Roles and Responsibilities
The state-of-the-art marine freighter bears little relationship to its forebears in terms of the technology of its control systems. Gone are the telegraphs between bridge and engine room, and equally gone are the conventional wheelhouses with their huge steering wheels. Everything is controlled today by complex on-board computer systems, from steering and navigation to engine control and position monitoring. Once the vessel is underway and out of the harbour conﬁnes, the vessel’s master selects the autopilot based on the vessel’s integrated inertial GPS navigational system, and the vessel is guided across the ocean by automatic means, without the need for a conventional helmsman. Even the marine propulsion systems have changed, from the combinations of conventional stern-mounted screws linked to huge marine engines and bow-thrust mechanisms, to bridge-controlled azimuth propulsion systems, where the propulsion systems can revolve through 360 degrees and these are connected to smaller, more efﬁcient diesel engines by an adjustable link mechanism, which eliminates the need for a conventional rudder steering mechanism. The one main link with more traditional times is the vast array of admiralty charts ranged across the available desk space, although even this is giving way to a large extent to the ECDIS computerised charts. Today’s control systems rely heavily on a mixture of GPS, VTS, AIS and conventional radar systems. From port of departure to port of destination, the vessel monitoring process, from a navigation point of view, revolves around the following systems:
• leaving port – VTS/AIS; • open sea – AIS/GPS; • entering port approaches – AIS/VTS; • port arrival – VTS.