Making life easier for the bridge team



At the 5th session of IMO Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue (NCSR) – good progress was made to improve the safety of navigation; and to reduce the workload and stress level of the bridge team

NCSR 5 was held from 19 to 23 February 2018 in London. The NCSR considers technical and operational matters related to safety of navigation on board ships.

Human interface of electronic navigation equipment

The paper co-sponsored by BIMCO (NCSR 5/7), which proposed a standardised mode of operation (S-Mode) guideline, was received positively by NCSR. With the proposal, the industry aims to promote standardisation of user interfaces for navigation equipment and systems to help meet user needs. The guideline was developed in close collaboration between equipment manufacturers, BIMCO, universities and member states to reflect all sides of the industry.

S-Mode aims to reduce variation in navigation systems and equipment through the standardisation of important aspects of the user interfaces. By the S-Mode users will get timely access to essential information and functions that support safe navigation. BIMCO expects that more standardisation in equipment design will reduce the amount of familiarisation needed for electronic navigation. This is the responsibility of designers and manufacturers of electronic navigation equipment and the guidelines will assist to achieve this.

The proposal was endorsed by NCSR 5 and there is now a basis for continuing the work. Until the next meeting, NCSR user testing will take place and BIMCO will be working with others to finalise the text of the standardised mode of operation (S-Mode) guideline.

Display of navigation information

Effective decision-making and safe navigation depends on how the information is presented to the navigator. As part of the process of moving away from information given on paper to being presented on a screen, guidelines on how to present this navigation information was discussed further. Because of other work taking place in parallel with the standardised mode of operation, S-mode (see above) and guidance on the definition and harmonisation of the format and structure of maritime services within the Maritime Service Portfolio (MSP), NCSR endorsed a set of interim guidelines for the harmonised display of navigation information received via communication equipment. An interim solution was preferred because being used in practice would give an indication of the future way to harmonise navigation information received from communications equipment.

Ships will have information delivered through a combination of primary navigational displays, such as Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS), radar and Integrated Navigation Systems (INS), together with any additional display facilities to assist the safe and efficient navigation of the ship. The interim guidelines are expected to be adopted by the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) in May 2018.

Digitalising communication

BIMCO submitted a paper (NCSR 5/8/2) that proposed to harmonise the data elements' identity (ID) for Maritime Services. The harmonisation of data element IDs is crucial to ensure inter-operability between different services and to facilitate smooth communication between computers.

BIMCO emphasised the importance of developing a common definition of the individual data element IDs. For example, that the data element “ship name” should be assigned with a designated data element identification “ShipID.ShipName”, which is used in the software code to ensure proper and correct exchange of that specific information.

Currently there are several international standards that use different IDs for the same data element. The proposal prepares a way to continue with the existing standards by using a harmonised data set structure will help to ensure proper and practical implementation of machine-to-machine (M2M) solutions.

The submission was well received by the sub-committee and was supported by several member states. However, because the scope of the BIMCO proposal was considered to be slightly outside of what is currently tasked to the NCSR sub-committee, it was decided that BIMCO would have to ask the IMO for a new work point item. To fast-track the work, the proposal for a new work point item should be given to the Facilitation Committee (FAL) that currently is considering similar matters. BIMCO will therefore draft a paper which asks IMO to add this important item to the agenda of FAL in June 2018. Due to IMO procedures, BIMCO needs at least one member state to sponsor the paper.

Polar Code

The discussions on the Polar Code were taken in a correspondence group (CG) that was tasked to supplement existing performance standards for navigation and communication equipment used in polar waters in support of the implementation of the Polar Code. The task is urgent because the Polar Code has entered into force, but the performance standards for such equipment still need to be looked at.

The CG had identified a lot of equipment that had to be amended due to this. For practical reasons it was decided to develop general guidance for navigation and communication equipment intended for use on ships operating in polar waters. The capability of the equipment to be usable in the Polar Areas will be documented as an optional remark in the certificate.

It should be noted that existing approvals will not be impacted. The categories of the Polar Code should be referenced to specific environmental conditions eg "exposed polar" or "exposed polar extreme", if the categories of the Polar Code will not lead to a clear indication. Equipment not intended for use in polar waters should not be influenced. The work will continue until the next meeting of NCSR.

Industry standard on software maintenance

BIMCO and Comité International Radio-Maritime (CIRM) informed IMO about the Industry Standard on Software Maintenance of Shipboard Equipment which was published in January 2018. Software maintenance in the standard means checking, updating, re-configuring, or upgrading the software of shipboard equipment in order to prevent or correct faults, maintain regulatory compliance, and/or improve performance.

The Industry Standard was developed between 2014 and 2017. The work encompassed a pilot project wherein a draft version of the standard was implemented on board ships on a trial basis, the results of which were used to amend the contents of the standard. The following companies participated in the pilot project: BP Shipping, Emarat Maritime, Furuno, Kongsberg Maritime, Maersk Line, MAN Diesel & Turbo, Radio Holland, and Sperry Marine.

The standard was noted by NCSR and the chairperson encouraged the wider use of the standard. Importantly, the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) acknowledged the software maintenance standard as an important issue. IACS also informed that their work on cyber safety will take the new standard into account.


Aron Soerensen
in Copenhagen, DK


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