Space Age: Essential features for future yacht bridges

20 July 2018


Featured article published in the Summer 2018 edition of 'Onboard Magazine: For the yachting professional on the Mediterranean'

Click here to view the article on www.onboardmagazine.fr 

For every technical space on board a superyacht there is an area where form meets function. For the Chef that space is frequently the galley for the stews it can be the laundry room,

for the engineers it is often the control room while the ITO’s get into a sweat just thinking about the racks in the AV room. But for the navigators there is only one space where form meets function with any real degree of practicality and that is the navigation bridge.

Often called the yacht’s control centre by those that man it, many also call it the nerve centre adding with a certain amount of irreverence that it is where the Chief Nerve works. Whatever your job on board it is considered to be by many on board the focal point of the yachts working purpose. The modern day bridge with its controls, multifunctional computer screens clustered around the steering and propulsion devices can impress some, baffle others and elicit scream of despair from others. What has been designed with great care and forethought by one person or even a team of people can, at a stroke immediately win the approval of those who are going to use it or can generate much striking of the head as the potential user stares at it in amazement and asks him or herself what the devil is that doing there.

Steve Monk a former Royal Navy officer served in large yachts for some years before setting up DaGama Marine a firm that specialises in the supply of bridge ancillary requirements and training has over the years seen many bridges. He says, “When it comes to bridge design, the layout of the equipment, what equipment is provided and all other aspects associated within the nerve centre of a superyacht, particularly when underway, it has to be asked why there are so many poorly designed and laid out vessels at sea?”

Citing the example of a yacht wishing to operate on an approved ECDIS (electronic chart display information system) as their primary means of navigation, Monk points out that, “It has to have a minimum of two allocated machines. Building a bridge, which only has space for one means the regulations can’t be achieved so paper charts have to be used. However when no chart table is provided or it isn’t big enough on which to house a standard Admiralty chart, how is the Captain supposed to be legally compliant? ‘Work arounds’ usually mean the regulations aren’t quite followed correctly (read that as you will) and thus poor standards and procedures creep into place.”

But is ECDIS all that its cracked up to be? RH Marine in Holland believe that although ECDIS has brought a lot of ease to the bridge, sometimes it can be a challenge for a navigator to sail without the familiar large paper chart. They say, “It may be the lack of a good overview, or the limited freedom to add notes or other content. Fortunately there are modern technologies available that can assist here. The Rhodium Bridge suite of applications already contains its own developed chart system for a long time, running on each of four navigation Multi-Function-Workstations at the bridge, so fully redundant and according the applicable regulations.” A recent addition from the company is their Voyage Planning Station (VPS), adding just the functionality to fill the gap.

RH Marine’s VPS is an add-on to optimise the planning process. They explain, “You have the accuracy and quality of an approved ECDIS with the size of a paper chart and the freedom to draw just like before on the large paper chart. The VPS gives a detailed digital overview of difficult navigation areas, with the possibility to scale the vector charts from a local ECDIS cell to world scale, by the touch of your fingers. The Bridge’ ECDIS systems are equipped with relatively small displays while in the past the navigator could use large A0 sized paper charts providing the required situational overview. The new Rhodium VPS combines both worlds by delivering a high resolution (4K) large sized multi touch display with ECDIS planning capabilities and more.

It’s to be used as a secondary system next to the bridge’s navigational workstations, to be built in the chart table desk or aft panel in the wheelhouse. Added functionalities like emphasising interesting spots, putting text notes on the chart linked to an applicable spot and adding photos make VPS a worthy successor of the paper chart. Because the VPS is integrated it runs with the standard maintenance program of the bridge.”

Yet newspapers and consumer affairs Web site still proclaim that the possibility of hacking a ECDIS remains a potential threat to superyachts. Ken Munro of Pen Test Partners a company offering Cybernet Penetration Testing Services has suggested that the vulnerability of ECDIS could be exploited to block superyacht ports and wreak havoc throughout the superyacht community. His statement comes after his firm looked into shipping using the English Channel, which is the busiest shipping route in the world.

Munroe found a commonly used ship-tracking technology can be hacked to spoof the size and location of boats in order to trigger other vessels’ collision alarms. He told the BBC that a researcher has discovered that it was relatively easy to find cases via an app to gain remote access to the ECDIS System on ferries crossing the channel.

The attack targets the computer-powered navigation Electronic Chart Display System (ECDIS), so that it is possible to take advantage of this to reconfigure a ship’s ECDIS software in order to mis-identify the location of its GPS (global positioning system) receiver. The receiver’s location can be moved by only about 300m but he said that was enough to force an accident. “That doesn’t sound like much, but in poor visibility it’s the difference between crashing and not crashing,” he said. Munroe believes that because ECDIS feeds the automatic identification system AIS transceiver collision alarms would be firing on numerous ships within a certain location and many would then simply avoid the area completely. He said, “It would make for a very brave captain to continue on course while the alert was sounding.”

Data communication is becoming more and more essential for a modern bridge; not only for servicing the navigation. It also gathers shore side data like weather information or chart updates. The same communication equipment also transmits ship to shore; supplying system information to suppliers or management agencies for preventive maintenance programs. RH Marine in Holland insist, “A secured communication link is essential.” They say, “Working closely with navies and coastguard services worldwide we provide technical solutions that guarantee safe and secure operations at sea with proven track record.”

Steve Monk at DaGama Maritime believes, “Technology moves at an ever increasing pace with ECDIS manufacturers turning out new systems and upgrades all the time but many are built by software engineers who don’t understand what the mariner really wants to see and more importantly, how simple they’d like it to be to operate as few bridge teams read the operators manual. Of course, operating on ECDIS means the official electronic charts being displayed need to be available to a sufficiently acceptable standard for use. Regrettably in many areas where superyacht’s operate, this is not the case, again meaning raster charts are required and to be backed up with paper charts, so the need for a chart table crops up again.”

Typically within the superyacht market, some designers believe smooth and clean is best which means they build a bridge panel / foil that is touch screen sensitive. Monk says, “This looks great but can be completely impractical for day-to-day use as the operator now spends more time looking down to find the right button or switch rather than being able to feel it. Subsequently the OOW now isn’t looking out of the window at the world / dangers around them and has to rely on technology. Perhaps removing the OOW completely (as the commercial market is looking to do) is the way to go but then the boss may not be quite so keen when operating close to shore.”

Massimo Minnella, is the CEO of TEAM Italia. He believes, “A high, modern model of integration requires the opportunity to use increasingly more effective ergonomic solutions. Regards this, a decisive part is most certainly the implementation of systems linked to the world of mechatronics. New clients are captains, owners and shipyards and they are all highly attentive to the safety features linked to manoeuvring a yacht.”

In the world of superyachts it is all about aesthetics and it is obvious that design is very important. A bridge lay-out is always subject to customisation by the Owner’s team. However most important is to ensure safe and efficient sailing. RH Marine share the opinion that ‘less is more’ by keeping mimics simple and clear with the right information at the right spot. By being involved at the design phase of the bridge console the company ensure that the operational goals meet the customers demand for safety and comfort and obviously the requirements of rules and regulations.

I-Bridge Air Wings is a new system from Onyx Marine Automation part of the TEAM Italia Group. It provides for integration of the 3D. Federico Sturlese, the firms CTO, says, “The 3D monitoring we developed tracks out a new route on the panorama of supervision systems, guaranteeing unprecedented levels of usability. The innovative three-dimensional graphics are perfectly integrated into the I-Bridge® system and enhance its versatility, efficiency and design,” affirms Captain David Clarke was for many years the Master and Commander of the 73 metre Delta Marine built Laurel. That was before he and his wife, the yachts purser, stepped ashore to set up Superyacht Operating Systems a powerful standard operating procedure system featuring tools superyacht crew need to complete seamless digital tasks, checklists, work lists, procedures and calendars not just for the bridge but the entire superyacht.

Bridge Management might look very different on a 30 metre as compared to a 130 metre but when you break it down the basics are all the same. Good Bridge Management is a combination of the right team, the right equipment and the right tools, and without all of them working in harmony, Bridge Management can easily turn into Bridge Mayhem.

The right team consists of the following, The Decision Maker, The Helmsman, The Plotter, The Radio Officer and The Lookout. Often one person will carry out multiple roles during a Bridge watch and when the conditions are presented it might be required that five or more persons carry out just one role each. Nether the less all these roles make up the Bridge team and weather it’s a team of one or a team of five working in harmony, the right team in the bridge is what makes up the first component of good Bridge Management on board any vessel.

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