Hugh also works with the team looking at the international standards for ENCs and ECDIS. We spoke to Hugh about his role and how he works with the industry in developing new products:
“One of the most important, and rewarding, parts of my job is engaging with the industry to identify changing requirements and developing our products to meet those evolving needs. Over the past couple of years, much of that focus has been on digital navigation. ECDIS and ENCs are changing the way ships navigate. Crew now have faster access to data, more up to date charts and greater visibility of the marine environment, leading to improved safety standards.”
The IMO’s ECDIS Mandate, due to be introduced on a rolling timeframe according to vessel type from 2012, means that these benefits will be driven across the industry before the end of 2016. Ensuring the industry can make the transition to digital navigation successfully is a key part of Hugh’s work.
“There are a number of challenges involved in designing digital navigation products and one of the most significant is usability. Any new product or service needs to be simple to use, and in the case of digital navigation, this means presenting complex data a clear, uncluttered format and making potentially complex tasks as simple as possible.
Our engagement with the industry has been vital in ensuring our products meet these requirements. Mariners, and those based on shore, are working in a very different environment from that of even 10 years ago. New regulations, vessel security demands, environmental concerns and pressures to increase efficiency can all have a significant impact on operations. It’s our role to ensure we factor all of these issues into any product development.”
From regularly attending shipping events, industry roundtables and conferences where key issues are discussed, to the UKHO’s annual distributor conference and navigation road shows, Hugh and his team are constantly looking to better the organisation’s understanding of the marine environment and how mariners operate. As Hugh says, “The insight gained from shipping companies, mariners, OEMS and UKHO partners helps us understand how our products can support their business today and tomorrow.”
He continues, “Our new Admiralty e-Navigator product has been wholly built from this insight. The feedback we’ve had at every stage of its development significantly benefits the development process, and ultimately those who will use it. As an example, one of the key concerns to come out of these discussions was the number of manual interfaces and catalogues mariners have to work with. This is something we wanted to address with the e-Navigator. As a result, the product has one single interface which acts as an integrated digital catalogue, product viewer and passage planning tool which organises, maintains and displays all the information ship and shore-based teams need, as and when they need it.”
“Another key issue we heard time and again from the industry was the cost of communicating with vessels over satellite. So we’ve worked on e-Navigator to ensure it requires minimal updates while at sea, using only very small amounts of data.”
The work on e-Navigator is ongoing, as Hugh concludes “We have a clear plan of how e-Navigator will develop. We’re currently in the process of creating digital versions of a number of our own and partner products, which will integrate with e-Navigator. These additional products will enable the mariner to adopt a far more proactive approach to navigation, based on the much greater insight into the marine environment e-Navigator delivers.
Looking forward, we are working to provide bridge and office teams with increasingly efficient navigational tools which will increase integration between front and back of bridge and between ship and shore. We also have some exciting plans that will make the most of internet access on vessels as it becomes more widely available.
This is a fascinating time to be in the maritime industry, and it’s great to be part of the Admiralty team developing the digital products and services shipping companies need to support their transition to e-navigation.”