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Innovations in maritime navigation software

Innovations in maritime navigation software
Luke Christou 06 Jul 2021

Following the Ever Given incident, Suez Canal Authority head Osama Rabie speculated that human error may have been the cause rather than unfavourable conditions. The latest navigation technology reduces the risk of future incidents and offers improved efficiency and lower emissions. We investigate some solutions and how they can benefit the shipping industry.

Electronic navigation (e-navigation) solution provider NAVTOR pioneered Pay As You Sail (PAYS) in 2011, shortly before the International Maritime Organisation’s Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS) mandate kick-started the shipping industry’s transition to digital navigation. Widely used today, the solution helped to remove deficiencies in voyage planning by making all charts free of charge. NAVTOR’s vessel tracking technology monitors the ship’s path and charges only for cells that the vessel enters during its voyage.

“The trouble on board of ordering charts and handling licences suddenly disappeared,” Bjørn Åge Hjøllo, NAVTOR co-founder and chief business development officer for e-navigation, explains.

In the decade since its launch, NAVTOR has continued to refine its software to improve efficiency. It launched NavStation 6.0, the latest version of its passage planning software earlier this year. It brings all digital navigational data into one place, helping crews to plan and organise safe and economical voyages. Using its software, NAVTOR estimates that the time spent planning a voyage is reduced by 85% to just 30 minutes.

The ECDIS mandate requiring all vessels to have one ECDIS system on the bridge came into force in 2018 making electronic charts standard. However, nautical publications, charts, and voyage planning remain among the five top deficiencies in the industry, which Hjøllo explains are often to do with failure to update charts.

While many of its competitors use USB sticks or CDs, delivered on board to update charts before a voyage, NAVTOR has introduced the NavBox, a software and hardware solution that automates the distribution and updating of digital charts and navigational data. New data is pushed over existing SATCOM systems to NavBox, keeping vessels fully compliant and up-to-date with minimal administrative work required.

“It’s efficient, it’s time-saving, it’s reliable, and you increase cybersecurity dramatically when you’re removing the USB stick,” Hjøllo says.

Easing shipping’s environmental impact

Improved efficiency brings a reduction in fuel usage; not only does this mean less cost for ship operators but also a reduction in emissions. With the IMO having adopted mandatory measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping –the industry is expected to reduce its emissions by 40% by 2030 – this is another huge benefit for operators.