Superyacht Integrated Bridge Systems


The latest bridge systems are not just highly technical and fully integrated with other on board systems, but are now works of art themselves, seamlessly blending into the overall design and style of the yacht itself

The on/off metal ‘toggle’ switches, with their black plastic ends, that randomly adorn the wood-panelled dashboard of my 1967 Triumph GT6 classic car, remind me just how much driver information systems and console technology has changed, not just for cars, but for boats as well.

These last five years, in particular, have seen monumental changes and advancement, not just in the physical and visual appearance of bridge and helm stations, but in the shear scope and scale of information control and management and data use and storage now available. Even relatively small and affordable outboard-engined 28ft starter-boats are being built and marketed with ‘full glass helm bridge’ functionality of varying degrees of complexity, and this level of standard-fit equipment is being seen as the new and widely accepted norm.

“Gone are the days when a chartplotter and a few analogue gauges would suffice,” says E-Touch Systems, Managing Director, Jamie Brown.

“A new age of ‘Glass Bridge’ systems and fully integrated Access Management Systems (AMS) are becoming standard. The ever-increasing processor power of modern electronics, coupled with the affordability of modern technology, is allowing even the smallest of yachts to have a centralised, touch-screen, multifunction bridge integrating AMS, Navigation, CCTV and Media, amongst others.”

On larger yachts, the bridge and helm station itself has become a room that can be equally personalised, structured and enhanced in a way that meets the same visual aesthetic and techno-sophistication of the rest of a yacht’s interior. No more is this just a room full of mis-matched screens, randomly placed knobs, dials, switches, and awkward looking black boxes.

Underlining the point about aesthetics, Roger Trinterud, Kongsberg Maritime’s Sales Director for their cruise, yacht and passenger markets, said, “The modularity of our latest systems increases the wheelhouse and console design possibilities, to furnish a bridge with screen-based instruments and gauges that all have the same look, using the same colour palette. For larger yachts, Kongsberg offer bridge alert/alarm systems, radar/ecdis, autopilot, dynamic positioning, automation and auxiliaries (like wipers, horn, lanterns etc) controlled from a multifunctional touchscreen operator panel, furnished either within the console itself, in an armrest, or on a floating pedestal.”

It is often the case that bridge system developers, software designers and consultants prefer to partner with hardware manufacturers who already have the kind of high level, precision-engineering experience and significant resource required for manufacturing displays and screens. These manufacturers will often have worked not just from within marine markets, but in avionics and aerospace industries as well.

General Manager of Telemar in Fort Lauderdale, David Gratton, told me, “While we are not a manufacturer, we have developed several bridge related solutions for superyachts, including a fully integrated glass bridge solution in partnership with Pariani in Milan. A completely custom-made solution with all the elegance of Italian design and robustness of class approved deployments, where we can help make the bridge a fully functional and redundant showpiece for discriminating owners.”

Working in partnership with Böening systems, E-Touch’s Jamie Brown told us how they had recently ‘tested the limits’ of integration on board the 59m superyacht M/Y HELIOS, installing a full glass bridge system, consisting of 8 x 27” and 2 x 15” screens.

Jamie said, “The new system allows the monitoring and control of every electrical and electronic system on board, whilst integrating the existing autopilot and steering systems into the new dashboard. To ensure this all works seamlessly, a proper bridge design and specification is critical. But, of course, it can’t just look good, it has to be robust and reliable, which means the most important part is hidden in the depths of the bridge. To maintain a good strong and flexible navigation network, the infrastructure requires a high level of management of information flowing between the bridge equipment. Like a swan, graceful and elegant above the surface, but with some serious work underneath!”

OK, we’ve established the physical look and feel of a ‘full glass helm’ bridge might resemble little in terms of what may have gone before. But, in terms of new features and functions that captains and crews can expect to benefit from now, Kongsberg’s Roger Trinterud told me, “As all control systems work from the same platform, a carefully designed system, could render the need for using KVM matrixes, reducing complexity, still maintaining the flexibility.

“The new all speed autopilot combines features of a traditional autopilot with the dynamic positioning system, simplifying user interface and reducing the possibility of incidents whilst changing control between various control systems.

“Reduced need of hardware, using sensors like the MGC (Kongsberg Maritime Ring laser Gyro Compass) which has accurate roll/pitch/ heave and acceleration measurements and inertial navigation capabilities. It replaces the roll/pitch sensor needed for dynamic positioning, and stabilizing systems, and are used as sensors for helideck monitoring systems and multibeam echo sounders. Combining the MGC with our ECDIS (Electronic Chart Display & Information Systems) enables the option to do accurate motion prediction, presented in the chart, and soon functions like automated transit and docking, which is currently being introduced on ferries.”

Underneath the waterline, FarSounder’s Argos Series of navigational forward-looking sonars, with the latest being the Argos 350, is designed principally for yachts in the 18m to 40m size range. The transducer can detect objects in the water column up to 350 metres in front of the yacht. Real-time software enables any upcoming obstructions to be displayed as a 3-Dimensional image on screen, even at vessel cruising speeds of up to 25 knots. Perfect as an early warning signal against coastal hazards such as coral reefs, sand bars and so forth. And for ‘explorer-style’ yachts, the system will detect icebergs and large whales.

FarSounder’s Cassie Stetkiewicz told me, “Yachts can encounter ‘challenges’ in shallow water on a regularly basis and Argos sonar avigation systems can detect and warn of dangers up to 350m specified at 18 knots, 500m at 20 knots or up to 1000m at 25 knots ahead of the vessel, depending upon which model they choose.

“We don’t include monitors or displays with our systems, however our standard bridge software provides a highly advanced graphical user interface such that our data can be displayed on a dedicated or shared screen on many types of displays. In addition, our Software Development Kit (SDK) enables developers to integrate our 3D images directly into their products.”


In addition to bridge technology specifically developed for yachts, the trickle-down effect from commercial marine means a wider range of options will eventually become available across both sectors. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Augmented Reality (AR), for example, are closely related examples that illustrate the point.

ongsberg Maritime, for example, have their SeaEye and SeaAware products enabling navigators and captains to ‘see what the human eye cannot’.

SeaAware fuses radar and electro-optical sensors, together with attitude, positioning and AIS sensor data to provide reliable information on all static and moving objects inside the coverage area. The navigator is provided with this information automatically

from a single source, removing the need for manual tuning of sensors and correlating their outputs.

SeaEye is a camera platform with a compact and hardwearing housing with cameras configurable 40 to 360 degrees coverage designed to cope in a maritime environment. Machine vision CMOS technology enables crystal clear imagery across all scenarios, with unrivalled pixel precision, including in low-light.

Roger from Kongsberg Maritime, told me, “The system is the first of our Ship Intelligence, remote and autonomous solutions to be developed for commercial marine application. Combining multiple sensors with intelligent software, situational awareness is designed to mitigate the risks navigators face, especially in poor weather conditions, congested waters or at night.”

“Other instances could be, for example, when using situational awareness to detect quay positions, and by using the all-speed autopilot to ‘park.’ Or using situational awareness at anchor, to automatically keep a safe distance from other vessels/ yachts. Integrating the bridge systems and energy management, to ensure the most emission-friendly operation. Or having a Multi-Function Display (MFD) that works across traditional system lines, for example, presenting radar image, dynamic positioning, energy management and CCTV all in the same view, based on the operation.”

Roger adds, “The ongoing development of autonomous vessels (autonomous not necessarily in the sense of being unmanned), will give some functionality, that we believe could be of interest for the yacht industry, especially in the fields of situational awareness and automated manoeuvring.”

Jamie from E-Touch made the point, “With the reduction in cost of digital technology, new products such as full touchscreen Advanced Management Systems or Augmented Reality, which pair GPS & AIS data with cameras to assist with safety in busy shipping lanes or poor visibility, are starting to be offered on vessels of much smaller size than expected, offering the owner or charter guest a much more pleasant experience.”

BridgeLink is a new commercial product from Telemar that the company is exploring for superyachts. At the moment the company’s commercial division uses a vessel’s operational data (stored in the cloud) via BridgeLink to reduce repair times and the need for visits to distant ports.

With all operational data onboard available in the cloud, there is no limit to how that data can be used. While Telemar does not provide predictive modelling or failure analysis for shipboard systems, all of the data to perform those functions are there to be utilised by crew, service technicians, or asset managers.

Finally, Telemar have developed BridgeLink IoT (Internet of Things) data collection and storage system. A brand agnostic solution that can capture and store data onboard and in the cloud from bridge electronics and other Operational Technology (OT) onboard.

David Gratton explains “Digital transformation in maritime is happening and BridgeLink will empower maritime companies to maximise investments, cut operational costs and improve competitiveness. BridgeLink is the next stage in our Group’s digital enablement strategy, which will provide a platform for data-driven safety and efficiency improvements on ships worldwide.”

Compatible with navigation, vessel operations and mission specific systems, BridgeLink will enable Fleet Managers to secure all the computer flow coming from and going to onboard OT system. Gratton concludes “This innovative and flexible product is designed for and is compliant with Cybersecurity 2021 directives.”