them, as ‘digital natives,’ to expect such solutions to be available on the ship’s bridge. With the long regulatory timescales for ships’ equipage, there is a risk that such ‘digital native’ mariners use unapproved systems and Apps, which may impact safety. The information used could be uncontrolled and incorrect. These trends are accelerating as portable devices such as iPads and smartphones provide growing capability and ease of use, and as the number of ‘digital native’ mariners increases.

8. The diversity of bridge equipment (eg 38 different types of ECDIS kit) leads to the need for more ‘type specific’ training. Greater standardisation of equipment would improve safety and reduce the training burden created by the introduction of new technology.

9. Traditional skills from ‘pre-digital age’ navigators need to be transferred to the younger generation of mariners and be accommodated in the design of digital systems. This must be done in a short timescale while both generations with traditional skills and the understanding of digital capabilities are active. Mariners must remain aware of what the technology is doing and its limitations. Equipment design should trap human error and make evident technology limits, such as clearly displaying the uncertainty in the measurement of the ship’s position.

10. The need for economic efficiency of shipping may force more rapid adoption of new technologies and ways of working, demand faster response of regulatory processes and encourage investment in innovative solutions. This requires a commensurate understanding of operational risks by ship owners.

11. Many transport sectors are embracing autonomy. The innovations to support autonomy are providing wider benefits, even for manned systems, but maritime is perceived to be slow to adopt these ideas and hence is missing the opportunity. Maritime could learn lessons from aviation and automotive sectors, so a future event with wider stakeholders is desirable.

12. Many of the issues raised around navigation and the adoption of digital technology are considered to be similar to those encountered in other sectors. Further events would encourage cross-fertilisation of ideas and solutions.

13. Maritime systems are vulnerable to cyberattack. Even regulated systems such as ECDIS have many interconnections with other bridge and external systems, such as internet and email, without having in place adequate protection from viruses and targeted attack.

  • 15 March 2016
  • RIN

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