A Bridge Too Far

Safety and security when navigating the oceans is the main priority for all yachts. Michael Howorth looks at the intuitive integrated bridge systems and navigation software on offer from the leaders in the maritime field

I remember only too well, the time from my past when, as the Navigating Officer sailing aboard the P&O liner Oriana on a voyage to Australia, we, the bridge team, adopted the somewhat pompous practice of answering the engine room telephone by saying “Good Morning this is the Nerve Centre”. The practice only stopped when the engineers began telephoning asking to talk with

the chief nerve. Jesting aside, the bridge of any ship or superyacht is almost always; command central. It is from here when at sea, at anchor and even at times when the yacht is alongside, that the principle decisions regarding the yachts course and safety are decided and enacted upon. When it comes to paraphernalia there are often areas on board such as the engine room or control room that are better fitted out with more expensive control equipment. When it comes to décor then almost certainly the master stateroom will knock the bridge into a cocked hat but the fact remains: it is always the bridge that lies at the very centre of superyacht operation.

In a book, co written by Frances Howorth entitled, ‘Bridge Procedures A Guide for Watch Keepers of Large Yachts under Sail and Power’ written specifically for those working on yachts in excess of 24 metres we said of the bridge: “Safe navigation is the most fundamental attribute of good seamanship. An increasingly sophisticated range of navigational aids can today complement the basic skills of navigating officers, which have accumulated over the centuries. Sophistication, however, brings its own dangers and a need for precautionary measures against undue reliance on technology. Experience shows that properly formulated bridge procedures and the development of bridge teamwork are critical to maintaining a safe navigational watch.” As navigation and routing becomes more electronically generated that is becoming more and more important.

Generally speaking, the commercial shipping companies are extremely cost conscious, looking to maximise every possible efficiency to keep costs as low as possible. In terms of electronic navigation, cells are purchased on a route-by-route basis, with very little cross-track buffer. This will keep the costs down, but it does of course have an impact on the amount of detail for things like emergency ports of refuge. Yachts on the other hand, have traditionally been more liberal with their ENC consumption to cover off the unexpected change of itinerary. Rather than purchasing week-by¬week, yachts will look at a much wider area for a longer period to be safe.

As an independent supplier of navigation solutions, OneOcean can trace back company activity back to the days of Nelson. Clearly in those times there was no such thing as electronic navigation and indeed the bridge as we know it today did not even exist but it does give the company a fairly unique view on both the world of commercial shipping and superyachts. While the equipment being used on both types of vessels is very similar, the bridge procedures can greatly differ. Former yacht crewmember, Chris Warde, is now the company’s Head of Superyachts and has been in that position since January 2018. Before that he worked for Sunseeker International as a Superyacht Technical Sales Manager. With that sort of background he is clearly qualified to comment on navigation and compliance solutions.

He says, “With the introduction of our OneOcean Pay As You Sail (PAYS) scheme the superyacht community has quickly embraced the concept making it a commercial success, but on the commercial shipping side growth of this sector has been somewhat slower. With PAYS yacht crew have access to the world (with the exception of 5 areas) and only get charged for the cells they sail through. So a yacht can be sat at anchor of the coast of France and start planning route across the other side of the world. They save time and money by being able to keep entire areas up to date, without having to purchase the individual cells.”

There is a tracking fee and planning fee for PAYS, but the cost the yachts save on the ENC consumption far outweighs this up-front subscription. In shipping however, where their ENC consumption is already kept to a bare minimum, the perceived benefits of having more access to ENC data is not deemed a high enough value for the additional tracking and planning fees. Warde says, “Interestingly we see a more widespread adoption of full paperless navigation in the commercial shipping sector. You would expect with all the perceived money in yachting, that superyachts would be leading the way with technology. It’s true that as individual vessels, the new larger superyachts tend to have the most advanced technology and equipment, pushing the boundaries of integration, but there is also a large fleet of smaller (sub 500gst) yachts and older yachts that don’t have the technical infrastructure to run paperless and therefore continue to run with paper as the primary source of navigation. While paper navigation is quickly becoming something of the past in shipping, there is still a sector of yachting that continues to use paper and this is unlikely to change in the near future.”


Probably the biggest difference between ships and yachts can also be drawn within yachting itself as the difference between privately registered yachts and commercially registered yachts. As a commercial
vessel you are more exposed to Port State inspections and have much tighter regulatory restrictions from flag meaning, in theory, you have no choice but to carry the required material, be completely up to date and have comprehensive passage planning detailed and recorded. Privately registered yachts are recommended to carry the same as a commercial vessel, but are not required to do so.

As private vessels are not subject to the same level of Port State inspections, there are plenty of yachts out there that are doing the bare minimum. Private yachts (especially those under 500gt) are yet another reason why paper charts are holding on in yachting. In theory paper charts are the primary source of navigation and ECS should only be an aid. It is common practice, however, to find all the route planning and navigation reference is actually being done on the ECS using unofficial charts while paper charts stay stored away pristinely in the chart drawer.

“There are of course exceptions to the rule, not all private yachts cut corners,” Says Warde. He adds, “Generally, the professionalism of yachting is improving all the time. We are seeing more and more crew wanting to run their bridge procedures correctly and there is more recognition of the importance of having up to date information and proper passage planning in place.”
“The one commonality between commercial shipping and yachting is probably the biggest factor driving innovation and new solutions and that is time. Neither have it in an abundance. For yachting it has meant that, for many, proper passage planning was seen as a luxury they’re not able to comply to. More often than not, they rely on past experience, having been to many of the places before. As new solutions are developed, we can optimise the time spent creating a route and building a comprehensive plan meaning that even on smaller yachts with fewer crew or busy charter yachts where bridge crew are also extremely busy on deck have the ability to follow the correct procedures.”

In general, OneOcean can see a trend of superyacht crew getting better. As more yachts get built above 3,000gst, more professionals holding ‘unlimited’ certificates are being introduced to the industry and that is having a positive effect. But we are a long way off the day when companies no longer have to explain the difference between an official chart and an unofficial chart or explaining what the AIO layer is for.
“Solutions are constantly improving,” says Warde, “This enables yachts to plan better and have more reliable, up to date information available to them, but until we see tighter regulatory control for privately registered vessels there will still be those out there that sail dangerously close to the wind.”

Massimo Minnella, is the CEO and sales manager at Team Italia a company specialising in the integration and functional optimisation of navigation, telecommunications, security and data transmission equipment based
in Viareggio with offices throughout Italy. Together with his financial partner, Daniele Ceccanti, the company CTO, Massimo founded Team Italia 20 years ago.

With experience of commercial ships before he entered the world of superyachts Massimi is in no doubt that the superyacht bridge can be vastly superior to those found on commercial ships. The company designs, engineers and produces custom bridge solutions. Its I-Bridge solutions have been installed on more than 250 new buildings since 2000 on superyachts ranging from 30 to over 100 metres. Because each I-Bridge is a customised solution each has specific features that respond to the requests of ship owners and captains. A good example of this can be seen on board the recently launched Sanlorenzo motor yacht Attila, where transparent head-up display system has harmoniously been permitted to overlay the company’s exclusive electronic chart table system they call I Chart.

As more yachts get built above 3,000gst, more professionals holding ‘unlimited’ certificates
are being introduced to the industry and that has a positive effect

In the Heads-Up Display mode, navigation data is available on the transparent display, allowing the Captain to easily check all information needed and still keep fully focused on steering the yacht. The transparent display allows him to overlay and display this with navigational data – such as route, waypoint, AIS and ARPA targets.

Barry Murfin is the General Manager at Charity & Taylor (Electronic Services) Ltd who have this year become a member of the Aage Hempel Group one of the largest marine electronic groups in Europe. Seven years into the job and with a history of working as a Marine Electronics Project Engineer, his company provides access to an expanded range of products, services and technical resource, and local engineering support in the Mediterranean. All this ensures bridge equipment can be supplied, installed and maintained in a cost efficient manner to both yachting and commercial ship clients. Murfin concedes however that there is a difference between the two, saying, “Superyachts of over 300gt will invariably share the same bridge equipment as their larger commercial counterparts, this ensures the necessary performance and reliability requirements are met, in keeping with any superyacht aesthetics then become a large factor in the equipment selection process.”

Originally rooted in commercial shipping, German based Boening specialises in the development and manufacture of electronic devices and systems for on board automation. Devices and systems, the majority of which they have developed and manufactured themselves are found on more than 13,000 commercial ships and superyachts. Headquartered in Japan, the Furuno Corporation has a UK division with offices in the south of England and another in Scotland. Bruce Hardy the Sales Director in the UK has designed some of the most advanced ship integrated bridges built in the last few years. Across the pond, and based in Fort Lauderdale, Palladium Technologies has for the last 25 years been creating products that include: SiMON X, a bridge monitoring, control and alarm system, IT Networking, Cyber Security, Intrusion Security, along with complete Electrical designs throughout the yacht.

Communications systems play a vital role in the bridge equipment menu. Senior Vice President of Safety and Security, Yacht and Passenger, at Inmarsat, Peter Broadhurst says, “A commercial ship must comply with SOLAS, so its required equipment is defined by IMO regulations and the flag state. Although a superyacht does not have to comply in this way, most do as they either voluntarily follow the guidelines or register themselves as SOLAS. The regulations define the minimum equipment and most commercial ships will stop at that. A superyacht will add things like cameras, tender tracking monitoring, UHF or PMR radios, etc. Also, a commercial bridge is a place of work, whereas a superyacht bridge is also part of the décor of the vessel with guests and owners visiting it. This means a superyacht bridge may have larger monitors, integrated solutions per monitor, computer-controlled solutions and interfaces – and obviously a more pleasing aesthetic finish which sometimes is more important than the function.”


Kongsberg Maritime introduced the world’s first, commercially available ARPA radar back in 1969. Other innovations followed: an autopilot with track-control functionality built into the radar was released in 1975. The company has since been in the forefront of innovation, developing what was called the scan-converter for rotating radar signals and pioneering the use of conventional computer screens rather than the fluorescent PPI in 1990, together with some of the very first available electronic chart systems.

Today Roger Trinterud is the company’s Sales Director, responsible for the cruise, yacht and passenger markets. He has worked with Kongsberg Maritime for 23 years, first as a service engineer on bridge systems, then as a project manager for refit/upgrades on bridge equipment before spending more than 10 years on sales of bridge equipment. He subsequently held the role of Senior Sales Manager, with responsibility for coordinating the yacht market within Kongsberg, for 4 years.

Kongsberg Maritime has over the years focused on all kinds of electronic control for ships and offshore installations since its beginning in the late 1960s. These include automation, power/energy management, safety management and control systems, bridge systems including navigation, joystick/ dynamic positioning and remote control of any propulsion/rudder/thruster setup, as well as integration between these control systems.

More recently, Kongsberg has become heavily involved in digitalisation, condition monitoring, remote diagnostics and service and autonomous vessels. Last year, Kongsberg also acquired the maritime division of Rolls Royce, enhancing their portfolio with propulsors (propellers, thrusters, waterjets), rudders, stabilisers, deck machinery and more, making the company a supplier with possibly the widest offering to any vessel type. Today Kongsberg also manufacture its own GNSS solutions for position, heading and speed measurements, AIS and ring laser gyro systems.

Superyachts of over 300gt will invariably share the same bridge equipment as their larger commercial
counterparts, this ensures the necessary performance and reliability requirements are met

More recently, Kongsberg has become heavily involved in digitalisation, condition monitoring, remote diagnostics and service and autonomous vessels. Last year, Kongsberg also acquired the maritime division of Rolls Royce, enhancing their portfolio with propulsors (propellers, thrusters, waterjets), rudders, stabilisers, deck machinery and more, making the company a supplier with possibly the widest offering to any vessel type. Today Kongsberg also manufacture its own GNSS solutions for position, heading and speed measurements, AIS and ring laser gyro systems.

In Trinterud’s opinion, bridge equipment has not changed much as one might think over the last five years. He says, “There is still a big focus on individual pieces of equipment and their functions, rather than on the performance of a bridge system. I would hope that carriage requirements, focusing on counting pieces, would be replaced by functional and redundancy/ backup requirements in the future.”

“On yachts in particular, we are seeing an increase in interest for dynamic positioning systems, as this can increase safety and or comfort of some operations. Solid state radars have been introduced. I still do not see the added cost being justified by improved performance, but I think that will change over the next years. This will also improve performance and degradation of radar systems, as well as simplifying service. The most important change may be happening now, with more and more equipment brands enabling possibilities for remote diagnostic functions.”

Portfolio Manager of the Integrated Bridge Systems at RH Marine is Marcel Vermeulen whose career began as a deck officer in commercial shipping. Having designed automated ship motion solutions within the RH group he began managing his current department about 4 years ago. In the 1990s when RH Marine was known as Imtech the company has witnessed many changes in ridge design having delivered to the market one of the very first electronic chart systems. They followed this with the delivery of the first complete PC based integrated navigation bridge just as the century clicked over from 19 to 20. Of the changes in recent years Vermeulen believes the new ECDIS standard and the introduction of Bridge Alert Management has had the most impact on the wider acceptance of integrated operator panels. “Besides functionality,” he says, “Aesthetics of the bridge has gained importance, and this has been supported by technological options to automate more and use smaller components.”

Chris Warde at OneOcean says, “A huge amount has changed.” He adds, “Not just in the technology, but in the application. Integrated services have led to a much better situational awareness and quicker access to information has improved navigation preparation and safety management.”

“Developments to bridge equipment in the last five years have been heavily focused on simplifying the user interface and reducing maintenance requirements says Barry Murfin at Charity & Taylor. He concludes, “Thus easing the burden on crew for training and maintenance co¬ordination.”

Simrad, a company with a 60 year history in the business has been developing multifunctional displays (MFDs) for many years. Gianluca Babini heads up the Mega Yacht Engineering Department at Simrad. He started to work for NAVIOP, now part of Simrad, 15 years ago and has worked in a variety of different roles within the company. In that time, he has also witnessed much change. “These displays have evolved in very much the same way as a smartphone has over the same sort of period,” he says. He adds, “Chartplotters, Echo-sounders and radars are all now an application that launch inside the MFD as soon as it is switched on in much the same way as your mobile telephone becomes a camera and a calculator inside your pocket.” Babini continues, “The acquisition of NAVIOP by Simrad in 2017 has enabled us to enhance our offering and most importantly develop fully integrated marine-electronics systems that enhance the yachting experience. With Simrad Command we can now offer unique solutions for navigation control. Multifunctional display solutions that not only offer navigation functions but also monitor and control all of the boat’s key processes and systems. From the design-phase to our close collaboration with engine manufacturers and our technical know-how, makes Simrad Command one of the few platforms that can provide this level of integrated solutions.”


Gazing into the crystal ball trying to predict what is next in the way of major equipment to become available to superyachts can be difficult. But Roger Trinterud at Konesberg is prepared to stick his head out and suggest it might be Situational Awareness Systems. He says, “Today the bridge is a cluttered mess of screens and instruments displaying information in an unstructured way. There is a mix of raw information from sensors and processed data supplied through computer systems that can be complementary but in fact often overlaps with redundant information. This can sometimes be comforting but at other times confusing. Trinterud thinks, “We will soon see information structured as layers on top of each other on the same screen -instead of adjacent – combining video, radar signals, electronic charts with all sensor data. This way it will be easier to detect faults and inconsistencies, and at the same time give the navigator a better understanding at a glance, and more time to look out the windows, in the right direction.”

“The integration of joystick and dynamic positioning systems in the navigation suite are giving us the possibility to develop new, advanced manoeuvring functions, that will also ease operations. Warming to his theme, Trinterud also suggests, “These include all-speed autopilots that work from station keeping to transit speed, automatic docking and automatic collision avoidance systems.”

There has been a large amount of positive feedback on the ease of operation
which Joystick and Dynamic Positioning offers the bridge crew

At RH Marine whose speciality is to deliver tailored integrated solutions system they are designing and building bridge automation and power solutions in-house. Looking into the future Marcel Vermeulen thinks, “We will see more of the larger size monitors. Some will be integrated into the chart table recalling the size and familiarity of the good old paper chart experience, like with our Voyage Planning Station. He believes, “More equipment will become available with network interfaces to support a higher level of integration, again helping to minimise the required volume for bridge equipment and allowing smarter bridge design.”

Team Italia are looking to the future in a partnership with Rolls Royce, to create what will become the MTU SmartBridge. “This project,” says Massimo Minnella “opens up to the integration of the propulsion thus integrating all the systems onto a single platform and obtaining the digitalisation of the entire boat.” He adds, “Everything, except for the throttle control which will always remain physical, will be based on touch screen technology.”

At OneOcean, Chris Warde’s crystal ball suggests, “The availability of electronic record keeping is going to become more important in the future. The IMO are due to recognise electronic record keeping as an official form of record keeping in October 2020 and Marpol logbooks alone, will provide a huge amount of data that can be used to analyse vessel performance, without the need for costly remote monitoring of engineering.”

“My prediction,” says Barry Murfin at Charity & Taylor, “is that augmented reality will become a big contributor to the superyacht sector as an aid to navigation, crew training and remote support.”

Gianluca Babini at Simrad shares the belief that augmented reality will become. He says, “When sailing, it would be good to know at a glance what you are approaching getting data from the AIS and seeing it projected on the windscreen so as to see navigation data, route, speed, size all in one place. Never one to have just one idea, Babini has a second prediction, “But I cannot tell you when it will be in the marketplace.”

He tells us. “I think automatic mooring is a real need, I have to say that it is much more important for non professional crew, but it can be very helpful in many cases where professional crews can use such sophistication. I think that already many companies are investing in this field but they all have a long way to go before they reach the goal of getting to the market at affordable price.”


But if that is the future, what about the present? What piece of bridge equipment do the experts consider to be the most important? “Still the radar and the gyro,” say our man at Konesberg.
Barry Murfin at Charity & Taylor belives that no one single piece of equipment is any more important than the other. He says, “A complete properly installed and integrated bridge can be an asset but only in the hands of a competent watchkeeping officer who can use to these aids.”

More prosaically, “It is probably a part that you cannot actually see,” says Marcel Vermeulen at RH Marine. “To maintain a reliable and flexible navigation network infrastructure on the modern bridge you require a lot of information to be shared between applications and equipment. This needs to be managed well in the background to optimise the availability and the user experience and that’s generally done by processors housed in little black boxes located under the bridge console.”

“Considering that much of navigation equipment on board is there because its carriage is mandatory,” says Massimo Minnella, “I would suggest the most important piece inside our I-Bridge solution is the one that adds the most added value and in our case that would be the console in the touch screen control panel responsible for the total integration of the entire equipment package.”

Adopting the procedure for announcing the results of the Miss World competition, or the Euro song scoring, Gianluca Babini lists his top seven in reverse order. They are: Forward Facing Sounder, Auto Pilot, ECDIS, Echo Sounder, VHF and GPS. Most important he says is the radar. “Professional crew working on superyachts,” he says, “Can turn it on at any time, in rain, fog, snow, sunshine and even unlimited visibility! It’s a way to see behind their shoulders staying in the bridge from where you can have a 180° sight.”

But our favourite response to this question is the answer given by Chris Warde at OneOcean. He says it is: “The operator! Technology is great, but if the person using it is not up to scratch it’s irrelevant.” So very true!


Bridge equipment suppliers do not, of course, work on the bridge of a superyacht and their opinion of what is, and what is not, important can differ from those whose place of work the bridge really is. We asked our panel of experts: “What piece of equipment they thought captains of superyachts might treasure most?”

Dynamic positioning system topped the list with both Roger Trinterud at Konesberg and Marcel Vermeulen at RH Marine. Trinterud said, “Once the captain gets to know it, I think this is the dynamic positioning system. I know many are ‘afraid’ of it, think it is complicated to use and unnecessary, but I’ve heard so many stories from captains that have taken their time to learn it, telling how it saved a situation. Now we are trying to simplify the operation, by integrating it with the navigation system and having it operated through the chart display, hopefully giving the captains more trust in it. This is a part of what we call advanced manoeuvring.”

Marcel Vermeulen said, “Of course each situation calls for its own favourite tool, but we’ve noticed a large amount of positive feedback on the ease of operation which Joystick and Dynamic Positioning offer. The automated assistance in berthing and other complex manoeuvring situations is highly appreciated.”

Almost inevitably Team Italia’s Massimo Minnella cites his own equipment. And why not? He says, “From our experience the captain treasures most our multicontrol system that allows them to use the majority of the systems on board with the same Human Machine Interface.” He adds, “Our exclusive I-Bridge system makes possible the integration and control of the different systems that are now essential on board, from a single piece of equipment, using the latest touchscreen technologies.”

Chris Warde thinks GPS is top of the captains’ most treasured list. He says, “Whether they’re using an ECS/ECIDS or even paper charts, being able to immediately plot your position saves a lot of time and effort.” Sticking to the same theme of time saving kit, Gianluca Babini at Simrad opts for Radar. He says, ”It is not only very good at monitoring situations automatically but it does so at the same time as reducing the workload for all of those working on the bridge.”


As bridge equipment has become more complex, has the maintenance become more difficult we asked our panel of experts: “Are users now better trained in the use and maintenance of the equipment than in the past?”
Barry Murfin at Charity & Taylor believes, “Maintenance has been lessened with the manufacturers developing more versatile and common hardware platforms, along with ‘maintenance free’ hardware. Training for ETOs and Engineers direct from manufacturers has helped bridge the gap for preventative maintenance tasks.”

“Bridge equipment has become more complex having a lot of functionalities.” So says our man at Simrad Gianluca Babini. He adds, “We are in charge of simplifying the user experience of the bridge, it’s mandatory. The maintenance is not more difficult, usually it works or not! The crew are very different but I would say that younger crew adapt to new systems more easily.”

Chris Warde thinks, “Users are definitely not better trained, equipment and management solutions have become more intuitive and have therefore become easier to maintain.”

Giving us the Kongsberg point of view Roger Trinterud says, “This very much depends on the actual configuratio n. How many brands of equipment, how integrated they are, and whether the owner/captain has given an ETO or other crewmember the possibility to do some training. With a good, trained ETO and remote diagnostic functions, we actually see less need for travelling, but increased phone/web support.”

With the shift to a more automation focus of bridge equipment, information and communications technology (ICT) maintenance aspects obviously grow, and remain a concern as with all new adopted technology. However, the growing expertise of remote access and support is putting these fears at bay. For professionalism and safety these bridge systems are vital.