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“Autonomous navigation will remain the key trend in next two decades”

Oct 2022 | No Comment


Dr. Capt. Hesham M. Helal

Secretary General 0f International Association of Institutes of Navigation (IAIN), President of Arab Institute of Navigation (AIN) and Dean of Maritime Postgraduate Studies Institute, Arab Academy for Science, Technology & Maritime Transport (AASTMT)

Would you like to tell us about the International Association of Institute of Navigation (IAIN) such as its objectives and recent activities?

History of the IAIN

1957 – A series of conferences sponsored by the British, French and German Institutes of Navigation (ION) were held at three year intervals to discuss technical navigation issues.

1964 – The International Maritime (then Consultative) Organization (IMCO) accepted a report prepared by the three IONs on Traffic Regulation in the Dover Strait. 

1968 – A further report on the Separation of Traffic at Sea was accepted by the Maritime Safety Committee of IMCO.

1975 – The Presidents of the Institutes of Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States agreed to the formal declaration of an International Association of Institutes of Navigation (IAIN).

1976 – IAIN was granted consultative status to the International Maritime Organization (IMO). Since then many proposals and technical papers on different subjects have been put forward to IMO on such matters as traffic separation, collision regulations and accuracy standards for navigation.

1985 – IAIN was given consultative status to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Recommendations on the use of a worldwide geodetic system were made by IAIN. The aim of the IAIN is to foster human activities at sea, in the air, in space and on land, and who may benefit from the development of the science and practice of navigation and related information techniques.

The aim of the IAIN is to foster human activities at sea, in the air, in space and on land, and who may benefit from the development of the science and practice of navigation and related information techniques.

Some of the objectives of the IAIN are

  • Fostering cooperation and assistance between members.
  • Establishing technical committees or working groups to study specific problems, and producing appropriate recommendations and standards.
  • Organizing Congresses and Seminars relevant to its work.
  • Collecting and evaluating information about the activities of its Members, as well as encouraging, supporting and making known recent developments in a periodical.
  • Providing assistance to organizations requesting help either technical or organizational, or in training.
  • Maintaining liaison with relevant intergovernmental and other organizations and offering specialized advice where appropriate.

How do you perceive the evolution and the impact of evolving navigation technologies?

The current navigation technologies nowadays mean e-navigation, which is used onboard manned ships and of course it is the base for autonomous and unmanned shipping. Parts of shipping are already automated and no doubt that fully autonomous shipping is coming. Even though, there is a lack of investment in innovation and shipping companies are not yet fully engaging, further slowing down the process.

In your perspective, what is the general scenario of navigation technology in terms of status, trends and challenges?

Indeed, the development of navigation technology must be elaborated to avoid unnecessary accidents on one hand, and on the other shipping should preserve the freedom to generate new ideas and implement new applications. Hence, the challenge lies in balancing these competing requirements: a regulatory framework, which protects stakeholders, countries’ interests, and current and future seafarers’ rights on one side, with the freedom to develop and exploit new technologies on the other.

As you also represent Arab Institute of Navigation (AIN), are there any specific trends and challenges you observe in navigation in Arab region?

In fact, the trends in the Arab countries at the present time, from my point of view, lie in the interest in maritime education and training in line with the use of modern technology in electronic navigation systems.

This is a world of multiGNSS systems. What advantages do you see about this scenario?

  • The main advantages of the multi-GNSS systems are:
  • Accurate and more robust parameter solutions could be obtained.
  • Faster implementations of PPP and PPP-RTK due to the shorter convergence times and RTK to the ability to use longer base lengths for which instant ambiguity resolution is still possible.
  • Better tracking performance also improves positioning in adverse environments.
  • Offering opportunities for more precise ionospheric modelling, which in its turn is beneficial again for, for instance, long baseline RTK.

What influences you envisage in satellite navigation in the near future given the advancements in the field of AI, Autonomous Vehicles, etc.?

I expect, of course, that the trend will be for the spread of autonomous ships significantly during the next fifteen to twenty years, and thus a change in the nature of maritime profession and specializations on board ships and the emergence of modern education methods based on artificial intelligence and its applications onboard ships

As you have been extensively engaged in maritime education, would you like to highlight the key challenges in maritime education?

In fact, there are many challenges facing maritime education and training, as the seafarer is accustomed to traditional education, and this includes lecturers and students. Therefore, it has become necessary to change concepts first to accept modern methods that are in line with the developments of modern technology. And then reduce the study materials for marine sciences and increase the educational share related to modern sciences such as artificial intelligence and computer science to keep pace with modern types of ships, especially Autonomous ships.


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