An approach to e-Navigation

Jun 2007 | Comments Off on An approach to e-Navigation

A discussion on the main tasks of the maritime community for the near future in the field of E-Navigation.

The common objective shared by all the Member States of IMO (International Maritime Organization) is a commitment to deliver safe, secure and effi cient shipping on clean oceans. The co-sponsors of this submission believe that IMO now has an opportunity to develop and map out a clear strategic vision for one common integrating and utilizing all the navigational technological tools at our disposal to secure a greater level of safety and incident prevention which will, at the same time, deliver substantial operating efficiencies with resulting commercial benefi ts, whilst also continuing to respect the freedom of navigation rights.

It is decide to add a new item on ENavigation to the work programme of the IMO Sub-Committee on Safety of Navigation (NAV) and also to that on Radio-communications and Search and Rescue (COMSAR). The aim should be to develop a strategic vision for the utilization of existing and new navigational tools, in particular electronic and radiocommunication tools, in a holistic and systematic manner.

E-Navigation would help reduce navigational accidents, errors and failures by developing standards for an accurate and cost effective system that would make a major contribution to the IMO’s agenda.

Scope of the Proposal

The aim is to develop an overarching accurate, secure and cost-effective system with the potential to provide global coverage for vessels of all sizes.

Implementation of this new strategic vision might require modifications to working methods and navigational tools, such as charts, integration of bridge equipment, electronic aids to navigation, communications and shore infrastructure. At this stage, it is difficult to be precise about the full extent of the changes that might be necessary to fully deliver this vision. However, there might need to be changes to a number of regulatory instruments, including the appropriate chapters in the SOLAS Convention. This would therefore entail consideration of the various strands of this policy in the Sub-Committees on Safety of Navigation (NAV) and Radiocommunications and Search and Rescue (COMSAR). This proposal is not in any way intended to conflict with the clear principle, as confirmed in the SOLAS Convention, of the master’s authority for the operational safety of the vessel, and in UNCLOS, of freedom of navigation rights.


The E-Navigation Committee of IALA’s proposes the following working defi nition of E-Navigation as a starting point: “ENavigation is the collection, integration and display of maritime information onboard and ashore by electronic means to enhance berth-to-berth navigation and related services, safety and security at sea and protection of the marine environment.”

Similar point of view is presented by others Authors. According to Basker [Basker, 2005] E-Navigation is the transmission, manipulation and display of navigational information in electronic formats to support port-to-port operations. Its main components will be:

* electronic navigation charts,
* positioning – combined use satellite and terrestrial radionavigation services,
* vessel information – route, heading, manoeuvring parameters and other status items,
* communication – ship to shore, shore to ship and ship to ship,
* integrated displays – on board ship and shore,
* information prioritization and alert capability.

An Initial Approach To E-navigation

E-Navigation is intended to make safe navigation easier and cheaper.
It is needed:

* to minimise navigational errors, incidents and accidents;
* to protect people, vessels, cargoes, marine environment and resources;
* to improve safety and security;
* to reduce costs for shipping and coastal states; and
* to deliver benefi ts for the commercial shipping industry;

It can be delivered:

* by using satellite positioning and radiocommunication systems;
* by introducing INS/IBS and computer technology on ships;
* by introducing common format for automatic data exchange with shore-based monitoring and intervention capability.

The aim is to develop a strategic vision for E-navigation, to integrate existing and new navigational tools, in particular electronic tools, in an all-embracing system that will contribute to enhanced navigational safety (with all the positive repercussions this will have on maritime safety overall and environmental protection) while simultaneously reducing the burden on the navigator. As the basic technology for such an innovative step is already available, the challenge lies in ensuring the availability of all the other components of the system, including electronic navigational charts, and in using it effectively in order to simplify, to the benefi t of the mariner, the display of the occasional local navigational environment. Enavigation would thus incorporate new technologies in a structured way and ensure that their use is compliant with the various navigational communication technologies and services that are already available, providing an overarching, accurate, secure and cost-effective system with the potential to provide global coverage for ships of all sizes.

Human Element

Some observations were made on the human element issues that need to be addressed when developing an E-Navigation strategy:

* man/machine interface (i.e., balance between standardisation and allowing for innovation and development);
* modes of information display/portrayal;
* appropriate communication of situation awareness; and
* equipment should be designed to engage both the bridge team, pilot and VTS operator, maintaining high levels of attention and motivation without causing distraction.

Key Issues and Priorities

Considering the wide range of options and benefi ts that could become part of E-Navigation, the primary value of ENavigation is to join the ship’s bridge team and sea traffi c monitoring teams to create a unifi ed navigation team that would achieve safer navigation through shared information. For full implementation of such a system it would need to be mandatory for SOLAS vessels and scaleable to all users.

It was suggested that before the primary benefi ts and value-added services could be realised, an architecture comprising three fundamental elements should fi rst be in place. These are:

* Electronic Navigation Chart (ENC) coverage of all navigational areas (WEND – Worldwide Electronic Navigational Chart Database);
* a robust electronic position-fi xing system (EPFS), with redundancy; and
* an agreed infrastructure of communications to link ship and shore.

Specifi cations for these fundamental elements are contained as follow.

Hydrographic Data (ENCs)

A full coverage of ENCs for navigational waters will require considerable effort from the world’s hydrographic community. It has further been noted that the existence of proprietary updating software in many ECDIS systems has become a key cost issue when implementing ENC data. It is thought that if, through IMO, an open architecture system could be agreed, this would allow a more competitive environment in the purchase, and maintenance of ECDIS systems thus reducing the overall costs of ENC’s and increasing the global rate of acceptance. From the seaman’s point of view there is unsolved question of responsibility for correction of information presented by ECDIS and ENC updating.

Position Fixing

Electronic position-fi xing systems, which could be integrated into e-navigation, can be divided into Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS), GNSS augmentations, terrestrial radio-navigation systems and non-radio positioning systems. There are two operational GNSS at present (GPS & GLONASS) and two more planned: European – GALILEO and The People’s Republic of China – COMPASS. It has long been recognized that GNSS require augmentation to achieve the required integrity for safety of life applications and the accuracy needed for specialized navigation and positioning. Augmentation systems fall into two broad categories: Ground Based (GBAS) and Satellite Based (SBAS). GBAS (IALA) maritime beacon system has been the standard GNSS augmentation system for maritime applications. SBAS is based on two operational (WAAS, EGNOS) and two planned public service (MSAS, GAGAN).
There are many high accuracy, local terrestrial radio-positioning systems provided, mostly on a commercial basis, for specialized applications. However, the only terrestrial radio-navigation system with widespread, regional coverage is Loran-C. The Far East Radio-Navigation System (FERNS) is provided under an international agreement between PRC, Russia, Korea and Japan and extends from the Bering Straits to the South China Sea. Saudi Arabia also has a system, covering its own territory and the Arabian Gulf. Non-Radio Positioning Systems is the Inertial Measuring Unit (IMU), usually integrated with GNSS to enhance it and cope with outages. The problem of fi xing position coordinates for navigational needs considered only in terms of measurement error seems to have already been solved in a global scale. Its realization with higher or lower precision is only a function of the technical solution adopted. Therefore, other, equally important, although often omitted, exploitation parameters of navigation systems become crucial. These are: availability, integrity, continuity and also reliability.


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