e-Navigation and the Gulf Area: meeting information needs where blue water, brown water and port facilities interact
San Jacinto College and the Seamen’s Church Institute will host e-Navigation Underway (North America) 2016, the third in the annual North American series of conferences focusing upon the development and application of e-navigation. The event will be held at the San Jacinto College Maritime Technology and Training Center, La Porte, Texas, a new facility that opened in Spring of this year.
e-Navigation is an initiative of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the goal of which is to provide a decision support environment for the maritime community. Its scope is not fully appreciated by many and some consider it simply another intrusion by technology – a “Black Box sort of thing, imposed by governments”. One of the objectives of the conference is to promote better understanding of e-navigation as an integrated application of individual competence, Best Practices and procedures, organization and technology to provide information to maritime decision makers in a form immediately useful for decision making. The intent, clearly articulated by the IMO, is that both development and application by driven by real user needs for information, not by regulatory fiat.
The “User Needs” approach recognizes one size does not fit all, and that different operations and geographic areas have different information requirements, or need presentation of information in different forms. At the same time a degree of standardization is obviously required and users, if the results are to meet their needs, must be both knowledgeable about e-navigation and have an avenue through which their needs can be made known.
The latter point is why much of the conference will focus on the use of Electronic Chart Systems (ECS) in U.S. domestic waters as implementation of the Coast Guard Maritime Transportation Act of 2004 proceeds. ECS will become a primary platform not only for navigation but also for provision of information vital to maritime safety, efficiency and environmental stewardship. Representatives of the federal agencies involved (U.S. Coast Guard, Army Corps of Engineers and NOAA) will provide information about relevant programs and plans and other sessions will explore the questions of what information must or should be included in ECS presentations. The corollary issue of how such information should be displayed will also be examined through presentations about what’s being done in test bed activities and programs elsewhere.
In addition to representatives of the government agencies there will be speakers from the Gulf Coast maritime world, such as Rick Dunn of SafeMarine LLC, Tom Marian, Buffalo Marine Service and Captain David Foret, President of the ACTion Group Companies. Captain Stephen Polk of the Seamen’s Church Institute in Houston and Dr. Sarah Percy Janes of San Jacinto College will be the conference Co-Chairs.
By addressing ECS use the conference will enhance the understanding by attendees of the issues involved and provide a platform for the articulation of their views. The delegates to the conference will participate in framing recommendations not only for the U.S. agencies but also to standard-setting organizations and international bodies such as the International Maritime Organization. It is anticipated that those recommendations will be useful in helping to frame the regulatory requirements for ECS carriage and use, and for revision of the interim guidance for the use of official electronic nautical charts in lieu of paper charts. The fact that the conference series is organized under the auspices of the International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities (IALA) and the Danish Maritime Authority (DMA) provides an avenue for the recommendations to be placed before the appropriate regulatory and standards setting organizations.
Registration for the not-for-profit conference is now open and details about it, the conference and hotel accommodations are available at www.e-navnorthamerica.org.