ECDIS and e-Navigation– transforming the present, guiding the future

The switch from paper charts to ENCs opened up a Pandora’s Box of possibilities. Forget about just getting vessels from A to B, suddenly e-Navigation could be used to deliver far ranging business benefits – empowering both navigators and shipowners in a new age of seamless digital communication. And, according to NAVTOR CCO Børge Hetland, the voyage has only just begun…

The ECDIS mandate changed the face of shipping. With one wave of the regulatory wand (almost) the entire shipping industry made the transition from paper charts to digital as the primary mode of navigation. At the time the move may not have been universally celebrated – many industries resist change, and shipping is arguably more traditional than most – but as soon as navigators, officers, fleet managers and owners got used to the switch their eyes were open to a new world of business and operational potential. The idea of turning back to paper now would be anathema, especially for the younger generation within the industry. Shipping has, well and truly, gone digital.

Platform for progress

ECDIS is the e-Navigation hub, and e-Navigation is the key to unlocking smarter shipping. e-Navigation is all about data, or more precisely the sharing of data – between vessels and shore, across fleets, throughout entire business organisations. It starts with the charts themselves, with the very latest ENCs and publications pushed from locations on shore to those on the bridge, ensuring safe, compliant and predictable vessel operations. But the charts are really just the foundation that a whole suite of services can be built upon. Here at NAVTOR we have developed the NavStation software – the world’s first digital chart table. This uses the ENCs as a base and then overlays a vast range of relevant data on top, spanning everything from real-time weather information, to security alerts, tidal patterns, georeferenced regulatory information (from international rules right down to individual port requirements) and vessel traffic, to name just a few options. As such all the information a navigator needs to make optimal operational decisions is gathered on one screen, literally at their fingertips.

Universal benefits

The result is continually optimised routes, leading to significant fuel and emissions savings, enhanced safety and compliance, and better use of resources. In addition, processes can be automated and administration burdens slashed (our Passage Planning module reduces admin time from an average of over three hours to under 30 minutes per vessel, per voyage), translating to a huge economy across fleets. For those on the shore, this data flow becomes an invaluable fleet management tool, allowing teams to obtain a real time overview of vessel movement, performance and compliance before comparing ships to analyse, learn and introduce fleet wide improvements. Try doing all that with a paper chart.

Enabling innovations

ECDIS is here to stay. Upcoming regulations in 2024 will improve and standardise the way information is presented, offering charts with more data and detail, finer scale and more accurate, clearer displays. But before that stage expect further benefits as the industry, with NAVTOR at the vanguard, continues to push the boundaries of e-Navigation. With the secure flow of data across fleets at its heart, e-Navigation can be the enabler in achieving greater automation, reduced crews and the eventual move towards autonomy. It’s all about establishing connections and creating full 360-degree awareness, whether you’re on the bridge, or sat in the fleet management office on shore. If that can be achieved – if you can gain complete control – then you can run vessels from anywhere, always making optimal decisions and achieving desired operational results.

Complete awareness

In terms of creating genuinely ‘real-time’ awareness, NAVTOR is currently working with fellow Norwegian firm ScanReach on a landmark project. ScanReach has developed a low cost ‘plug and play’ wireless IoT platform that can be installed on any ship, without the need for cabling, communicating through the most complex steel environments. This has the power to connect virtually any piece of equipment, system, or individual via sensor technology. By integrating that technology into our own communication infrastructure – the NavBox is our cyber secure hub for all data transferal between ship and shore – we can create a seamless information channel running from onboard sensors to land-based facilities, and back, enabling optimal decision-making, 24/7. Every piece of equipment, every individual system, can be connected and integrated, with everyone that needs to monitor them data-empowered and ready to act.

​It’s a true gamechanger.

The next step

Now, more than ever, we have to admit that nobody knows what the future holds. But with the power of e-Navigation we can at least help steer the shipping industry on the optimal route forwards – with enhanced safety, control, environmental standards and performance. Watch this space folks: There’s a whole raft of innovations, and benefits, coming up on the horizon…