The ECDIS era has arrived, with the type-approval of systems from Transas Marine. Transas' Jochen Rudolf and George Toma discuss
the systems capabilities, advantages and future.
The advent of the type-approved ECDIS has become one of the major highlights of the maritime industry at the end of the 20th century. Transas Marine with its Navi-Sailor 2400 ECDIS, was the winner amongst some 10 very serious competitors in the rigorous race to be the first to receive the type-approval certificate for ECDIS from BSH in Germany.
The issue of the world's first type approval certificate for Transas ECDIS in October 1999 was preceded by almost two years of very thorough tests and expert assessments employed at BSH. The Navi-Sailor system is not new to the market, with more than 30 Navies and Coast Guards of different countries now using Transas systems. There are also hundreds of merchant shipping companies among Transas customers, including P&O Nedlloyd, P&O, Color Line, Stena Line, Stena Bulk, Tor Line, Red Funnel, Standard Marine Services, V-Ship, Holland America Line, etc. However, in spite of all the evident benefits ECDIS would bring to increasing the navigational safety, the purchasing process for ECDIS is making slow headway in the shipping industry.
Jochen Rudolph, Managing Director for the Hamburg-based Transas Europe, which is Transas biggest Hub-agency to date, recently commented on how the receipt of the type-approval affected the sales for ECDIS in Western Europe "Now, after almost two months since the type approval was granted, we are able to roughly assess the impact that the appearance of the officially acknowledged ECDIS has had on the industry. I can tell you that there has been a remarkable increase in sales for Transas ECDIS in Europe. We see several reasons for this. The first thing is that ECDIS is included, as a rule, in equipment specifications for most of today's newbuildings. Captains, ship owners and purchase managers do know about its advantages and want to have such a system on board. Since Transas has been there with the first type-approved ECDIS on the market, the purchase decisions are now being made in our favor," he said.
The other market segment for ECDIS is exisiting ships. This is a slower market but existing ships are beginning to be retrofitted with ECDIS equipment. At Transas Europe we have noticed that once a captain has navigated a ship using an ECDIS, he does not enjoy navigating without it. Transas ECDIS offers several important benefits which make ship operations much easier and give more confidence to the crew. Firstly, the use of electronic cartography instead of paper charts can be compared to driving a modern car instead of a bicycle. With the vector electronic chart, all navigational information is displayed in one place at the ship's control position. Secondly, the Transas ECDIS may be connected with up to 16 sensors including an additional ARPA. With ECDIS, correct and automatic vessel positioning is provided to the navigator in an instant. The use of our Radar Integrator Board (RIB) together with the system, results in a combination of electronic chart and radar image overlay on a single display, providing the navigator with all information required for safe and efficient navigation.
The most outstanding feature of the Transas Navi-Sailor 2400 ECDIS with RIB is its capability to record the entire high resolution raw radar picture over a month of continuous operation onto a standard computer disk. Any period or fragment of the voyage can be played back at any time. This function is essential for those vessels or coastal radar sites that perform patrolling or monitoring functions where a position violation may be required to be proven in court.
Transas has also been the first company to connect the NAVTEX receiver to the Navi-Sailor 2400 ECDIS. This option automatically reads off messages arriving via NAVTEX and processes them on the electronic chart as required. This is a highly important function, being another step towards automatic navigation. Moreover, it relieves the navigator of a considerable workload required for keeping all received NAVTEX messages in order.
Although official ENCs are not yet available for certain areas, during this transition period Transas ECDIS provides
the possibility of working with raster charts such as ARCS and NDI/BSB along
with the official vector charts in S-57 ver.3 format. We also have our own global database of more than 5000 vector charts in company's proprietary TX format.
We understand that, since carrying ECDIS on board is not yet mandatory, the equipping of ships with ECDIS may continue at a relatively low speed. One of the main reasons for this is its higher cost compared to that of, e.g., an ECS. This is why Transas has introduced a comprehensive lease-purchase package for its clients. This package includes the system software installed on several interactive consoles, training and post-delivery service at one time and from one provider. The payment period may be extended to up to 48 months.
ECDIS is a major breakthrough for modern shipping - as radar was back in the 50s and 60s. Shipping companies are only just realising how this system can substantially improve safety, while reducing operation costs at the same time."
George Lee Toma, Head of Transas (USA) also identifies a remarkable increase in sales for ECDIS in his areas of sales responsibility. In particular, Transas (USA) celebrated a major contract for Navi-Sailor ECDIS with the Chevron Shipping Company in autumn this year, which immediately followed the receipt of the type- approval from BSH.
Mr. Toma stresses, however, that it is the superb functionality of the Transas system rather than its official recognition by certification authorities, which matters to the buyer. He says: "There is no comparison for the Transas NS2400 type approved ECDIS system, as it is simply unmatched in capability by any other in the industry. It is a navigation system designed by mariners, for mariners. The features and unique functionality designed in to the Transas NS2400 ECDIS greatly improve bridge operation efficiency and safety as well as any navigation officers decision making process".