Nov 262014

Support our training video crowdfunder based on this incident here

All the key ingredients for a navigational accident were in place long before the Malta-flagged oil and chemical tanker Ovit grounded on the Varne Bank in the Dover Strait in the early morning darkness of 18 September 2013. The report on the incident from the Marine Accident Investigation Branch, MAIB, identifies several layers of factors, not all of them on the bridge of the Ovit, that led to the grounding without which it would not have occurred.

The vessel was equipped with a Maris 900 ECDIS supplied and installed by STT Marine Electronics in Istanbul. An installation certificate issued on 1 April 2011 indicates that all systems had been properly configured and tested. They had not.

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Isamar Sinking – It Must Have Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time

 Accident Investigation, Accident report, charts, grounding, Sinking  Comments Off on Isamar Sinking – It Must Have Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time
Apr 192014

MY Isamar

Fortunately no lives were lost when the 24 metre motor yacht Isamar struck the charted the Grand écueil d’Olmeto shoal but poor seamanship sank the rather pretty vessel. One suspects that each of the actions or inactions that led to the casualty seemed like a good idea at the time even if they conflicted with good advice at the time.

That the UK-registered vessel had its radar switched off might not have contributed to the loss but the fact that the echosounder – fathomometer for American readers – was switched on but had no shallow water alarm set might well have done.

It might not have mattered that the Electronic Chart System, ECS, had not been updated for 10 years, while indicating a certain laxity with regard to safe navigation, but the fact that it was used for primary navigation when paper charts are advised when using such a system, and set to a scale that did not reveal that there was a reef in the way, certainly did.

No waypoints or course marks were set on the ECS. After all, the captain had a pair of mark one eyeballs.

There are good reasons why an ECS is not recommended for primary navigation. In Isamar‘s case even at the scale which showed the shoal there were no depth indications.

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Publication of Note: How Not To Bump Into Things

 collision, collision regulations, navigation, publications  Comments Off on Publication of Note: How Not To Bump Into Things
Feb 112013
Navigation: Getting where you want to go with no nasty surprises

Navigation: Getting where you want to go with no nasty surprises

Navigation in its most basic form is the art and science of getting from where you are to where you want to go with no unpleasant surprises. A new publication from the Nautical Institute, produced in association with The Royal Institute of Navigation, aims to help seafarers do just that.

The current edition is 12 pages long and focuses on collision avoidance. It can be downloaded or read online.

See it here


GPS Doomsday? Not Yet But…

 AIS, ECDIS, navigation  Comments Off on GPS Doomsday? Not Yet But…
Mar 092011

The Soyuz-Fregat launch vehicle carrying GIOVE-B on launch pad, 2008 Photo: ESA - S. Corvaja 2008

That is how New Scientist described the results of a GPS jammer during tests off the UK coast. Although illegal in many jurisdictions, the devices are available online for as little as $30. While these results are dramatic, as a report from the Royal Academy of Engineering published this week shows, some GPS vulnerabilities may be more subtle and growing dependence on GPS needs to be moderated by greater awareness of threats to the system’s integrity.

The academy’s study has identified an increasing number of applications where position-navigation-timing, PNT, signals from global navigation satellite systems,  GNSS, are used with little, or no, non-GNSS based back-ups available. The trend is for GNSS to be used in a growing number of safety of life critical systems. Unfortunately, the integrity of GNSS is insufficient for these applications without augmentation. Non-GNSS based back-ups are often absent, inadequately exercised or inadequately maintained.
The original implementation of GNSS, the US operated GPS comprises ground based, space based and receiver segments, all of which are susceptible to failures of various types. There are also some common mode failure mechanisms which can affect whole classes of receiver or even the entire satellite constellation.
A failure, or loss of signal due to some outside influence, can result in a range of consequences depending on the application; in a telecommunications network, a small loss in the efficiency of data handling may occur while the system ‘freewheels’ until a signal is restored: in a surveying application where timing is not critical, some delays may occur before the survey can be properly completed. In such applications, a temporary loss of GNSS signals might be considered an

inconvenience. However, where systems are used in safety of life critical
applications, the consequences can be more severe – in some situations, even if operators are well versed in procedures for a loss of GNSS signals, the number of interlinked systems simultaneously activating alarms can lead to eroded situational awareness of operators in what could well be an emergency situation.

GNSS have system-level vulnerabilities: GPS satellites have on rare occasion broadcast dangerously incorrect signals, a reduced number of satellites visible could prevent availability of a position fix, and GNSS receivers can incorrectly process valid signals to give unpredictable results.
GNSS signals are very weak: typically less than100 watts transmitted from a
distance of 20,000 km to 25,000 km. When received at the surface of the earth, the signal strength may be as low as –160 dBW (1 x 10–16 ) watts, with a spectrum spread out effectively below the noise floor in the receivers. Deliberate or unintentional interference with this signal can easily defeat the signal recovery or overload the receiver circuitry.

Furthermore, signals are vulnerable to disruptions in the atmospheric medium they pass through, and receivers can also unintentionally lock onto reflections of the signals, known as multipath, giving unexpectedly large errors.
These causes can have quite different effects on users, such as partial or complete loss of the positioning and timing service, poorer accuracy, very large jumps in position, velocity or time, and ‘hazardously misleading information’ (HMI) that is to say, believable data that is dangerously wrong in safety critical applications.

Report from the Royal Academy of Engineering.

New Scientist Article: GPS chaos: How a $30 box can jam your life


See Also:

The Sun Has Got His Spat On…

GPS: Do You Need To Fix Those Fixes?

Sat Maintenance May Degrade GPS Performance

GPS Hacking May Sink Ships

Where’s the GPS Gone?

GPS Losing Its Way?

Zombie GPS

IMO Wants ECDIS Glitches Confidentially

 ECDIS, ENC, navigation  Comments Off on IMO Wants ECDIS Glitches Confidentially
Dec 292010

ECDIS: IMO wants glitches fixed

Operating ‘anomalies’ have been identified within some CDIS Systems says the International Maritime Organisation, IMO, which is looking for feedback on the issue.

In a recent circular the IMO says: “The Maritime Safety Committee, at its eighty-eighth session (24 November to 3 December 2010), was informed of anomalies in the operation of some ECDIS systems relating to display and alarm behaviour in particular system configurations. The anomalies were discovered by the inspection of ENCs within a small number of ECDIS systems and the committee considered it possible that other anomalies remain to be discovered… Given the widespread use and the impending implementation of the ECDIS carriage requirement, the Committee considered it important that any anomalies identified by mariners are reported to and investigated by the appropriate authorities to ensure their resolution.

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Will ECDIS Ground?

 competency, ECDIS, ENC, maritime safety, navigation  Comments Off on Will ECDIS Ground?
Oct 262010

Who will train them?

By the middle of 2011 so-called certificates of competency in operating electronic chart display and information systems, ECDIS will become mandatory. Good news for training providers but will there be enough experienced seafarers to provide that training? Mal Instone Director of Operations & Standards for ECDIS Ltd., believes a teaching crisis is on the horizon and it may take years to resolve.

No-one can deny the practical usefulness of a properly operated ECDIS. With some 32 systems currently available and at least another two being developed to join them, all with different menu systems and with information capabilities that exceed the need to know, that usefulness could be compromised, especially given the shortage of experienced people to train navigational officers.

Instone tells MAC: “I cannot speak for other training providers, but we think that there is going to be a huge demand for this training and limited supply. One of the biggest problems is that few trainers have the relevant sea experience operating with ECDIS, and this is not likely to change for a number of years”.

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USCG Warns Watch Your AIS

 AIS, navigation, Safety Alerts  Comments Off on USCG Warns Watch Your AIS
Aug 302010



Between July 27 and August, 2010, while conducting development testing of its Nationwide Automatic Identification System (NAIS), the Coast Guard inadvertently tele-commanded most AIS users transiting the Eastern United States between lower Connecticut and North Carolina to switch to AIS frequencies other than the AIS default frequencies (161.975 MHz – Channel 87B – 2087 and 162.025 MHz – Channel 88B – 2088).

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Nautical Institute launches ECDIS and Positioning,

 ECDIS, ECDIS, maritime safety, navigation, publications  Comments Off on Nautical Institute launches ECDIS and Positioning,
Mar 292010

Dr Andy Norris

The Nautical Institute has launched ECDIS and Positioning, by Dr Andy Norris CNI to provide mariners a grounding in all aspects of ECDIS and the use of electronic charts.

ECDIS and Positioning, the second volume of Dr Norris’s Integrated Bridge Systems series, helps paper chart-taught officers to make ECDIS work for them. It also helps new entrants to the industry, who may be more familiar with Google Earth, to understand how to use the system within accepted navigational principles.

Institute President Captain Richard Coates FNI expressed concern about the “inadequacy” of ECDIS training. “Despite the long use of satellite systems for positioning and the imminent mandating of electronic charts in 2012, there is little information written for the mariner concerning the practical use of these technologies,” he said. “Many are grappling with the problems of using electronic charts and ECDIS after being trained on paper charts.”

ECDIS and Positioning by Dr Andy Norris CNI, ISBN: 978 1 906915 11 7, price £40, is available from The Nautical Institute

ECDIS Implementation Guide

 ECDIS, maritime safety, navigation  Comments Off on ECDIS Implementation Guide
Mar 282010

imageSteamship Mutual has issued a new Risk Alert to cover ECDIS implementation requirements.

Since 2002 it has been an option for vessels to be fitted with an Electronic Chart Display and Information System, ECDIS, along with a backup arrangement as a means of fulfilling the requirement under SOLAS regulation V/19-2.1.4 for the vessel to carry nautical charts for the
intended voyage. This option is now being changed into a mandatory requirement as at a meeting of the IMO Maritime Safety Committee in May / June 2009 further amendments to SOLAS regulation V/19 were made to make the carriage of ECDIS mandatory on vessels engaged in international voyages with an expected date of entry into force of 1st January 2011.

Download the Risk Alert Here