Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Nautical chartist heads in Asia to map out digital future

World's best-known ocean chartist in S'pore with a plan.
Safer and more reliable: Mr Robinson showing a display console with electronic charts installed.
This will be compulsory on all big vessels by 2018.

From BusinessTimes

After 200 years of charting the world's oceans, the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office (
UKHO) has opened its first base overseas in Singapore, to be closer to the world's most important shipping region.

The world of marine navigation is changing.
Paper charts, used for centuries by seafarers to navigate their way to port, will soon sail into the sunset.
The trusted maps from the days of the ancient mariners are being totally replaced by the 21st century's more precise and interactive use of digital technology, heralding a new era in navigation.

And with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) making it compulsory to switch from paper to digital charts by 2018, the world's most well-known chartist is opening shop here to meet the expected spurt in commercial demand for digitised charts, reported to be a market worth over $400 million.

The UKHO produces the most widely used set of sea maps, under the brand name Admiralty.
It has a series of 3,300 paper nautical charts and now has a growing portfolio of electronic navigational charts (ENCs).
These charts are sold worldwide and used by nearly 70 per cent of international shipping.

EastAsia nautical charts

By 2018, driven by the IMO legislation, some 35,000 vessels have to switch to digital navigation, so that they can plot more accurate routes, more efficiently, reducing carbon emission and costs.

With newer vessels already switching to electronic navigation to take advantage of both safety and operational benefits, the introduction of IMO's ECDIS Mandate from next year will see demand for the electronic charts increase, and shipping companies need to change many key processes in order to make the most of the switch.

IMO approved amendments to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (Solas), making it compulsory to fit the Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS).
The amendments, known in the maritime community as the ECDIS Mandate, simply mean that all large passenger, tanker and cargo ships will have to fit electronic charts on a rolling timetable that begins next year.

'We are moving here to be able to work more closely with the world's largest maritime market, which plays a vital role in the shipping industry's successful transition to digital navigation,' said Mike Robinson, chief executive of UKHO.

'Eight out of the top 10 busiest ports in the world and the main shipbuilders are in Asia, so it makes business sense to be located here,' said Mr Robinson, in an interview with BT while he was here to officially open the UKHO Singapore branch during
Maritime Week and Sea Asia.

Asia, he said, also provides more merchant crew than any other continent, adding that the training of some 500,000 crew to use digital navigational equipment over the next six years is a major challenge the industry faces.

'It's hugely important for the UKHO to be in a position to easily engage with this vast and vibrant maritime community as the industry shifts to digital navigation.
By establishing a base in Singapore, Admiralty will be at the heart of the conversation, and best placed to respond swiftly to the needs of our growing number of customers across Asia,' he said.

With a base here, the Admiralty team will work with distributors across Asia and assist customers with advice and expertise on digital navigation strategy, besides providing product support.

The UKHO is the leading supplier of electronic charts allowed under the Solas Regulations.

'We believe that ECDIS is a powerful tool which, in the hands of trained seafarers, can mean safer and more efficient voyages, and at the same time help protect the marine environment,' said Mr Robinson.

The UKHO, is a government agency owned by the UK Ministry of Defence.
The Singapore branch of UKHO has been registered as Admiralty Hydrographic Asia Pacific Pte, with an office at 1 Fullerton Road, Marina Bay.
It is not known yet if hydrographic work on the seas in the region will be managed from Singapore.

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