ABB: World Maritime Day – a key opportunity to embrace digital crew support technologies

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New autonomous and digital technologies can transform the way seafarers work by improving decision-making, enhancing safety and allowing people to focus on what they do best.

Eero Lehtovaara, Regulatory Affairs Manager at ABB Marine & Ports

Over the past five years, and particularly over the past 20 months, digital technologies have transformed life on land, at home and at work. World Maritime Day 2021 therefore provides a timely opportunity to explore how digital and autonomous technologies can transform the working lives of our seafarers while improving both safety standards and operational efficiency.

International shipping is an essential but often invisible activity that fulfills a vital role in the lives of almost everyone on this planet. Maritime transport has also experienced a digital revolution: the considerable progress made in ship-to-shore connectivity now allows real-time monitoring, remote maintenance and real-time data flow on parameters such as fuel consumption, weather and trip performance.

However, a whole new range of digital and autonomous technologies has also been developed which can help sailors in their routine work schedules and support them in an emergency. These extensive systems are available to lighten the workload for mariners and engineers, and to raise safety standards by enabling staff to manage their time more efficiently and make better decisions.

Many of these digital systems have already proven themselves and new solutions are being developed rapidly. Step by step, offering new and better ways to operate ships.

Some understanding of the potential impacts of these technologies can be obtained by considering two existing “smart” technologies that are already fully accepted by our industry. Both provide recognized support to seagoing personnel and set new standards for safety in vessel operations.

The first is the humble autopilot, now a standard feature on many ships, which detects the difference between a ship’s designated heading and its actual heading. Automatic rudder adjustments keep the vessel on track at all times without the intervention of the coxswain.

The second is the Dynamic Positioning System, which is now found on many offshore vessels, including some of the most sophisticated construction, response and installation vessels in service today. Without the dynamic positioning systems and back-up redundancy that the most advanced systems now incorporate, the safe installation of many offshore structures, including fixed and floating energy installations and renewable installations, would not be possible.

At ABB, we have gone further by developing ABB Ability ™ Marine Pilot Vision; an intelligent solution that merges the data available on board, to generate digitally enhanced situational awareness, allowing a much greater overview around the vessel and its travel path. In addition, ABB Ability ™ Marine Pilot Control enables a whole new way of controlling ships; where the operator previously had to switch between different systems to perform maneuvering, transit and hold, all modes are now available through one system.

Investigate better situational awareness, further developed in the Bridge Zero (B0) concept, which can be used to better support the working models of bridge personnel. The B0 concept describes what allows a conditionally and periodically unattended deck and is designed for use on long ocean passages where the watcher can see nothing more than empty sea for hours. Under these circumstances, an “electronic watch” can take into account the distance to which other vessels are, our heading / speed and the headings / speeds of other vessels. During this time, bridge personnel can take on other essential tasks during their shift knowing they will be alerted if necessary.

The purpose of this development is to allow humans to focus on what they do best – applying their knowledge and experience, exercising judgment, dealing with uncertainty and solving problems – while digital systems deal with tasks. repetitive and potentially tiring. It is a division of labor conducive to higher safety standards.

Digital systems can monitor a wide range of parameters continuously, with pinpoint accuracy, 24 hours a day. They provide a constant stream of reliable data automatically or as often as needed. Unlike humans, these systems are “always on”. In a context of security, but also in terms of efficiency, the situational awareness of the human-machine combination is unbeatable.

The essential role of maritime transport in sustaining global supply chains has never been clearer and, on this important day, it is essential that we recognize our seafarers as the basis for this role. However, thousands of years of maritime history also confirm the link between technological advancements and improved ship safety and efficiency. As a maritime technology part of ABB, ABB Marine & Ports pushes the boundaries of technology to ensure greater vessel efficiency, increased safety and environmental performance. On the intelligent systems side, our goal is to develop technology that works with the crew by playing to the best of both capacities, providing sailors with assistance tools that simplify operations, improve the overview of the situation. and allow better decision making.

In an era of rapidly evolving digital technology, World Maritime Day provides an opportune time to reflect that one of the priorities of maritime transport is to harness these technologies to the best of efficiency, sustainability and safety. safety on the high seas, in coastal waters and in ports. .


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