Some of the challenges faced by mariners are enduring, with every generation contending with weather, waves and the laws of the sea. Other hurdles reflect the age that we are in, from increasingly strict safety standards and new rules that protect the marine environment through to innovative onboard technologies and the urgent need to decarbonise.
One advantage that modern mariners have over seafarers from a bygone era is access to digital technology. Where crew members once navigated by the stars using a magnetic compass, the 21st Century seafarer now relies on Electronic Navigational Charts that can receive far more accurate and timely updates via satellite, radically improving communication between ship and shore.
Relying on paper charts to plot the safest, most efficient course is no longer necessary. Crews using the latest digital equipment and data can optimise their voyage, spot potential hazards such as rocks and coral reefs, icebergs and sandbars, wrecks and other obstructions, and change course to avoid weather-related threats.
With technological advancements and improved satellite connectivity, it will be possible to deliver crucial navigational and safety updates in near real-time in the future. This will allow seafarers to optimise their passage planning, voyages and port calls, helping to minimise costs, fuel consumption and emissions. None of this would be possible without marine and navigational data. To optimise a vessel, you need a clear understanding of its place in space and time – and navigational data provides this trusted foundation that a mariner and ship owner can use to inform their optimisation decisions.
Switching from paper charts to digital systems such as ECDIS has transformed the art of marine navigation. The coming years promise to be just as evolutionary for the maritime industry, with great advances looming in the navigational products and services that mariners use onboard, and that ship operators and managers can rely on to plan from shoreside.
A new data standard for navigational aids
Future navigational solutions will be underpinned by S-100, the International Hydrographic Organization’s (IHO) new data standard. Through a single, coherent data framework, S-100 will transform the way mariners and ocean users view, share and use marine geospatial data, providing them with harmonised, seamless access.
The S-100 data standard will enrich the user’s view of their marine environment through a wide array of data sets such as bathymetric, water levels and surface currents data. That information will subsequently give bridge teams numerous interoperable data sets and overlays to enhance all stages of the passage planning process. In the future, digital layers could even take the place of multiple nautical publications to aid weather routeing and voyage optimisation.
These next-generation solutions will be an integral part of the maritime future, delivering more accurate, timely and useable data for the mariner and telling them where they are rather than where they were.
While helping support safer navigation, the new data standards are also the building blocks of the hydrographic industry’s latest wave of innovation, spanning voyage optimisation, green and digital shipping corridors, autonomous vessels, and more.
Implementation of the IHO’s S-100 data standard has already begun, with the first S-100-based products and services expected to be carriage compliant from 2026 and mandated from 2029. Additionally, the first batch of S-100 series products and services are already on their way to being ready for deployment, with development, testing and trialling underway.
Establishing trust in uncertain times
Harnessing the full value of this next generation of technology will require us all to meet the needs of modern mariners who, unlike their predecessors, will rely on digital solutions for safe navigation. In turn, future seafarers will likely require a different skillset from previous generations to operate vessels fitted with innovative AI platforms and systems.
Mariners will also need a strong knowledge of and complete confidence in the systems they use when planning and executing a safe, efficient and low-carbon route to their destination. Those systems will also depend on navigational data from a trustworthy source. To that end, the UKHO continues to innovate to ensure its ADMIRALTY products and services support navigation today and for generations to come.
By trusting the ADMIRALTY portfolio, users can navigate with confidence knowing they have access to the latest information to ensure the safety of their vessel, crew, cargo and environment. This data is compiled, assessed and verified by a world-class team of experts at the UKHO to provide users with the safety and commercially critical information they need.
With more dynamic data delivery in future, seafarers will be able to use our products to optimise their passage planning, voyages and port calls, leading to more efficient voyages, reducing shipping’s impact on the marine environment and ensuring we can all meet the industry’s shared decarbonisation goals.