‘IBS Basics’, the new book by Prof. Capt. Ralph Becker-Heins, explains what integrated bridge systems are, but most of all it aims to transfer this theory to the practical application of these complex systems and therefore contributing to a safer maritime environment.
uring recent years, a steep progress in maritime digitization, including the navigation systems can be witnessed. What started out with adding more and more add-on features to ECDIS and a subsequent merger of ECDIS with radar to so called ‘chart radar’ installations, has now become fully integrated navigation and bridge systems. It is crucial that a thorough knowledge of the bridge systems – its advantages but also its limitations – must be brought to the knowledge of those operating it: the crew on board. Yet, also other stakeholders in a wider sense will profit from knowledge on the ‘new’ integrated systems as when cooperating with the crew, such as pilots, ship inspectors, or maritime authorities.
We all see buzzwords coming and going in the maritime industry. Where some stay over a longer period, others have a short life span. For example, the “blockchain” hype – although a powerful tool and part of many solutions already – abated over the years. Quite similarly, “Cyber Security” was high in discussions at times but seems somehow tackled now. Yet, there are other buzzwords which seem to be timeless. Because they refer more to an underlying principle which leads to sustainable changes in the maritime industry. Changes with their own powerful and self-fuelling dynamics, such that they mark a radical rethink of how we see shipping.
“Digitalisation” is one of those powerful revolutionary actuators, which later was transformed into “Digital Transformation” and has now escalated to “Maritime 4.0”. Driven mainly by technology enablers, Maritime 4.0 will change not only processes or concepts, but the way of business and social life.
Without a doubt, the above contoured developments are coming along with benefits and opportunities for all stakeholders. Amongst others, beneficiaries are operators aboard and ashore, authorities on different levels, but also strategic decision-makers and commercial interest holders.
Yet, to start with the onboard part of the digital ecosystem, INS/IBS came silently into the seafarers’ life. Back then, radar for shipping was a revolution, both technical and operational. Some twenty years ago, ECDIS came with a big bang, supported by a respectable number of official guidelines, press publications, books and training initiatives. In comparison, INS/IBS has sneaked in so quietly, that today, most of the navigational officers are factually using an INS/IBS, without being fully aware of this.
On a more paramount level, e-navigation too, will come into our shipping-life in smaller steps, most likely in a series of novel applications. E-navigation is more than a technological development, yet technology and more specific digitalisation are the core elements of this digital transformation in shipping. More specifically, the ‘Maritime Connectivity Platform (MCP)’ as the maritime digital platform, the ‘Maritime Resource Name (MRN)’ as the identity authentication scheme for all stakeholders, the new data frameworks standards S 100 as the ‘Common Maritime Data Structure (CMDS)’ for digital data exchange, and technical specification of E-navigation services, all will be core underlying technologies in connecting shipborne digitalisation with the shoreside digital world.
What we see ahead of us is an ever-stronger integration of shore-based information platforms and services, and in the longer run the possibilities of new maritime technology evolution trajectories. E-navigation is also about new elements making up an Internet-of-Things (IoT) and Big-Data-Analytics (BDA) enabled digital service innovation capability, comprising digital shipping strategy, cyber- physical innovation resourcing, network organisation and culture, infrastructure control and data technology management.
With every step to more enhanced digital systems and services, embedded risks come along with it. Lack of training, ignorant attitudes, data misrepresentation, lack of understanding the system’s limitations, and overreliance are just some examples referring to the human element. In addition, technical failures, poor data quality and dependency on support and logistics are other aspects to be considered. The capabilities of many digital electronic devices are strongly linked to Moore’s Law, according to which it doubles approximately every two years, and this refers to the world of navigation as well. How can it be expected that those on board and ashore operating the systems, are able to keep pace with all these innovations? Not only to operate and handle all the human-machine interfaces (knobology) of the new devices safely, but even more to understand their principals, limitations, and most importantly, to constantly monitor the plausibility of the systems’ outputs and detect any system abnormalities.
But, for those interested in bringing their knowledge up to date, study materials on INS/IBS and e-navigation are rather rare. Although there are numerous publications on INS/IBS and the encompassing e-navigation framework, many of them seem to be either on a very technical and scientific level, or focused on a narrowed objective, or related to a particular project, or simply being outdated. What appears to be missing, are books on a rather generally intelligible level, encompassing the diverse aspects of digital transformation into a common centralistic framework, but still evincing the actual status and trends, but also possible prospects. Over a decade ago, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has envisioned to take digital navigation from the ECDIS era to the next level. While the main goals are still standing, namely improving the flow of information between ship and shore to enhance safety, and also bringing efficiency gains and, indirectly, helping the environment, it seems timely, to take stock of what has been achieved, particularly in the light of the rate of technological change in the past decade.
It is against this background, that Prof. Capt. Ralph Becker-Heins has written a number of books. Those books are part of a series by the same author which started with the successful “ECDIS Basics”, continued by “Voyage Planning with ECDIS”, and has now, in 2023, been enriched by “IBS Basics – A Practical Guide to Integrated Navigation and Bridge Systems” and “E-Navigation Basics”. All books can be ordered directly via Polestar Publishing at www.polestar-publishing.com or common book stores.
 In this context 1.0 refers to the era of sail-ships, 2.0 to engine driven vessels, and 3.0 to the industry revolution of digitalisation.