AD Navigation of Norway is one of very few manufacturers of state-of-the-art PPUs. This article aims to highlight what a PPU is.
A Marine Pilot boards a vessel at sea or at dock bringing a backpack with tools for aid to navigation. In the backpack, you will normally find sensors and a laptop with navigational software.
There are many types of sensors, one of the most advanced sensors are manufactured in Norway by AD Navigation. These sensors are portable, they have been carried onboard the vessel by the Pilot. Inside these sensors, you typically find high-tech sophisticated antennas, gyros and communication tools.
The Pilot places these sensors outside on the vessel's bridge wing or monkey island. Installation takes only a few minutes at most and the Pilot return to his laptop to update the Pilot software with the correct installation places for the sensors. In doing this correct the Pilot will have the best possible aid to be able to conduct his services on the vessel.
In today's market, the name PPU is used with a variety of meanings. A PPU – or Portable Pilot Unit is in our terms [the manufacturers], the sensors. The Pilots use the name for the whole service; the sensors and the laptop with Pilot software installed. There is even a mistaken idea that it is possible to substitute the Pilot with “a portable pilot”. The devices are merely an information support for the pilot's profession and do not exempt the presence of the Pilot.
IMPA Guidelines states that “a PPU is carried aboard ships by Pilots. Used together with bridge’s other mandatory shipborne radiocommunications and navigational equipment, a PPU is a Pilot’s tool that assists the local pilot in the safe navigation of the piloted vessel. It does this by incorporating a range of navigation sensors with an electronic chart and display. The sensors are typically GNSS (with or without augmentations), AIS Interfaces, and Heading – Rate of Turn Generators. Other information can include tidal and depth information when this information is provided locally and any other information that is specific to a particular port. Typically, PPUs can be set up quickly on the Bridge with simple deployment of the navigation antennas and interfaces. Most connect using wireless technology to a personal computer/laptop or tablet positioned where the Pilot normally navigates. A connection may also be made to the ships AIS to allow display of other ships and navigational aids that have AIS capability.”
So, a PPU is the combination of sensors, laptop and software. It is the Pilots aid to Navigation.
If we go further on and speak about the sensors; we have dependent sensors and independent sensors. Why do we need to address the differences?
On every vessel, there is a bridge with a lot of communications in regards to navigation. Radar, sensors, charts, gyros, etc., all of which are crucial to maneuver the vessel from one port to another. For the best part of its voyage, the vessel is at sea. When entering a port, a channel or simply a very demanding area it relies on aid from a Pilot. No vessel is alike, but they do have similarities. The Pilot boards the vessel and is taken to the bridge to meet with the Captain and his crew. Within minutes the Pilot will give his services and local knowledge so the vessel is guided to its designated area within the desired timeframe and with utmost security – without taking any risks at all. The Pilot is the key stakeholder for information about the voyage and is somewhat responsible for the services given.
We now know (it is 2018, and there has been extensive research on the matter) that humans do fail. There are a lot of things that can easily go wrong during the last part of the vessels' journey. This article is not going to go into those details at all, but we will continue with this in mind and say that by having a PPU at his disposal, the Pilot will have some reassuring help. His best friend is the PPU – its sensors and its output.
Back to independency versus dependency. AD Navigation has conducted several hundred tests onboard vessels of various shapes and the outcome of these tests are clear. Every Pilot should bring a PPU onboard the vessel he is intended to present his services to and the PPUs should almost every time be independent. Why do you need these tools when you are presented with a lot of navigational tools onboard? The Pilots conducts his services to several vessels during the day (or night). Normally he is on the vessel for a short period of time. He is not familiar with the vessel nor its instruments. He does not know the quality of its data output. If he relays on the data given from the Pilot Plug or the AIS connector where he must rely on the data given to him by the vessels navigational tools. Those could be wrong; the Pilot simply doesn’t know.
By using an independent sensor, the Pilot can be certain that his data are correct. Normally a Pilot has had intensive and excessive training on the use of a PPU. The sensors are gathering information about the vessels location from GPS and GLONASS satellites, and in recent days also from BeiDou and Galileo satellites. So; shortly after the Master/Pilot Exchange is done and the Pilot has placed the sensors outside and updated the whereabouts [of the sensors] in the software, he is ready to guide the vessel to its destination.
Within minutes the Pilot will give his services and local knowledge so the vessel is guided to its designated area within the desired timeframe and with utmost security – without taking any risks at all.
At AD Navigation we say that the Pilot is given “ease of mind”. We all know that the services given from Pilots are crucial. They are simply too important to ignore as an easy task. It’s challenging. It’s a big responsibility and having a Pilot onboard is expensive and compulsory in many ports. The pressure the Pilot is under is enormously big. He has the training and he is prepared, but every time he conducts his services he has been given a challenging task. Every person who has responsibility will argue the same – by having some aid and some “ease of mind” the services given will be better – Professionalism is the keyword. Humans can be professional and with the aid of computer-based navigational aid even more professional.
Finally, we would like to give our full and deepest respect to the services given by any Pilot out there. Your services are impeccable, and you give it with ease and respect to the task at hand. We have met a lot of Pilots through the years and we know that you fully embrace your job – your lifestyle. Your job is unique. Nobody knows your waters better that you – may be the PPU Sensors, but they are not people, so you easily win that competition. Your passion and your responsibility are the key to a successful maritime environment in all chains of services given every day, all over our globe. The environmental factor is a whole new article, saved for a later date.
Enjoy your Pilotage. Enjoy using your aid to Navigation!
The pressure the Pilot is under is enormously big. He has the training and he is prepared, but every time he conducts his services he has been given a challenging task.