The Need for Demand-Based Adoption of e-Navigation

By | 13/07/2015

The Need for Demand-Based Adoption of e-Navigation



One of the emerging agendas regarding maritime safety is e-Navigation (hereafter “e-Nav”).


Since its introduction was first proposed as a shared agenda by countries including the UK, the US, Japan, and Norway at the 81st conference of IMO MSC (International Maritime Organization, Maritime Safety Committee) held in December 2005, it has been continuously discussed mainly by international organizations such as IMO and IALA (International Association of Lighthouse Authorities). With its Strategy Implementation Plan finally approved at the 94th conference of MSC in November 2014, it will start its operation in 2019 following the establishment of a detailed implementation plan including its standardization.

This e-Nav is defined as “collecting, integrating, expressing, analyzing, and exchanging the marine data between ships and the land in harmony through the electronic method for promoting navigation from a port (of departure) and a port (of arrival) as well as related services, protecting marine environment, keeping safe navigation, and maintaining marine safety and security”.
As the definition suggests, e-Nav aims to ensure that ships are provided with communications to obtain data needed for safe navigation and upgrade an integrated system on the land for maritime transport and marine safety based on location information for ships, so the adoption of e-Nav necessarily taps into ICT (Information and Communications Technologies).

Since e-Nav is expected to not only create growth engines through convergence among industries but also serve as the catalyst that spearheads a paradigm shift in maritime safety and marine logistics, different countries and companies of the world are now working to create response strategies by boosting the competitiveness of different industrial sectors and take the lead in developing related technologies and preempting global markets.

To provide innovative services that exploit e-Nav and take advantage of them, a ship has to be equipped with next-generation electronic nautical chart, AIS (Auto Identification System), integrated navigation system, and wired & wireless communications network on the ship. Also, on the land, one has to get real-time processing of various maritime data, the processing of big data related to navigation, and technology for remotely managing ships, while for ship-to-ship and ship-to-land data exchange, there has to be stable data transmission technology, which includes not only coastal communications but also satellite communications. 

Container Shipping Trend

Container Shipping Industry Trend

With international support and consensus behind it, e-Nav will be phased in through technical review, standardization, and on-site testing. But, as there exists not a little dissent on the date, speed, and scope of its adoption and people interpret the concept and definition of e-Nav differently, it is crucial to get feedback from interested parties and make a demand-based approach to it.

Heralding a paradigm shift in maritime transport, marine safety, and shipbuilding market, e-Nav is expected to usher in a fierce competition as countries jostle for a superior strategic position and interests clash among parties that try to preempt related business opportunities. The e-Nav strategies, which are being implemented by international organizations including IMO and the governments of different countries, must consider the following factors. Of course, since those plans that are being drawn up incorporate review and analysis of the factors, we expect, solutions for related issues will come along before the final implementation of e-Nav.

Actual operators that may adopt e-Nav are shipping companies, which are concerned about acquiring a new system. Currently, the portion that ICT equipment takes up in a newly constructed ship is estimated at roughly 8%, which is expected to more than double in 10 years. And that’s why shipowners hope that they will be able to realize functions through upgrade of their current equipment or realize e-Nav with minimum investment.

People need to face the fact that marine accidents do not occur simply because ships have no advanced technology and equipment with them. And since over 80% of marine accidents are caused by human factors, e-Nav should be designed and applied so that it may reduce crew’s work load and contribute to accident prevention. Also, we need to come up with measures for those small ships and fishing boats which are generally called Non-SOLAS (International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea) ships. This is because most of marine accidents occur with small ships. For example, about 70% of marine accidents in Korea occur with small ships that are below 100 tons.

Moreover, as e-Nav increases not only ship-to-ship data exchange but also ship-to-land data sharing and use, investment in on-land infrastructure should proceed harmoniously in step with investment in ships. One should brace for security issues and side effects generated by the sharing of data among various operators. Furthermore, because introducing and implementing e-Nav presupposes a complicated international consensus, which requires not a little time, patience must be exercised to create a regime that ensures systematic and sustainable development and management through specialist groups.

Most important of all, however, the system must be suited to demand from users and related parties. We need to get users to voluntarily use and adopt it even before it is applied as a mandatory element, by convincing people that e-Nav is helpful in preventing accidents and reducing costs.

To summarize, with an eye to safe ship operation, e-Nav will continue to expand, and to face up to what is coming, shipping companies should go ahead with step-by-step preparation. Especially because one currently sees no related regulations, no clear guidelines in different countries, and no related infrastructure, deliberation on the adoption of e-Nav should focus on accident prevention and cost reduction, and additional investment in ships and on land will have to direct its focus toward the human factors that cause marine disasters.

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Posted by Sooyeob Kim who is a director of Maritime Safety Department from Korea Maritime Institute.