A number of UKHO distributors met with UKHO representatives in Baltimore this week to prepare for the launch of Admiralty’s e-Navigator. The system integrates route planning, purchasing, and management of publications on board a vessel, and provides facilities for vessel superintendents to better manage their vessels.
It is the UKHO’s goal for the entire purchasing and management chain to be completely within the e-Navigator system. This first version of e-Navigator covers their top products, and is at present the only option for provisioning licenses for ECDIS-compliant digital charts from the Admiralty.
What does this mean for steamship lines?
e-Navigator is a two part system. Vessels, marine superintendants, Admiralty distributors (such as yours truly), and the UKHO itself all have roles to play within the e-Navigator framework.
The web portion of e-Navigator is called Fleet Manager, and it is to be used by the shore-based vessel support chain: marine superintendants, Admiralty distributors, and the UKHO.
Shipping company staff can approve order requests originated by a vessel, or create such orders directly, for forwarding on to a designated Admiralty distributor. The distributor in turn will approve and fill the order, which may include licenses for digital products generated by the UKHO and immediately sent to the vessel.
Planning Station is installed on a computer on board the vessel. Mariners are able to perform basic route planning tasks like checking that they have the appropriate charts for an intended voyage. They also can manage the vessel’s holdings, check for pending updates (for both paper and digital items), and download and apply updates for digital items (like ENCs or Admiralty’s Digital List of Lights). Planning Station even includes an ECDIS kernel so users can view actual digital charts they’ve licensed.
Vessels can also use Planning Station to submit an order for items they need, like the new edition of a paper chart they hold, or sailing directions along a new route. These orders are send from Planning Station to Fleet Manager, where it can be approved or amended by a vessel manager before it’s sent along to the distributor for fulfillment.
Will it work?
e-Navigator already has been working for 13,000+ vessels and 300+ shipping companies for about 9 months. Here are the main benefits they’ve reported:
Planning Station tracks the status of every navigational publication on board, and reports back to Fleet Manager. This gives vessel superintendants superb visibility across the fleet and fine-grained control over the procurement process.
e-Navigator is able to compile a list of such publications along a given route, and check that against a vessel’s current holdings. Thus, e-Navigator quickly produces a report of publications the vessel doesn’t hold which it may need, or publications that the vessel holds which are out-of-date.
e-Navigator also can produce a report of the vessel’s current holdings to assist in flag-state inspections for SOLAS compliance.
ECDIS Mandation (the kicker)
By 2018, the world’s commercial fleet will be required to use ECDIS as the primary means of navigation; for some vessels, this requirement has a deadline just a few months away. This means mariners will have to figure out just what electronic charts they need, acquire the appropriate license for them, and make sure those charts are kept up to date.
While SOLAS requires that mariners must be trained in operating an ECDIS, SOLAS does not address the matter of managing digital chart data outside of the ECDIS. Rather, the nature of digital navigation per se will require that the mariner and shipping company come up with some system to manage it all, or else fall into disarray and out of SOLAS compliance.
Admiralty’s Vector Chart Service (AVCS) and Raster Chart Service (ARCS) solve the problem of acquiring appropriate licensing for ECDIS-compliant charts. e-Navigator solves the other problems of figuring out which charts are needed and making sure those charts are up-to-date.
The UKHO is aware that not all will receive e-Navigator with open arms, and they recognize that poor management its development will doom the project. In a post published just a few hours ago on their Future of Navigation blog, the UKHO admits “a project of this scale risks creating a monster rather than a better mousetrap”. Even still, the team behind e-Navigator remains optimistic that it will continue to improve as a system, and improve business for everyone.
For UKHO distributors, especially those in the United States, the jury is still out.