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Newest integrated bridge systems offer greater knowledge, customization

Jan 23, 2014 02:55 PM
A customized Sperry Marine IBS aboard cruise ship Oasis of the Seas, above,  includes multiple 27-inch wide-screen monitors, below.

Photos courtesy Sperry Marine

A customized Sperry Marine IBS aboard cruise ship Oasis of the Seas, above, includes multiple 27-inch wide-screen monitors, below.

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On a morning voyage out of Bainbridge Island, loaded with Seattle-bound commuters, the Washington State Ferries boat Tacoma inches out of its Eagle Harbor berth. While the ferry travels eastward toward the busy Puget Sound commercial shipping lane, Capt. Bob Merideth cannot see the southbound vessels because a land mass — Wing Point — blocks his port-side view.

Still, the captain knows that the icebreaker Polar Star is in the sound. So is the 98-foot workboat Motega. At a glance, the two display screens in Tacoma’s integrated bridge system (IBS) offer Merideth a combined view of the electronic chart, radar and automatic identification system (AIS). He knows the vessels’ positions and track lines, and the IBS helps Tacoma avoid them and Tyee Shoal.

“This has improved so much over the years — the quality of the displays, the way the data are displayed, how you pull it up, how the AIS is interfaced with the radar, the ability to tailor the display, the brightness, the color of the track line,” Merideth said. “I want to turn it on, and I want to plot what’s relevant. This is the shipping lane — the chart — right on the radar here.”

The customized IBS in 460-foot Tacoma’s pilothouse is equipped with Furuno components including a FAR-2127 radar, MU201CE remote display, FA150 AIS and redundant SC-110 satellite compasses. Inside the SC-110 are the global positioning system (GPS) models GP150D and GP90D. The compact distributor, course repeaters and gyrocompasses are Anschütz products. Weir-Jones Engineering provided the draft indication system.

Merideth uses two display screens. He sets one radar for a three-quarter-mile close-up view. The other is a six- to eight-mile view. The captain uses different colors to denote the channel contours and other vessels’ track lines. On split screens alongside, he calls up various data including AIS descriptions of other vessels.

“We cross the shipping lanes. It gives me the whole range, so I can see what the other people are doing,” Merideth said. “I can track all the (commercial) traffic and the small boats. Everything up close to me is magnified. I keep our own track line yellow, so it stands out from all the others.”

Marine electronics makers and system integrators — whether it’s ComNav, Kongsberg, Raymarine, Transas, Furuno or others — have contributed to IBS improvements in recent years, making it easier for ship officers to operate safely. Recent trends include larger and clearer display screens, split-screen capabilities, multi-functionality, remote monitoring and the inclusion of more vessel systems in the integrated bridge.

“Today’s modern multi-functional displays allow the user to select numerous systems on their individual displays, such as specific machinery being repaired as well as security cameras on the vessel, the ship’s ECDIS display showing its current position and radar targets, to name a few,” said Dave Darr, president of Marine IT Solutions Inc., a New Orleans-based system integrator.

An additional key development has been common hardware/software networks that have improved data integration and consistency, resulting in “the greatest scalability and flexibility ever,” said Darr, who serves the commercial offshore and new-construction markets.

“Modern IBS systems offer common hardware-software solutions instead of each system or station needing their own specially designed processor and system-specific software,” he said. “From a maintenance point of view, the more modern IBS systems provide a major reduction in the need for different processors, parts and the need for individual diagnostics. There also has been a major reduction in cabling as well as weight due to the new system designs and interfacing.”

The maritime sector has taken advantage of technology developed for the television and computer industries. Whereas 21-inch screens in the old TV shape were the standard for marine displays, now there are 26-inch screens with higher picture definition. Captains can call up information on smaller split screens on the right-hand side of the radar/chart view.

“For sure there is a demand for bigger displays and a wide-screen display,” said Doug Anderson, sales director with Simrad Navico. “When you have a multi-functional display, you can bring more data into the display. ... It meets the requirements for a radar display, and on the side you have conning-based data, or we can incorporate our broadband radar on the same display.”

Aside from the standard combinations of radar, chart, AIS, GPS and autopilot, additional functions have been built into IBS data streams to help monitor various ship operations, tides, currents and other environmental inputs.

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