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Simplifying Saving Lives: Automating AMVER

Benjamin Strong, Director, Amver Maritime Relations, USCG
Benjamin Strong, Director, Amver Maritime Relations, USCG

Published May 15, 2022 10:10 PM by The Maritime Executive

[By: NAVTOR]

NAVTOR has teamed up with the United States Coast Guard (USCG) to integrate AMVER into its innovative digital chart table software NavStation. The result is a simplification of a crucial life-saving initiative; negating barriers to entry, easing administration and boosting a key support network for sailors worldwide.

AMVER is something of an institution for sailors across the globe.

Launched in 1958, the Automated Mutual Assistance Vessel Rescue (AMVER) System is a constantly evolving safety net for ships in distress. Operated by the USCG, AMVER encourages ships to participate in a voluntary reporting scheme that details sailing plans, positions, deviations and arrivals to pinpoint locations and routes.

If AMVER receives a distress call from a vessel outside the reach of the USCG, or other participating coast guards, it can then alert nearby ships to come to the rescue. There is no place on the oceans that can’t be reached by an AMVER participant within 24 hours.

Strength in numbers

“AMVER represents the very best of what seafarers have to offer, the highest tradition of mariner helping mariner,” explains Benjamin Strong, Director, Amver Maritime Relations, USCG.

The tangible impact of that noble desire, he notes, is that the system has sent ships to 1,889 incidents in the last ten years, saving a total of 3,572 lives.

“It’s incredible,” he notes. “A hugely powerful tool for search and rescue, but one that relies on ship participation to succeed. It can only ever be as strong as the network of vessels it attracts, so we have to continually grow that pool of volunteers.”

Awareness is one thing, Strong says, and that’s high, with over 11,000 vessels currently involved (with around 6,600 reporting on a daily basis). But lowering the threshold to entry is another, especially given the increasing complexity, and demands, defining modern day shipping.

He explains: “The feedback we receive from seafarers is they want to ‘find a way to eliminate manual reporting’, easing an administrative burden which, we have to admit, adds to existing duties. We obviously wanted to help and were keen to leverage any available technologies or partners to do so.”

Cue NAVTOR.

Maritime mission

The Norwegian maritime technology company launched NavStation in 2014 as the world’s first digital chart table. The software ‘layers’ vital voyage information over ENCs to unite data on a single, integrated platform – putting, as the company says, “everything a navigator needs at their fingertips.”

One benefit of this integrated approach is the ability to simplify tasks, cutting administration through automated processes wherever possible. NavStation’s Passage Planning module is a case in point, with the platform slicing admin time from an average of over three hours per voyage to around just 30 minutes.

“This got some of our key customers* thinking about what else it could do,” reveals Todd Allen, Regional Manager, North America, NAVTOR. “One area where potential efficiencies were spotted was, of course, AMVER.”

Instead of having to manually enter data in detailed standardised language and codes, and then emailing it to AMVER, could the information already available through the Passage Planning module on NavStation be automatically collated and sent at the push of a button?

“This was an intriguing idea that fitted perfectly with our mission of enhancing safety and operational efficiency through digital innovation,” Allen states. “We’re focused on making life simpler for those at sea and this seemed to be tackling a pressing, and important, issue for them.

“So, we got to work.”

Win win win

As a result, the latest incarnation of NavStation – arriving in the next couple of weeks -  has fully integrated, and automated, AMVER reporting as standard (when used with Passage Planning).

“This is a real step forward,” Strong says.

“Firstly, the integration makes AMVER reporting easy and allows participating vessels to continue their tradition of enhancing safety at sea. Secondly, it eliminates the risk of human error in reporting, making the system more accurate, reliable and robust. Thirdly, it makes it even easier for ships that are NOT enrolled in AMVER to participate. If a ship uses NavStation, and wasn’t an AMVER participant, then there’s now no reason not to get involved. All it takes is the push of a button to be part of this life saving network!

“As such, this is a win for the ship’s crew, a win for search and rescue personnel, and it’s an obvious win for anyone in distress at sea. We are delighted to partner with NAVTOR on a project that delivers such clear benefits for all AMVER stakeholders.”

Supporting heroes

From NAVTOR’s perspective, the appreciation is mutual.

“Anyone that has ever had a need to call on AMVER knows how fundamentally important an initiative it is,” Allen remarks. “This is a way that we can join in and help support the network, protecting seafarers who – now more than ever after the hardships of COVID19 – work in isolation to keep our world turning and supply vital services. They are heroes, but they need their heroes too. AMVER answers their call, and we’re proud to play our part.”

Strong has the last word on the issue, noting, with a smile, that the integration shows how “AMVER has crossed the digital divide” and will “continue to go from strength to strength, saving lives for years to come.”

A sentiment that sailors worldwide will be grateful to hear.

NavStation is available globally. In addition to the new AMVER functionality, the upcoming update also integrates IHS Markit port data, time zones and vessel load lines into the platform for the first time. NAVTOR, headquartered in Norway, is a global leader in vessel and fleet e-Navigation and performance solutions, with products and services on over 7500 ships worldwide.

The products and services herein described in this press release are not endorsed by The Maritime Executive.