New technology raises questions over role of bridge teams

Recommendations that shipping should learn from the aviation industry for bridge layout and navigator training

Craig Eason writing in Lloyds List Tuesday 8 February 2011

THERE are training and operational issues that have to be addressed as e-navigation continues to develop. Last month’s meeting of the International Maritime Organization sub-committee on training and watchkeeping expressed clear concern about a perceived lack of basic seamanship on board today’s vessels, and the subsequent decline in navigation skills across the world’s fleet.

That was mirrored by concern at the e-navigation conference on the CROWN of SCANDINAVIA last week over the role of bridge teams, whether they are monitors of equipment and situations, or whether they will remain as navigators in a more traditional sense.

Reference was made, both at the STCW meeting and in the e-navigation conference, to the aviation industry and its experiences. Aviation was also a point of reference with regard to bridge designs, with a desire for seamanship skills without an over-reliance on technology. As bridge systems have become more integrated and complex, there have been discussions over standardisation of bridge designs, although it remains unclear how this could be achieved.

Also, equipment makers would be reluctant to have too much prescription, as this could hinder technological development. Participants at the STCW meeting agreed that there ought to be some level of standardisation, but it is not clear how this could be achieved.

There has been a focus on the development of electronic chart display and information systems, but there is a growing perception that other displays may have to be developed as e-navigation leads to other information becoming available on the bridge.

This is one of the areas that the discussions and development of e-navigation test beds will reveal in the coming years. A further issue that also needs to be addressed is that of the training schools. As the concept of enhanced, or electronic, navigation develops, there will be a need to ensure bridge teams have the relevant competence on board, and this can only be done through proper training and education.

There have already been concerns raised over some of the training courses that have appeared on the market to help shipowners meet their stipulated requirements for Ecdis training, and the fear is that without proper controls, the training providers may seriously lag behind these technological developments. 

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