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Navtor navigates towards autonomous vessels

Wed 19 Apr 2017

Navtor navigates towards autonomous vessels
Tor Svanes (Navtor): We have a core mission of simplifying tasks for navigators (credit: Navtor)

E-navigation specialist Navtor is participating in a three-year European Union project that is charting a route towards autonomous vessels

The company has been selected to represent the maritime industry in the Enable project to prove, verify and validate the safety of autonomous vehicles in Europe. Navtor is to investigate the concept of the shore-based ship’s bridge, a crucial stepping stone on the path to autonomy.

Navtor was chosen to represent the maritime sector’s efforts due to its expertise and innovation in the field of navigation, planning and monitoring. The firm’s technology currently connects vessels and shore-based facilities worldwide to optimise routes, safety, efficiency and overall fleet management.

Navtor e-navigation project manager Bjørn Åge Hjøllo said: “The opportunity to work alongside established leaders in analogous transport sectors is once in a lifetime. The shared goal is important for Europe, while the expertise we accrue will obviously be of huge benefit to our customers, all of whom can take advantage of key elements of shore-based bridges.”

Navtor’s role in Enable runs through to October 2019. It will focus on testing the validity of the software element of a remote bridge concept. This will be built upon continuous data sharing between vessels and land, with key navigation functions migrating from the crew to office-based teams. Shore-based bridges will not be central to the day-to-day operation of autonomous vessels, but will be a vital part of their support infrastructure, allowing those on shore to take charge of individual ships when necessary.

“We believe autonomous vessels will be a reality within the next 10 to 15 years. Shore-based bridges will be a vital part of realising that vision,” Mr Hjøllo said.

Meanwhile, Navtor is continuing its global expansion, recently establishing a new presence in the UK. It already has offices in Russia, Singapore, Japan and Sweden, as well as its Norway headquarters in Egersund. Navtor chief executive Tor Svanes said: “We have a core mission of simplifying tasks for navigators, enhancing safety, and delivering increased efficiency for owners and operators. This is an objective that, particularly given the current market conditions, has been very well received by customers worldwide.

“We already have a strong position in Europe, but see huge potential in the UK. We believe the demand for our unique technology and services is clear, strong and broad-based. The UK has always been on the chart for Navtor’s growth plans.”

Navtor’s products include the Navtor ENC Service, which is compatible with all types of ecdis and offers electronic navigational charts on either a subscription or a pay as you sail (PAYS) basis. They also include the NavStation back of bridge planning software and the NavTracker fleet management software. NavBox is a new innovation that connects with ecdis and automatically downloads the latest navigational data without navigators having to check for updates.

Among recent new customers of Navtor is Norwegian seismic and offshore vessel owner and operator GC Rieber, which signed an agreement covering its nine-ship fleet. Navtor is providing complete navigation services, including both paper and digital charts on a PAYS basis, alongside products and services including weather and route optimisation services, navigational management solution NavTracker, and the installation of NavBox units.

Geir Rasmussen, marine superintendent at Bergen-based GC Rieber, said: “As a shipowner and operator we are focused on maximising both efficiency and the quality of our operations. The Navtor solution fits perfectly within that framework, uniting all vessels with a single solution that pays real dividends. Navtor is established, stable and high quality in its deliverables, so we feel confident consolidating all our navigation needs with it.”

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