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ISIT Update: Quest Far Automation Continues

Reduced crew sizes and the technology revolution have led to the implementation of a wide array of systems onboard ships, creating the need for a better way of administering and managing these systems. Marine Management Systems (MMS) President Gene Story recognized this growing problem and envisioned a solution that solves this problem and offers a host of other benefits to shipowners and professionals throughout the marine industry. That vision is the Integrated Shipboard Information Technology Platform (ISIT), an industrial strength IT platform featuring a communications program, hardware systems and software applications. The communications component (initially designed to be a dedicated INMARSAT link) makes it possible for shipowners and operators to remotely manage and monitor their ships' information systems from a single shoreside location, reducing the need for highly trained IT personnel on every vessel. Traditionally, most software applications have been built with a "stovepipe" architecture, a unique format that makes it difficult or impossible for data which is utilized and collected to be transferred to other systems. In addition to providing a platform, ISIT specifies a common architectural format. It provides the building blocks that will make it possible for all shipping company programs to be able to easily exchange data. Fleetwide Consolidation — Financial Integration ISIT is designed to enable true fleet-wide consolidation. It enables an operator to update a part number on one computer and have the change transmitted to every computer across his or her enterprise. It also allows a company to utilize data from all of its ships. A manager can determine what ships are doing best and transfer that knowledge or skill set to the rest of the fleet. It delivers access to all of the data necessary to meet classification requirements. The platform makes it possible for information collected by all ships in a fleet to be interfaced with a company's financial systems. An owner can look at the performance of the whole fleet, against both operating and financial standards. Access to fleet-wide data enables bulk ordering for discounts, helps shipowners reduce the number of spares required on their ships and eliminates redundant data entry and related errors.

Communications expenses are dramatically reduced. Interfacing all of the systems in an enterprise makes it possible for "forms" — electronic structures that transmit only updated information to other computers in the enterprise — to be used. Utilizing forms with the advanced bundling and compression techniques ISIT offers will reportedly save users up to 80 percent of their current communications bills.

Fleet-wide integration is just the beginning. With a common IT platform and data structures, there is no limit to the potential for data exchange. Regulatory and class societies, vendors, shipbuilders, shipowners, ship managers and ship officers can all have instant, controlled access to ship data. Services including Inmarsat, MSAT/AMSC, Orbcom, Odyssey, VHF/HF, cellular and Iridium can be integrated.

ISIT's benefits extend into the ISM and class society approval process. With common data formats, ships can provide inspectors with critical engine operating and maintenance data prior to inspections, making it possible for inspectors to pre-evaluate the necessity of an inspection. The availability of such data can also alert inspectors as to which areas require further inspection, helping them to make the most of the brief inspection time, and improving the quality of the inspection and the safety of the world's fleets.

Industry Onboard Since it's inception, interest in ISIT has snowballed. MMS is leading the development team which is comprised of eight firms from the U.S., Canada and Norway, which is responsible for the actual development of the ISIT platform and its roll-out and test in a shipboard environment.

A second committee, the Industry Advisory Board, is comprised of shipowners/operators, communications companies, shipyards and regulatory/government organizations. This group of more than 30 organizations is responsible for ensuring that ISIT adequately addresses the industry's problems and develops commercially viable solutions.

The Standards Committee, comprised of more than 40 organizations from 12 countries, has developed industry consensus standards in the area of shipboard data management and communications through the ASTM (U.S. National Standards Group).

The first ISIT related standard, The Standard Guide for the Implementation of a Fleet Management System Network (ASTM F1756), was approved by the standards organization ASTM in the last quarter of 1996. It has now been entered into the ISO process and has received the coun-try member support necessary to be entered as a work item for ISO standard development. ISIT's rollout will start in the fourth quarter of this year.

ISIT will allow a ship owner in Greece to seamlessly exchange data with a class society in Norway.

It makes true fleet-wide systems integration a reality with a host of financial benefits including dramatically reduced communications costs and numerous savings from financial integration. It holds the promise that an owner will be able to view or update a work procedure on his or her computer, and have it update all of the computers on his or her ships whether they are a mile away, or half way across the world company's Envision and Deneb/ERGO software to immerse participants in a ship firefighting scenario.

The demonstration was completed in conjunction with Electric Boat as part of a DARPA-sponsored Simulation Based Designed (SBD) project, the most recent stage of which was led by Lockheed Martin and focused on the Advaned Surface Combatant notional surface ship design. Envision reportedly enables users to design, build, test, operate and support multiple product and system scenarios in a fast, efficient and cost-effective manner.

Envision provides an environment for developing and validating the design of complex mechanisms assembly procedures, maintenance and operational requirements by allowing users to interact directly within virtual environments.

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