The Future of Navigation
e-Navigation is the next evolutionary step towards safer navigation. The IALA definition is:
"e-Navigation is the harmonised collection, integration, exchange, presentation and analysis of maritime information onboard and ashore by electronic means, to enhance berth-to-berth navigation and related services, for safety and security at sea and protection of the marine environment"
There are 3 fundamental building blocks that must be in place before e-Navigation is fully viable.
- Secure and reliable PNT systems
- Secure and reliable communications systems
- Secure and accurate charts and charting displays
In the present time frame, it is estimated that the elements of e-Navigation will not begin to be fully operational before at least 2018. Even then, it will be introduced selectively in various areas as it develops.
While e-Navigation is likely to include systems that interact with physical AtoN the primary means of navigation will be GNSS supported by a complementary radio navigation system.
Transition phase to e-Navigation
Contemporary technologies already provide the capability to deliver much of what IMO e-Navigation strategy envisages. However, if such technological advancement remains uncoordinated, there is a risk that the future development of the global shipping industry will be hampered through lack of standardisation on board and on land, incompatibility between vessels, and an increased and unnecessary level of complexity and cost. Human element factors will be key to the successful transition to an e-Navigation environment.
GNSS has already revolutionised marine navigation and will remain the primary means of navigation for most mariners into the future. It is reliable, accurate and user friendly. However, the low-power, high-frequency Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, Compass ...) signals are fragile and vulnerable to intentional and unintentional interference. Low-cost jammers are readily available and are designed to deny the civil and military signals of all GNSS systems. The GLAs have carried out trials on the effects of such jammers. A 1.5W GPS jammer is capable of denying GPS for about 30km and causing hazardously misleading information beyond that.
Closure of Loran-C
The USA and Canada have decided to close down their previous generation system, Loran-C. At the same time, the US is analysing whether it needs a systemic backup to GPS: if so, then eLoran is certainly one of the alternatives. Elsewhere, there is growing interest in eLoran in Europe, Russia and the Far East both for maritime navigation and as an alternative and systemic backup and for critical infrastructure.
The GLAs continue to support the eLoran programme and participation in a pan-European Loran network on a trial basis. As a complement to GNSS, eLoran has many key characteristics: independence from GNSS; dissimilar failure modes; complementary performance supporting maritime general navigation applications; maintaining the user's concept of operations with a seamless transition when GNSS is lost; supporting interference detection and mitigation; and readily integrated with GPS at chip level. It also has potential as a systemic backup (i.e. it can support critical infrastructure needs - transport, finance, telecoms, power distribution ...) across many user sectors) and this should allow economies of scale regarding user equipment and lower long-term average costs compared with sector-specific backups.
In this period of uncertainty, The GLAs consider that it is prudent to hasten slowly. The fundamental principle remains not to rely on a single source of navigation information when alternatives are available. Therefore it is essential to retain a mix of complementary systems.
At present the backup to GNSS are the traditional AtoNs of Lights and buoys, complemented by electronics such as Racons, DGPS and AIS.
The timescale for these developments will depend on the pace and geographical and sectoral extent of e-Navigation rollout. On a regional basis it is likely that the GLA area of interest will be amongst the first areas to provide an e-Navigation environment. The timescale for the sectoral penetration of mandatory e-Navigation to include leisure and fishing users is less clear.
It is likely to be at the later part of the timeframe of this strategy before significant change can commence.
Of critical importance to the successful implementation of the IMO e-Navigation strategy will be user training both ashore and onboard ships. Training will form an important part of the IMO implementation strategy and a period of dual running would appear inevitable.