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Tug Technology & Business

Introducing workboat electronics of the future

Thu 20 Apr 2017 by Martyn Wingrove

Introducing workboat electronics of the future
Alphatron delivered an AlphaBridge to Seabulk Towing for tugboat Trident

Electronics of tomorrow will include similar user interfaces to smart phones and tablets while improving the safety of tug operations

Suppliers of navigation equipment are developing the next generation of electronics for tugs and other types of workboats. As one main manufacturer explained, these are new products for the electronics of tomorrow. One of the key elements in bridge electronics evolution is the multi-touch monitor now approved for electronic chart devices, including IMO-approved ECDIS that also displays specific navigation information.

Denmark-headquartered ISIC is launching new products developed for modern navigation equipment increasingly found on tugs. According to ISIC chief executive Bo Lander Rasmussen, these new products are required to support demand for different user interfaces and ways of exchanging information. “As the market turns towards more commercial off-the-shelf products, our products must be diligently engineered and thoroughly analysed before volume production takes place,” he explained. “This is how we ensure that our smart solutions are also appropriate for the electronics of tomorrow.”

In the future, Mr Rasmussen expects that user interfaces found in commercial products, such as smart phones and tablets, will be adapted to interface with onboard systems on workboats. This could, for example, involve remote control of different instrument settings or the display of required information. These features could add value for users when they are managing their vessels using mobile devices on board. ISIC intends to present the first application that enables seafarers to interact directly and remotely with an ISIC instrument by using their mobile devices.

ISIC multi-touch displays will be used in new generations of ECDIS. Although ECDIS is not a mandatory requirement for tugs, these devices are increasingly installed on tugs that conduct long distance towage, offshore towage and coastal operations as they enable crew to plan voyages and improve navigational safety.

Hatteland Display is already supplying multi-touch displays for bridge equipment. For example, it has supplied advanced touchscreen displays for Seall Ecdis Ltd’s new electronics series, which has new user interfaces. According to Seall managing director Des Neill, this ECDIS comes with electronic navigational charts from Primar, Admiralty and the US Government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and navigation software from GNS.

Seall developed its ECDIS following feedback from users, including on anchor handling tugs, who requested non-complex electronics with key functions. “We wanted to keep simplicity at the heart of what we were developing, modelling the graphical user interface on smartphone and tablet technology,” Mr Neill said. “The user interface needed to be clean and uncluttered, but the screen buttons needed to be appropriately sized for touch operations. The result is a multi-touch user interface that puts power at the mariners’ fingertips.”

SevenCs recently unveiled its new nautical mapping application for a pilot electronic chart display. SevenCs has introduced the Orca Pilot Chart Mapper as a complementary tool to its series of Orca Pilot portable pilot units (PPUs). The application helps users to create an optional chart layer with high-density water depth information for display on a PPU. SevenCs said it should make harbour pilots and tug captains more independent, flexible and up-to-date with high precision charts in local areas.

It is usual practice to export and exchange depth information data in the ‘xyz’ format. But, Orca Pilot Chart Mapper reads ‘xyz’ point cloud data and processes it to create S-57 high density bathymetry layers that are similar to layers on electronic navigational charts.

Tuco Marine Group has introduced remote controlled navigation systems for the ProZero series of workboats because of increasing interest in autonomous surface vessels. Tuco has developed designs for an autonomous tug, patrol vessel, ice-class workboat and a support vessel for remotely operated underwater vehicles.

To enable the ProZero series unmanned operations, Tuco worked with Sea Machines to develop remote controlled navigations systems. These can be embedded into a wide variety of vessels in the ProZero series enabling the vessels to be operated remotely and be self-piloting. Tuco offers the Sea Machines system in the:

  • ProZero 11m pulling drone
  • ProZero DCW 9m arctic workboat
  • ProZero DCW 15m ROV support vessel
  • ProZero 11m patrol vessel

The system would be easy to embed into any ProZero vessel. The autonomous control system and unmanned workboats provide the ability to perform repetitive and quantifiable marine tasks more reliably when compared to direct human control, therefore improving the quality of operations.

Alphatron Marine and Japan Radio Co (JRC), which have jointly developed integrated bridge systems for tugs, have introduced new radar scanners and displays. They have unveiled the AlphaScan 5900 radar with solid-state and high-speed X-band and S-band scanners. The AlphaScan 5900 user interfaces include a smart multi-button trackball that controls the system and a Blizzard processor for target tracking and other functions. Radar data can be monitored on JRC 19in and 26in multifunction displays. Data can also be displayed on 46in monitors that come with the AlphaBridge concept.

Alphatron Marine recently delivered an AlphaBridge to Seacor subsidiary Seabulk Towing for tugboat Trident. This is the first of three new Robert Allan-designed Rotortugs being built by Master Boat Builders in Alabama, USA. Alphatron supplied two ergonomically designed consoles with a central, rotatable, captain’s chair mounted on sliding rails. The layout of the consoles was designed in close co-operation with Seabulk Towing.

Trident has specialised sea and river radar designed for inland and manoeuvring applications in enclosed waters. At each end of both consoles is a retractable screen, one with the radar display and the other a multi-function screen displaying navigation and operational data.

Flir Systems has revealed two additions to its M-Series marine thermal cameras for workboats. The M100 and M200 thermal cameras provide enhanced awareness to seafarers at night. These compact pan-and-tilt marine thermal cameras have Flir’s Boson high-performance thermal camera cores. They feature an integrated multi-core video processor, which produces high quality images, and artificial intelligence functions.

Flir has also introduced Raymarine Axiom multifunction displays that have built-in RealVision 3D sonar, powered by the Raymarine LightHouse 3 operating system. These can be combined with the M100 and M200 thermal cameras to introduce Flir’s new ClearCruise intelligent thermal analytics, which helps mariners identify obstacles, boats and navigation markers at night.

Raytheon Anschütz is introducing a new ECDIS for its integrated navigation systems that product manager Björn Schröder said was developed using user feedback, including from captains and pilots. Raytheon considered the human element at all stages of the software and hardware design process to create user-friendly applications and intuitive functions.

Mr Schröder said that some users wanted a full set of individual functions covering all the requirements, while others wanted the basic functions only. This feedback led to the creation of a wish list of functions and requirements. Navigators went through the identified tasks and their insights were combined with experiences and additional best practice research to identify good approaches and poor functionality. This led to a prototype of Ecdis NX that included a basic screen layout.

Navico has unveiled an integrated package of electronic charts, ECDIS hardware, global service network and training. It includes electronic navigational charts from the UK’s Hydrographic Office’s Admiralty services, Norway’s Primar and other international chart suppliers. The hardware includes Simrad and the Maris ECDIS 9000 platform and the Simrad Maris Bridge Assistant that enables navigators to easily manage electronic charts, paper chart portfolios, and digital publications.

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