ICT: E-practice makes perfect

Norwegian manufacturers of ship's gear have made an unceasing commitment to technological innovation and have driven the development of new systems in areas such as automation and monitoring, navigation, integrated bridge control and electronic mapping.

As early as the 1960s, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim (NTNU), MARINTEK and a host of other research institutions joined forces with shipowners, equipment manufacturers and maritime authorities to initiate what is now the Norwegian information and communications technology (ICT) industry.

 

This research alliance laid the foundation for the first generation of systems for integrated navigation and automated routines for engines and auxiliaries, ballast and cargo handling developed in the 1970s by Kongsberg Norcontrol. These systems are internationally renowned, and have managed to maintain their state-of-the-art quality even today.

In the 1980s Norway helped to bring cartography into the electronic age with its pioneering efforts in the design and distribution of digital nautical charts. Today C-MAP Norway's global electronic chart service offers online access to the world's largest commercially available database.

 

Realizing the benefit and convenience to their customers, other Norwegian firms are eager to join in on the ICT trend in customer support. Rolls-Royce provides product specifications and drawings for its deck machinery and winches for merchant vessels, specialized ships and oil rigs on CD-ROM, while Miljø-Teknikk distributes its comprehensive product catalogue on CD-ROM and via the Internet.

 

The maritime industry and research institutions continue to work together to find new ways to utilize ICT in shipping operations, on board and on shore. These efforts are focused on systems for operations and maintenance, integrated training systems and electronic documentation for ship's equipment, as well as on the electronic exchange of information between vessels and land-based administration, classification societies and equipment suppliers.

 

Automation specialists Valmarine deliver ship automation and control systems to cruise ships, large ferries, chemical carriers, tankers and other dedicated vessels, while Stento Marine Communication offers dependable on-board communications systems that can fit the specifications of any type of vessel.

 

Norwegian-registered vessels are testing integrated solutions for monitoring ship operations in which data on board is transmitted via satellite to offices on land. This gives shipowners or operators continuous access to updated information about vessels and their cargo. Trials have been promising: there have been cases where machine malfunction on board was first discovered by observant officers reading data on land! Kongsberg Maritime Ship Systems' Fleetmaster information management system employs software modules to report and manage information vital to vessel operations. Software installed on board and on shore interfaces directly with on-board navigation, propulsion control, automation and administration systems. Kongsberg's systems are used in some of the world's busiest shipping lanes.

 

Communicating With Confidence

Modern shipping operations have become increasingly dependent on satellite communications. Anticipating this growing demand, Telenor Broadband Services has acquired satellite communications services from SEINT-Stento that will increase its capacity to service the communications needs of the world fleet.

 

Telenor's Eik Land Earth station was the first automatic land-earth station to be constructed, and remains the largest in the Inmarsat system. Norway's Nera Group is one of the world's primary suppliers of Inmarsat technology, and has designed and built many of the vital links between the Inmarsat system and international communications networks.

 

Tapping into those networks is Jotrun Electronics' line of satellite-based emergency radio equipment, including a free-floating emergency position-indicating radio beacon. Jotrun now commands 20 per cent of the global market for maritime emergency radios.

 

In Tune With the Internet

Satellites not only drive new systems for search and rescue, they also give Norwegian companies the chance to use the Internet as a conduit for innovation. A number of Norwegian equipment manufacturers post software updates and customer support services on the Internet. Marine Automation Systems' (MAS) web-enabled engineer, for instance, offers online project and trading tools that facilitate cooperation with customers ordering new automation systems, making the systems themselves more cost-effective than ever. Systems suppliers participating in the MAS program may see costs drop by up to 75 per cent, as engineers designing systems gain the 24-hour access needed to iron out difficult designs and become more efficient.

 

The Internet is also the venue for new Norwegian Internet business initiatives, such as Aker Maritime's marine portal concept, ShipyardXchange. Aker and its research partner MARINTEK hope the portal will present shipyards with an opportunity to cooperate on procurement through a new portal connecting yards and their suppliers in a common marketplace.

 

Other Norwegian companies are also building an e-commerce community. Among them, newcomer Star Information Systems (SIS) offers some of the most seasoned Norwegian software developers and integration experts within fleet and ship/rig management systems, and delivers software modules for macro and micro management (pictured above). The company also supplies a B2B e-procurement system for material management, an initiative in line with industry efforts to expand the definition and reach of e-commerce.

 

By utilizing state-of-the-art technology to create opportunities where previously none existed, and by carrying on a tradition of intra-industry cooperation that unites the private and public sectors, Norwegian exporters to the worldwide shipping industry are well-equipped to remain at the forefront of change.

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