UKHO chief executive Mike Robinson got to close out the final session and got more than his fair share of prodding to test the powers of his failing voice.
His theme was that technologies converge and standardisation emerges but that for the mariner, there needs to be a move away from what he called ‘protective navigation’ to ‘proactive navigation’.
With the base layer of ENC coverage in a strong position it was time to think about value-adds. The answer he suggested was voyage optimisation and decision support – a combination of chart management with planning tools that could make a tangible difference to fuel bills.
The UKHO’s eNavigator system is under test in the Atlantic – with a second testbed vessel to come – but he said the first ship was already achieving noticeable fuel and efficiency savings. None of this would happen tomorrow. “eNavigation is going to take some time to get going. We’ve been working on the ENCs for a long time, now we have to bring the data to life, that’s not going to happen overnight.”
His forward-looking stance didn’t stop some older concerns coming up in the Q&A. Could he, hand on heart promise 100% coverage of ENCs? No he couldn’t.
Why were ENCs still so expensive? Prices were coming down and would continue to fall as licensing flexibility increased. Could training institutions get a discount? They already did.
When would paper disappear – not for 10-15 years at least, since it was likely that many owners would choose single ECDIS with paper back-up.
He even spoke to Gerry Larsen-Fedde’s suggestion on Monday that licensing would need a re-think. “No it’s not a perfect system – it’s still too complex – but real steps are being taken towards greater standardisation to get the service to end users.”
But he said he felt there had been real progress since the 2003 conference in terms of ENCs, hardware, training and awareness. “The technology is here now – more can be done at lower cost.”