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New bridge systems being developed through collaboration

Fri 10 Mar 2017 by Martyn Wingrove

New bridge systems being developed through collaboration
Frank Coles: “We are talking with JRC to use their sensors, such as radar, with Transas software”

Transas, Japan Radio Co and Alphatron Marine have joined forces to develop the next generation of vessel e-navigation solutions

Working together, Transas, Japan Radio Co (JRC) and Alphatron Marine plan to combine research and development to deliver hardware and software that will improve navigational safety and ship performance during voyages, said Transas chief executive Frank Coles.

He said the latest partnership will involve JRC’s sensors, such as radar, Transas’s software and Alphatron’s integration experience to compete with the major players. These companies will collaborate to develop further vessel automation, data applications, fleet operations and simulation. Mr Coles said the partnership will help deliver the Transas Harmonised Eco System of Integrated Solutions (Thesis) platform. This will bring together fleet operations with the Transas Academy, vessel bridge systems and ship traffic control.

“We are talking with JRC to use their sensors, such as radar, with Transas software,” said Mr Coles, “so Transas can sell JRC radar and JRC can sell Transas software in a package. We are also working with Alphatron Marine, which is experienced in bridge integration, so we can compete with the major players in this field.” The first new development from the partnership is expected to be an electronic chart plotter that is driven by Transas software and can use JRC radar and other sensors.

JRC marine solutions engineering deputy manager Hidetaka Matsuyama agreed that the companies are proactive in driving forward this partnership for fleet monitoring, integrated bridge systems that use Transas ecdis and JRC radar, and the training technology. “This is so we can act together in a combined way,” he said.

Raytheon Anschütz is about to launch its new Ecdis NX that it said was designed by users and not just software engineers. According to product manager Björn Schröder, Raytheon explicitly considered the human element in all stages during software design to create user-friendly applications and intuitive functions.

It used feedback groups that included selected captains, nautical officers and trainers, as well as shipmanagers, seafarers, pilots, academic lecturers and maritime students. Mr Schröder said this created a wish list of functions and requirements. These were forwarded to the software engineers and product managers. This led to a prototype of Ecdis NX that included “a basic screen layout and allowed the demonstration of essential tasks and use cases such as route planning”, he explained.

The requirements from International Electrotechnical Commission standards were also used to develop the Ecdis NX for integrated navigation systems. In December 2016, captains and all the other contributors were invited back for a final external review in multiple sessions. “The feedback again indicated an intuitiveness of use throughout the different tasks as well as supportive functions that actually provide assistance to the operator,” said Mr Schröder. Ecdis NX will be unveiled in May this year.

Meanwhile, after spending 10 years with Maersk Supply Service, Peter Faurhøj has co-founded what he calls the Uber for marine electronics and communication systems. He left Maersk Supply Service, where he was head of navigation and communications systems, in January 2017 to co-found NautiCom Marine. This company has created a network of freelance bridge engineers for installation projects. “From these groups, we can use people to meet owner requirements,” he said.

Engineers can also be used for fixing radar, VSAT, radio and other bridge equipment. Mr Faurhøj said this brings flexibility to helping different vessel owners. “They want flexibility in people, so we send just one person to the vessel to fix everything on the bridge, and we have spares to order and can arrange technical courses.

He added, “This is the Uber or Airbnb for marine electronics and communications. We organise the engineers in a more constructive way.” He said this came from lessons he learned on installation projects on Maersk Supply Service vessels, where some engineers are more focused on projects than others.

 

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