The maritime industry gathered in Amsterdam last month at the semi-annual Europort Exhibition to display the latest technological advances in marine products and systems. While the show maintains a large local contingency — a good deal of the exhibitors are local agents rather than the manufacturing company principles — it is well regarded as one of the industry's premier events for showcasing new products and services to an international shipowning community.
Of particular note — and not just in Amsterdam — are the tremendous strides which are continually made on the marine electronics products and systems front. Competition in this segment is very keen, and the category is dominated by very large, usually diverse industrial conglomerates that have made consolidation of systems and capabilities a quasi-sport in recent years. The need by shipowners to meet increasingly strict rules and regulations with advanced electronic products and systems and the economies of scale of being a "one stop shop" for bottom-line minded shipyards have been primaries drivers in the urge to merge. In addition, the task of continually delivering advanced products and systems which are increasingly easy to use requires that companies dedicate tremendous amounts of capital into the R&D side, another rationale for the trend towards bigger.
Europort was used as the launching pad for two of the world's first type-approved ECDIS systems, from Transas and Kelvin Hughes. Transas was the world's first company to receive type-approval, as was reported on in the November edition of Maritime Reporter & Engineering News, while the Kelvin Hughes announcement
was a mild surprise to competitors and customers alike. BSH, the Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency, has provided the type-approval for Kelvin Hughes' Nucleus2 "duel-fuel" 5000 and 6000 Electronics Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS) in accordance with the IMO resolutions and IEC specification. While a string of new ECDIS approvals are anticipated in the coming months and years, currently Kelvin Hughes is the only company to offer an IBS solution with a type-approved ECDIS.
ECDIS is much more than a simplistic replacement for paper charts, and is rather an integrated, complete solution to the navigator. The Nucleus2 ECDIS works in harmony with other bridge equipment such as the radar, GPS and autopilots, taking real-time information to continuously update the on-screen display.
While the developments in ECDIS will surely sweep many maritime circles in 2000, and remains a leading edge technology, Transas' Andrey Vorobiev, chief design engineer, Marine Navigation Systems, points out that ECDIS is simply the cusp of development, and that the next step will involve integration of all shipboard systems.
Echoing that thought was Patrick T. Enright, Litton Marine System's (LMS) new director, Strategic Business Unit Machinery Automation, who recently joined LMS with the to lead the development of a complete ship control and monitoring system. LMS is a particularly strong example of a company that has steadily built through acquisition, as it has integrated a host of widely recognized marine industry manufacturers in recent years, including Decca and C. Plath. Litton has traditionally exuded a strong market confidence — confidence backed by a significant backlog of orders on both the commercial and naval fronts. Today is no different, as Litton touts its position aboard the largest cruise ship ever built — Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas built by Kvaerner Masa-Yards. "The IBS for Voyager of the Seas is actually two separate systems," said Dr. Clark Graham, president of Litton Marine Systems
. "The system has been designed so that there is a complete duplication and redundancy for all critical components.
"Litton's major announcement at Europort centered on the introduction of a new virtual reality design tool for bridge layout. Design Vision 1.0 is a conceptual design tool for creating and evaluating integrated bridge system designs. It is a CAD program, which allows the designer to built a 3-D model of the bridge layout and evaluate various configurations. The software was developed jointly by Litton Marine Systems and the University of Strathclyde.
STN Atlas Marine Electronics is another organization which has been transformed significantly of late, as the company was recently integrated into new parent company, Düsseldorf-based Rheinmetall Group, made a major announcement in Amsterdam. STN Atlas presented a new navigational product, the Radarpilot 1000, with various versions of high-resolution 12 and 16-in. color graphic displays. New features include a new "clean sweep" function which is designed to significantly eliminate clutter, and an enhanced zoom function to offer an enlarged display for tracked targets.