1: The appraisal stage

The first step, known as the appraisal stage, is to gather all relevant information for the upcoming voyage. In this regard, the navigator has to consider what information is relevant and where to find it. This takes a lot of time, as there is a huge amount of information and resources available in different books and publications.

The challenge of gathering all relevant nautical information from many different sources can be complex and time-consuming. Furthermore, the navigator has to make sure that all data is up to date. Another important thing is to know how to use these resources and to understand how to interpret and apply the information the correct way.

Fortunately, digitization has already started to improve the situation, and going forward NAVTOR believes that all the information will be digital and available on demand. Updates will be seamless and automatic, transforming the appraisal stage from being a manual and time-consuming task to a safer, easier and automated procedure.

2: The planning stage

Today, when starting the planning stage, the navigator will typically use a spread sheet or an excel sheet to manually prepare a detailed plan for the voyage. Doing it manually is also very time-consuming as they have to fill out a lot of information such as latitude, longitude, UKC, Position fix, Parallel Indexing, Course & Speed Alterations, Rate of Turn, ENC, tidal data, NavArea Warnings, NAVTEX and more for each waypoint in the route. Imagine filling in this information for let’s say 140 waypoints! We are talking hours every day, with high risk of typos that could be flagged as deficiencies by vetting or Port State Control. This enormous workload has in some instances resulted in bridge officers cutting corners, which can jeopardize safety.

With automatic logging and calculations of nautical information, e-Navigation technology will make the planning stage more efficient, accurate and safer. All the required information will be filled in automatically for each waypoint, and digital safety checks ensures the safety of the vessel and the crew by analyzing the route and comparing the navigational data with the vessel´s draught, height and other specifications.

In the future NAVTOR expect the planning stage to be a fully automated process. As route optimization technology matures, the result could be that all the navigator has to do is to tell the system where they want to go, and instantly generate a complete plan for their voyage.

Only time will tell, but in any case, it is clear that e-Navigation will lead to significant advantages for shipping companies as it will simplify and enhance the process of creating safe, compliant and accurate passage plan documentation.

3: The execution stage

Today, ship reporting remains a huge administrational burden for a vessel which embarks on a voyage. There are tens, sometimes hundreds of different reports a ship may be obliged to submit during a single journey, many of which mostly contain same information.

As a part of the SESAME-2 research project, NAVTOR is exploring the concept of Single Window portals, which means that navigators can use one single portal to submit all their documents for port and authority clearance. The project is also looking to develop a system that will enable the machine-to-machine interaction without the need of human input. In other words, an automated ship reporting will save bridge officers valuable time.

In future there is also a great potential in using augmented reality (AR) to enhance the navigator situational awareness by placing information from the ECDIS and other information systems directly in their field of vision. Examples of such information could include speed, tidal information, buoyage, weather data, guides to major port entry and fuel usage. In situations where the weather is foggy, safety would be maintained by giving navigators a clear view, with information that keeps them on track with sailing route, marine traffic, distance to land, depth, navigational hazards etc. It will be almost like having a navigator with Superman’s X-ray vision!

4: The monitoring stage

When the vessel is underway the navigator is responsible for maintaining safety. This could also be a challenge as shipping is an industry full of surprises. No matter how many hours a navigator spends carefully appraising all relevant information and planning the intended voyage, there is always a chance that conditions could change. Unexpected situations that may occur could be sudden changes in weather, accidents, shift of cargo, sickness, injuries, or unexpected technical difficulties that demands a change in route, or that the vessel seek out a port of refuge.

With better connectivity between ship and shore it is possible for Fleet Operations Centers to assist the vessel if any unexpected situations occur. With support from a land-based team, shipping companies will have a better monitoring of the ship’s progress along the pre-planned route, which could result in better control and increased safety.

Fleet Operations Centers are also one of the steps towards autonomous vessels. During the ENABLE-S3 project NAVTOR has investigated the concept of ‘shore-based bridges’ and tested the validity of the software element of a remote bridge concept. Built on continuous data sharing between vessels and land, the project has explored the potential to transfer key navigation functions from the crew on board to office-based teams. In other words, this means that in the future shore-based operators will be able to navigate vessels at sea.

In conclusion

The world is being digitized, and the steady advance of information and communication technology and the ever-increasing amounts of data will continue to drive unprecedented change. This means that even traditional industries like shipping will go through great changes. For NAVTOR it is clear that e-Navigation will transform all stages of the passage planning process and increase safety and efficiency. This will save hours of time, reduce costs, avoid accidents and eliminate deficiencies. It could also play an important part in making shipping greener and more sustainable.


Above text is an edited version of Mr. Børge Hetland presentation during the 2019 SMART4SEA CONFERENCE.

View his presentation herebelow.

The views presented hereabove are only those of the author and not necessarily those of  SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion  purposes only.

About Børge Hetland, Sales & Marketing Director, NAVTOR

Børge Hetland is NAVTOR’s Sales & Marketing Director. NAVTOR was established in 2011, launching its acclaimed ENC service to the market in 2012. NAVTOR’s ENC-based portfolio enables seamless access to, and updates of, the very latest digital charts, saving man-hours while slashing administration duties.