Nordic Tankers Marine specialises in the technical and commercial management of chemical tankers, a discipline requiring the highest possible levels of quality and safety. Technical management is the responsibility of in-house department Nordic Tankers Marine A/S, which controls 35 vessels, employing around 1,000 seafarers and some 40 shoreside staff. The company's ships have been using ECDIS (Electronic Chart Display and Information System) for the last four years.
"In the office we have mobile phones and other new technologies," says Soren Andersen, Safety Quality and Environment Manager. "Our question was, 'Why shouldn't we use the same level of technology on the ships, now the regulatory standards are in place?'"
"It's important to our customers that if we sail with a paperless bridge, our setup is absolutely correct."
Paperless navigation involved a steep learning curve, but Nordic Tankers believes that it has resulted in safer operations. When one of its ships grounded in 2010, Andersen says the company realised it needed to spend more time making sure that its onboard and shoreside navigation procedures were aligned.
With these procedures in place, Andersen believes that digital navigation gives the company a competitive advantage: "It's important to our customers that if we sail with a paperless bridge, our setup is absolutely correct," he explains. "It was new to them and it was new to us, but they realised that we are where we should be, whereas some of our competitors have only started on this issue now."
Advantages of real-time navigation
Traditional navigation is still a core component of Nordic Tankers Marine competence but Andersen believes that masters are not resistant to change once they see the advantages of ENCs (Electronic Navigational Charts).
Andersen says that the costs of using ENCs are about the same as paper charts, but Nordic Tankers Marine approach was to balance safety with potential cost savings. "We consider it much safer to sail on electronic charts," he says.
"When you navigate on paper charts, you know where you were. But when you navigate on ECDIS, you know where you are – in real time. When you are approaching port or sailing up a river you can be confident, and that is a huge advantage."
Where clear savings have been made is in the time taken to make corrections and on passage planning. Andersen estimates that a second officer can typically save between five and ten hours work per week not having to correct paper charts.
The result is that the vetting departments of Nordic Tankers Marine's customers have accepted that sailing on ECDIS has resulted in safer operations.
"I can imagine that a lot of owners are where we were a year ago but they will really need to go into depth to make this transition. It's not just important to have ECDIS and use ENCs, your procedures and your setup must be designed thoroughly and tested."