OSI: Helping To Chart The Future Of Navigation

As concern over navigational safety increases, so does interest in ECDIS (Electronic Chart Display Information System), which integrates information from various navigational and positioning systems (radar, sounder, gyrocompass, etc.) into an electronic chart system for a comprehensive graphic display. Offshore Systems International (OSI) Ltd., of Vancouver, B.C., is in the business of providing its ECDIS system, called ECPINS (Electronic Chart Precise Integ r a t e d Navigation System). Founded in 1977 to position oil rigs and assist restricted ship navigation in places like the Arctic, OSI was designing and installing ECDIS systems by the mid-eighties.

Business is fairly booming for OSI, having sold or installed more ECPINS systems in the past two years than in all the years since they began installing them. In fact, OSI's growth has resulted in a U.S. subsidiary, Offshore Systems International, Inc. in Seattle, Wash.

All marketing activities for ECPINS products are r u n out of the Seattle office. The latest ECPINS to Clipper Cruise Line's Yorktown Clipper gave OSI a new challenge. "We will deliver over 250 vector charts, covering the Pacific Coast, the Panama Canal and the Caribbean," said Manfred Reimann, vice president, marketing and sales. "This will open many sales opportunities for cruise ships, tankers and cargo vessels." OSI recently won a $1.6 million contract to supply six ECPINS systems to the Canadian Hydrographic Service as part of what is reportedly the world's largest electronic chart plot project. Other OSI clients include the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), which ordered a system for a 225-foot buoy tender with options for four more, and another for a 175-foot coastal buoy tender with options for 13 more. Canada Steamship Lines, Inc. decided to equip their entire fleet of 11 self-unloading bulk carriers with ECPINS, plus an option to buy 20 more units, and the Canadian Coast Guard ordered ECPINS for 12 coastal defense vessels. "The biggest demand for ECPINS is in newbuilds," said Ken Deering, OSI vice president and general manager. "But we believe that in 1994 companies will start saying okay, let's look at our fleets." In September 1993 IMO finalized the Performance Standards for ECDIS, which are slated for ful adoption in 1995—whereupon owners may legally replace paper charts with ECDIS. OSI's ECPINS was used aboard the USCG cutter Bittersweet as a test-bed for IMO standards.

OSI's test-bed involvement puts them about as close to the standard as possible — an important factor to shipowners who wish to avoid rehauling ECDIS systems for IMO compliance once the standard becomes a legal fact.

"All the studies that have been done recommend ECDIS as a key factor in preventing groundings," said Helmut Lanziner, president and CEO if OSI. With the IMO Performance Standard in place, Mr. Lanziner expects legislation which would mandate ECDIS on commercial vessels to be introduced into Congress soon. At an estimated $70,000 per system, OSI's ECPINS may be an important tool t h a t could help prevent multi-million-dollar groundings and protect the coastal environment. For more information on Offshore Systems International,

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