4
Vision of the Future and How to Achieve It

In the long recorded history of navigation, many important advances have been made in mariners' ability to travel the seas with safety, speed, and reliability. From the beginning, improvements in information and in the knowledge of how best to use it have been at least as important to mariners' survival in perilous seas and crowded harbors as improved vessel design, construction, and materials or the many other advances in seafaring.

The earliest charts of land masses, currents, wind patterns, and a few hand soundings, for example, apprised succeeding generations of seafarers of the conditions and hazards their predecessors had encountered. With advancing knowledge of the positions and movements of heavenly bodies, expert sailors using astrolabes (the predecessors of sextants) could approximate their position. A rudimentary compass was used to keep the vessel on course even when the heavens were obscured. A critical breakthrough was the invention of the Harrison chronometer, which for the first time provided accurate and reliable time so that longitude could be determined to within a few miles. For near-shore piloting, increasingly sophisticated visual and audible navigation aids were developed over a period of several centuries.

More recent breakthroughs, mostly resulting from military research and development, have included the gyrocompass, radio aids to navigation (from radio direction finders to Loran and Decca), and satellite navigation. All of them have improved a navigator's ability to determine the vessel's location and physical challenges, including shoals, reefs, tides, water depths, currents, and weather conditions. Radar, a World War II breakthrough, in combination with the VHF radio, has improved the sailor's ability to identify the challenges posed by other vessels. Despite all of these advances, however, if visibility was poor or traffic very heavy, none of these systems assured mariners that they had accurate and complete information or the technical capability of solving their navigation and traffic problems.1

Most of these problems can now be solved, at least conceptually. Furthermore, a common vision of the future is emerging within the maritime community, both in the United States and abroad, in which computers, satellites, and electronics will be deployed wisely and widely to provide a new level of navigational safety. This chapter describes the vision and the elements the United States must have in place to realize it.

The Vision

Environmental Conditions

In the future, existing and emerging technologies will provide mariners with timely warnings of obstacles in surrounding waters and accurate predictions of inclement weather. Highly accurate information will be available in various formats—electronic displays, by radio, or on the Internet. Mariners will also be able to fix their positions quickly, easily, and accurately. Basic hydrographic information, regularly updated, will be available for geographic regions of interest to all types of users. The technical means are already available to acquire all types of data, but adequate resources are lacking for updating obsolete data. The information will include geographic positions of land masses, shoals, and important features to the accuracy standard of 5 to 10 meters now set by DGPS.

Real-time hydrographic and meteorological data are essential for large, fast vessels entering dredged channels with minimum under-keel clearance. The technical means for obtaining these data have been proven effective by the success of the PORTS and other systems. Once the issue of chronic underfunding has been addressed, either through increased budgets or through partnerships, these vital information systems will realize their full potential.

Data will be available to users in many formats, ranging from updated paper charts to the most advanced electronic charts, which will be written to international specifications and will enable many users to take advantage of full ECDIS

1  

Reliance on imperfect technology can even introduce new hazards, like "radar-assisted collisions," for example. (NRC, 1994).



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--> 4 Vision of the Future and How to Achieve It In the long recorded history of navigation, many important advances have been made in mariners' ability to travel the seas with safety, speed, and reliability. From the beginning, improvements in information and in the knowledge of how best to use it have been at least as important to mariners' survival in perilous seas and crowded harbors as improved vessel design, construction, and materials or the many other advances in seafaring. The earliest charts of land masses, currents, wind patterns, and a few hand soundings, for example, apprised succeeding generations of seafarers of the conditions and hazards their predecessors had encountered. With advancing knowledge of the positions and movements of heavenly bodies, expert sailors using astrolabes (the predecessors of sextants) could approximate their position. A rudimentary compass was used to keep the vessel on course even when the heavens were obscured. A critical breakthrough was the invention of the Harrison chronometer, which for the first time provided accurate and reliable time so that longitude could be determined to within a few miles. For near-shore piloting, increasingly sophisticated visual and audible navigation aids were developed over a period of several centuries. More recent breakthroughs, mostly resulting from military research and development, have included the gyrocompass, radio aids to navigation (from radio direction finders to Loran and Decca), and satellite navigation. All of them have improved a navigator's ability to determine the vessel's location and physical challenges, including shoals, reefs, tides, water depths, currents, and weather conditions. Radar, a World War II breakthrough, in combination with the VHF radio, has improved the sailor's ability to identify the challenges posed by other vessels. Despite all of these advances, however, if visibility was poor or traffic very heavy, none of these systems assured mariners that they had accurate and complete information or the technical capability of solving their navigation and traffic problems.1 Most of these problems can now be solved, at least conceptually. Furthermore, a common vision of the future is emerging within the maritime community, both in the United States and abroad, in which computers, satellites, and electronics will be deployed wisely and widely to provide a new level of navigational safety. This chapter describes the vision and the elements the United States must have in place to realize it. The Vision Environmental Conditions In the future, existing and emerging technologies will provide mariners with timely warnings of obstacles in surrounding waters and accurate predictions of inclement weather. Highly accurate information will be available in various formats—electronic displays, by radio, or on the Internet. Mariners will also be able to fix their positions quickly, easily, and accurately. Basic hydrographic information, regularly updated, will be available for geographic regions of interest to all types of users. The technical means are already available to acquire all types of data, but adequate resources are lacking for updating obsolete data. The information will include geographic positions of land masses, shoals, and important features to the accuracy standard of 5 to 10 meters now set by DGPS. Real-time hydrographic and meteorological data are essential for large, fast vessels entering dredged channels with minimum under-keel clearance. The technical means for obtaining these data have been proven effective by the success of the PORTS and other systems. Once the issue of chronic underfunding has been addressed, either through increased budgets or through partnerships, these vital information systems will realize their full potential. Data will be available to users in many formats, ranging from updated paper charts to the most advanced electronic charts, which will be written to international specifications and will enable many users to take advantage of full ECDIS 1   Reliance on imperfect technology can even introduce new hazards, like "radar-assisted collisions," for example. (NRC, 1994).

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--> capability. Tides, currents, and Coast Pilot-type information will be published in hard copy and on the Internet and updated through electronic transmissions in varying degrees of detail (e.g., more detailed for big commercial ships and less detailed for recreational boats). However, because shipboard systems are not likely to match the speed of land-line data connections (now 28,800 bits per second) in the near future, some files, especially long or graphics-laden documents, may take too long to download from the Internet to benefit mariners. Precision electronic navigation technology, such as DGPS, has already proven to be extremely accurate. In the future, fixing positions in all weather will not only be possible (as it is today) but will also be reliable. Prudent mariners, however, will continue to fix their positions by multiple, independent means when their vessels are close to hazards or in constricted waterways, especially when visibility is poor.2 In other words, the mariner of the future will not rely solely on any one technology but will continue to exercise his or her critical judgment and will have the necessary training and qualifications to do so. Other Vessels In the future, mariners will be able to detect the presence and determine the position of other vessels quickly and accurately, regardless of weather or location. They will also have the tools to make sound decisions about taking evasive action, if necessary. All vessels will be equipped with AIS, which will be linked to shore-based VTS systems in busy harbors. AIS, in combination with precision navigation systems, will become a critical tool for detecting other ships and selecting anticollision strategies, especially in low visibility. This technology suite will enable mariners on the bridges of two or more vessels to identify each other and exchange information silently and immediately on their courses and speed. "Silent, bridge-to-bridge VTS" will be tested in a prototype installation in the AIS pilot project on the Lower Mississippi River. Similar systems in Alaska, Canada, and Europe have demonstrated their usefulness in close-quarters situations and in avoiding collisions. This "VTS of the future" will have many advantages over radar (which cannot "see" around corners, such as islands) and will enable mariners to interact over dedicated frequencies that are not blocked by competing or extraneous transmissions. Silent, screen-to-screen interactions will enable mariners to communicate when and how they choose, eliminating the distraction of constantly monitoring VHF channels from several vessels and sometimes from shore. The success of the "VTS of the future" will depend on all vessels (or at least all vessels above a certain size) carrying internationally compatible transponders and other equipment and all operators being trained in their use. The equipment will be internationally interchangeable and not dependent on unique or proprietary technology. Future VTS systems will be easy to use and affordable. Fortunately, the proliferation of electronic equipment and the tendency for prices to decline over time suggests that this vision of the future can be achieved. Traditional systems, such as radar, automatic radar plotting aid,3 and VHF radio, will continue to be used for redundancy and to ensure reliability. Furthermore, in most heavily trafficked harbors, an information link to a shore-based VTS system will provide both information and active traffic management by the appropriate authority, when necessary. Realizing the Vision Realizing the vision described above will not be easy. A firm foundation will first have be laid so that the most effective systems can be widely deployed in the United States. The committee identified eight elements of this firm foundation. Coordinated National Policy on the Maritime Information Infrastructure At least four federal agencies are currently responsible for various types of information and data critical to the navigation of vessels. USACE is responsible for channel maintenance and inland waterway operation, including locks on federal systems; NOAA is responsible for hydrographic surveys, charts, bathymetric data, Coast Pilot information, and weather information; the USCG is responsible for aids to navigation, Notices to Mariners, navigational broadcasts, List of Lights, and VTS; and the National Imagery and Mapping Agency is responsible for rebroadcasting some information from Notices to Mariners, keeping track of mobile drilling rigs and acts of violence directed against shipping, the Navigation Information Network, and sailing directions. The effective use of the data depends on the capability of these agencies to coordinate their activities, set common priorities for collecting and disseminating data, and cooperate in the delivery of services to users. Too often mariners must evaluate a variety of services and sources to determine which one is most accurate and reliable in a given situation. A coordinated policy on the development and support of the maritime information infrastructure would eliminate, or at least lessen, this uncertainty. Coordinated planning could provide mariners with the most accurate data on a timely basis in a user-oriented format. 2   DGPS has some limitations when used in constricted waterways (USCG, 1997). 3   Automatic radar plotting aid is a computer that quickly and automatically plots radar targets based on information about the target vessel's course and speed. It is used to assess passing or overtaking situations and can help prevent collisions.

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--> Mechanisms for Identifying and Responding to Stakeholder Needs Identifying all stakeholders in port and waterways operations, let alone cataloging and satisfying their needs, can be difficult. Nevertheless, stakeholders' needs must be met in a way that enhances safety for all users, not just the most vocal ones or a select group. If improving efficiency is the goal, then competing interests should be balanced to raise the overall threshold, not just the efficiency of one sector at the expense of others. In some ports, organized stakeholder groups, such as harbor safety committees, are already in place and can provide a mechanism for making decisions. In others, federal agencies should encourage the formation of stakeholder organizations and decision-making procedures. Technical, Operational, and Performance Standards Standards for data exchange, component interfaces, and user interfaces with critical navigation systems are all essential for creating a uniform operating environment among all ports and waterways. Other standards may also be necessary for mariners to act confidently on the basis of safety information, other types of data, instructions, or guidance. Centralized, consistent, reliable sources of navigational information will provide a solid foundation for realizing the future vision. Responsible parties should move forward expeditiously with the development, especially in the international arena, of technical standards and carriage requirements for essential navigational technology, including ECDIS and AIS. The federal government has sole authority to act on behalf of the nation in setting international standards. Appropriate and Predictable Funding Although adequate and predictable funding are not always available at the federal level, the future vision can only be realized if support is somewhat predictable. The minimum level of support could plausibly be ensured through a combination of public and private funds through partnerships to fund and operate systems. Development and Maintenance of the Maritime Information Infrastructure Federal agencies must develop and maintain the basic infrastructure necessary for navigational safety. The infrastructure must include the following essential elements: Up-to-date charts of all waterways essential to U.S. commerce must be available in both hard copy and electronic form, with chart data identical to those of GPS and as accurate as those of DGPS. Electronic formats must meet the international standards for use with ECDIS. Real-time data on tides, currents, wave heights, and weather conditions for all waterways essential to U.S. interests must be electronically accessible (with backup hard copy) to vessels far enough offshore to plan a safe passage. Up-to-date, port-specific navigational data (e.g., information now available in Coast Pilots, light lists, and Notices to Mariners ) must be made available to mariners electronically (with backup hard copy) sufficiently far offshore to enable the planning of safe passage. Vessels must be equipped with a mechanism for electronic vessel-to-vessel and vessel-to-shore exchanges of information essential to emergency responses and navigational safety. Maintenance of conventional aids to navigation must be continued. An electronic system, accessible by the USCG and emergency response teams, must be in place for keeping track of hazardous cargoes carried by vessels in U.S. waters or stored at U.S. marine terminals. Appendix E describes the necessary data and formats from the point of approach to the departure from a port. This description could be used to guide all agencies or organizations that coordinate and deliver information services. Silent, Automated Systems for Information Exchange Information should be delivered in ways that do not interfere with or distract shipboard personnel, particularly bridge watchstanders, from the performance of their duties. Thus, the reliance on voice communications should be drastically reduced, and the availability of real-time data, on an as-needed basis, should be greatly expanded. Two necessary advances will be an Internet service that enables mariners to access and print out information directly, as needed, thus eliminating the need to maintain an onboard library of preprinted and corrected hard copies, and AIS for the exchange of selected data on vessel movements and other information. Strict Compliance with Rules for Waterway Operations Mechanisms should be established to ensure that all mariners and vessels transiting U.S. waterways comply with established rules and regulations so that everyone can enjoy the benefits of safe, consistent, and orderly operations. Enforcement methods may vary among ports and regions, but the federal responsibility for this function is well established. In addition to traditional USCG enforcement, economic

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--> incentives might be used to reward, and thereby encourage, the use of advanced safety systems and practices. Another enforcement technique would be to create peer pressure for compliance through forums, such as harbor safety committees. If nonpunitive measures do not result in consistent compliance, punitive action should be taken. References NRC (National Research Council). 1994. Minding the Helm: Marine Navigation and Piloting. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. USCG (U.S. Coast Guard). 1997. Differential GPS Mission Needs Analysis: Harbor Entry and Approach. Alexandria, Va.: USCG Navigation Center.