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Changing Chairs

New BRM systems are changing bridge layouts, enhancing safety and transparency through increased integration and information-sharing. 

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The Manta Neo bridge system (Hensoldt UK)

By Wendy Laursen 06-07-2020 11:38:00

(Article originally published in Jan/Feb 2020 edition.)

Dedicated bridge chairs can do more than ease long hours standing on the bridge. They can help to define roles too, particularly as bridge resource management techniques and increasing automation make the captain's role more of an overseer.

Traditionally, the captain would stand at the front of the bridge and give orders. The rest of the bridge team would be behind, feeding information forward. In changing to a function-based organization rather than a rank-based one, roles can be defined in a manner that facilitates captains using their experience to oversee maneuvers from behind the team.

Particularly on cruise ships where there can be a large bridge team, chairs can help define roles, says Captain Stuart Greenfield, a consultant for TMC Marine. Greenfield and his colleagues have conducted navigation audits and now, more frequently, navigation assessments that include analysis of the human element.

“The fitting of chairs on the bridge can be a contentious issue,” he says. “While bridge resource management (BRM) is possible without chairs, I believe it benefits from having them fitted at the positions of navigator, co-navigator and operations director. The BRM system requires a lot of time to be spent in one location, particularly for the navigator and co-navigator. Our experience is that after two or three hours on the watch, officers can be distracted by the effects of standing for long periods. This is made worse in bad weather. Additionally, when chairs are used, it’s clear who’s assigned what role in the BRM system.”

Bridges should be designed to be BRM-friendly, Greenfield adds. Issues that require consideration include communication between wing stations and the center navigation station and the location of alarm panels, which should be convenient for the co-navigator to access.

Also important is thinking aloud. This involves officers describing their thought-processes and talking through their actions so the whole team can understand what is taking place, why and, if necessary, challenge the decisions being made. For many, such a BRM system is a completely new way of thinking about leadership, and it’s important that the captain champion the process. “With this system in place,” says Greenfield, “it’s easier for captains to share their experience with the other officers, in effect becoming a mentor to future captains.”

Intuitive Displays

Those future captains can expect increasing technological support. Furuno, for example, is preparing to launch an augmented reality bridge system that superimposes navigation information over live video from a forward-pointing camera. This very intuitive way of displaying and sharing information between the captain and bridge team provides enhanced situational awareness, crew confidence, watchkeeper support and allows for better coordination of crew members, says National Sales Manager Matt Wood.

The timely presentation of information is crucial, says Wood, and Furuno continues to integrate functionality into consoles: “We’re leveraging some of the regulatory technology, such as redundant satellite speed log information, into the chart radar to give bridge teams the means to very accurately predict the movement of the vessel in a congested harbor. We've calculated close to four-inch accuracy on a vessel that's over 1,000 feet long.”  

The company has also expanded its solid state radar beyond S-band to X-band. The technology offers superior target detection, using Doppler technology, and features one-button clutter elimination and also instant automatic radar plotting aid (ARPA). Using conventional navigation sensors, Furuno has created additional processing devices such as wave-processing radar that enables wave height and period analysis.

Route Optimization

Norwegian Electric Systems is looking to the future by participating in a project developing automatic route optimization like that used on airplanes. It means part of the job is taken away from the captain and  given over to computers to set the optimal, most economic speed, says Svein Ove Farstad, General Manager, Sales & Marketing. 

The project is initially focusing on a ferry application for the “auto-crossing” technology being built into NES’s integrated navigation system. The company also intends to reduce the number of panels and buttons on the bridge, despite the growing complexity of new technology.

Farstad anticipates more hybrid propulsion systems, batteries and greater use of hydrogen. “We need to combine navigation and propulsion systems in a new way,” he says. The company aims to be involved early in the design phase of newbuildings to offer a complete bridge and propulsion package: “Many things are changing now in the marine industry – more complex systems, more new systems – so it's more important than ever to have complete scope.”

NES will enable this scope through two key focus areas: Energy Design and Smart Control. “New requirements and the demand for more efficient and safe operation call for smarter control on board,” says Farstad. “There’s a lot of new technology coming into vessels, but it still needs to be very easy to use and understand.”

Systems Integration

Ben Todd, Vice President & COO of Beier Integrated Systems, sees growing interest in the addition of dynamic positioning (DP) to existing vessels, not just those in the oil and gas industry, with a focus on windfarm construction and support vessels, research vessels, military vessels and pleasure craft. DP can make older vessels more competitive. 

“DP is a mature product, and it’s able to be installed or retrofitted on almost any vessel,” says Todd. “It’s accepted technology that’s been proven to increase safety and add capability.”

For navigation equipment, there’s increasing demand for custom-designed consoles and fully integrated bridges. Increasing bandwidth at sea is driving further development. 

“Although technology to connect ships to shore has been available for a while,” Todd says, “we’re seeing the cost for this technology decrease with more owners adding this capability to their vessels. They not only want the navigation and communication information at their fingertips, they want all vessel information at their fingertips. Our bridge systems are very functional and support integration with many other systems. This allows us to provide almost any information in real time.”

Simplified Menus

Hensoldt UK, formerly Kelvin Hughes Limited, has released Manta NEO, the next generation of its Kelvin Hughes Integrated Navigation System (INS), designed for all types of vessels including the largest cruise ships. Introducing a simplified menu structure similar to mobile phones as well as a much faster processor and more secure Android-based platform, Manta NEO creates an easy-to-use interface that’s fully integrated with all existing navigation equipment and sensors.

“When developing Manta NEO,” explains Flemming Haase, Head of Commercial Marine Systems, “our intent was to create a common structure across all integrated products within the platform. We’ve also made better use of the screen area to show radar and the information provided by ECDIS. The new Manta NEO Multifunction Displays provide configurable access to all tasks critical to navigation – radar, ECDIS, conning displays, bridge alarm management – greatly improving situational awareness.”

The Manta NEO INS incorporates high-reliability, solid-state drives, and Hensoldt is a provider of solid-state X- and S-Band radars that can identify and track the smallest targets in the toughest conditions, including rain and sea clutter. They can also detect ice and other low-radar, cross-section targets.

Converging Trends

Phil Ballou, Product Manager for Commercial Services at Navico, says a large number of seemingly disconnected trends are converging to make the commercial maritime business more challenging: “Escalating operating costs with smaller operating budgets, growing complexity of ship systems and regulatory requirements, increasing weather severity, compressed shipping schedules and smaller crews. As a result, ship operators are outsourcing more work to shore-based service providers such as Navico C-MAP.”

Navico’s C-MAP products and services address a large portion of the maritime transportation network. Its Integrated Maritime Suite (IMS™) is installed on the ship to simulate and optimize the route plan for safety, efficiency and on-time arrival. It’s also used by C-MAP’s shore-based voyage-planning service. 

C-MAP IMS™ includes a utility to order and manage the vessel’s official electronic navigation charts (ENC) and publications, for which C-MAP is an authorized distributor. C-MAP offers a comprehensive ocean weather service including forecast (up to 15 days) and hindcast data for performance analysis. FleetManager is a Web portal that allows ship managers to analyze the performance of their ships from anywhere in the world with Internet access.

Ballou says the company has more releases planned: “In response to IMO 2020, we plan to focus on improving support across our product line for ships running multiple fuels, those fitted with scrubbers, and LNG carriers. We’re also investigating adding coverage of Northern Passage routes, both in the C-MAP’s IMS™ product and our shore-based voyage-planning service, in support of this growing market.”

New Horizons

So captains of the future will lead the industry toward new horizons with new technologies and greater support. The changes will bring new benefits too. 

“The increased data and speed of delivery can provide much-needed operational transparency among the various stakeholders,” Ballou says. “This enables important efficiency management techniques such as just-in-time arrival. Taken further, big data with sufficient interagency transparency would allow end-to-end optimization of the entire transportation supply chain including shippers, shipping logistics companies, ships, ports, connecting services and end-users.” – MarEx

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.