While many mariners grapple with digital technical jargon such as the term ‘bandwidth’ since it did not form part of their seafaring careers, sustainable revenue growth should be the impetus for change, not technology, which was the message at an Elcome sponsored Institute of Marine Engineering, Science & Technology (IMarEST) UAE Branch meeting attended by 150 members of the Middle East maritime industry. The willingness to engage with bold, revolutionary ideas such as emerging technologies are key drivers behind a company’s progressive outlook creating high economic value.
Opening what has become the bedrock of the region’s marine technology forums, Nikeel Idnani, Honorary Secretary IMarEST UAE highlighted that clever technology working with skilled and experienced professionals will bring improved levels of safety, lower levels of emissions, and higher revenues than we see now. That followed welcome remarks from the articulate Executive Director of Elcome - Jimmy Grewal, who had a strong appetite for technological uptake.
Ryo Yajima, Division Manager of JRC Alphatron Marine, introduced their latest smart shipping solutions when he presented Enhancing safety and efficiency through digital navigation. The Navigational electronic Conning Station Table (NeCST) combined with their proprietary J-Marine Cloud enables officers to share navigation information, such as assured routes and port information (photos, notes, etc), between ships and offices. The NeCST, manufactured by JRC with the knowledge and advice of NYK Line, increases the level of safety onboard as ships can share information with the office in real-time during emergency situations. He then explained the Smart Ship Viewer (SSV), which has the capability to monitor ship movements and the status of JRC equipment from the company office. This service contributes to efficient Bridge Resource Management including avoidance of unexpected equipment problems. The SSV can obtain data that is stored in a JRC VDR (ship speed, steering, engine information, etc.) via the J-Marine Cloud. This remote service confirms the navigation status of ships and checks the situation of any accident quickly without the need for any intervention of the crew upon occurrence of the event. The Voyage Archive feature enables information sharing, facilitating a reduction in the workload for situations such as creating a navigational plan along the same route.
Andreas Luteberget, Senior Director of Global Eagle, in his presentation The connected ship: Why, how and what? leveraged on the words of Leonardo da Vinci - “Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else,” and prophesied the short term will witness a period of economic and technological disruption in maritime connectivity. Not only are incumbent operators launching advanced HTS-class satellites on both Ku and Ka bands, but well-funded new satellite companies are also preparing NGSO constellations. Multi-orbit, multi-band satellites, along with alternate access technologies like 5G, will be able to drive a step change in power, efficiency, coverage and cost. In the coming years, new satellites, constellations and access technologies will create new opportunities. Bandwidth cost will continue to decline, while lower latency will improve end-user experience. He emphasized that digitalisation is about finding the tools that will help to improve a business model.
Following Andreas’s presentation, his colleague - Benny Retnamony, Senior Director of Engineering at Global Eagle, showcased An overview of hybrid networks and how IMO might drive it to be the standard for increasing levels of autonomy in shipping. Benny stressed that hybrid connectivity leveraging multi-band, multi-orbit and multi-access technologies with ‘open architecture’ is the future of maritime connectivity. While the potential is huge, customers should pick the right solution that can manage applications and bandwidth across multiple disparate connections. It should be software driven and fully automated to drive lower economics and increase data efficiency. Benny reaffirmed that data creates information for intelligent decision-making contributing towards setting the benchmark for successful ship operation and staying ahead of the curve.
Kostiantyn Matvieiev, Senior Manager at Elcome, spoke on Cyber Security on the Bridge with practical reference to file transfers on navigational equipment. His stern rebuke when defining current threats, was that traditionally ships have been vulnerable to viruses which become critical when ECDIS is the primary means of navigation. The main concern arises when the Master receives his weekly ENC updates or permit files and transfers them from the communication computer to ECDIS with help of a USB (which is cheapest and easiest way to transfer). This becomes the weak link when it comes to cyber security on board. Password or fingerprint protected USBs don’t work well on the bridge due to the nature of operational needs, i.e. multiple watchkeepers, change in crew, etc. The ability of a ship to operate safely and not to endanger other ships can be severely compromised resulting in damage to the company’s reputation, loss of assets, inquiries, possible lawsuits, etc. He explained the case of a new-build bulk carrier delayed from sailing for several days because the ECDIS was infected by a virus and incorrectly diagnosed as a technical disruption by the ship’s staff. It was only after the visit of the OEM technician who discovered both ECDIS networks were infected with a virus that prompted quarantine action and restoring of the ECDIS computer although resulting in the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars in downtime and repairs. To combat cyber security threats on the bridge, Elcome has created the BridgeDefender software which is simple, yet an efficient way of transferring files between E-mail/Internet enabled PC to ECDIS or other important equipment on the bridge. This affordable solution can be part of Safety Management System which becomes a mandatory part of annual verification of a company’s Document of Compliance after 1st of January, 2021.
In the concluding interactive Q&A panel discussion, while being divided on some issues, most delegates emphasized that maritime businesses should embrace technology rather than fear it. It should not be misinterpreted as a race to show technological prowess, but instead technology should be an enabler. The 150 members of the Middle East maritime fraternity present in the Taj Dubai concluded that digitalisation can indeed take operational efficiency to the next level for shipping companies brave enough to make the effort to make it work for them.