Keeping cruise and ferry operators heading in the right direction

Navigation and communications providers are helping operators be safer and more efficient  

Keeping cruise and ferry operators heading in the right direction


FarSounder is contributing to the Seabed 2030 project by mapping the ocean floors

By Alice Chambers |

From fully autonomous vessels to decarbonised operations, technology providers are developing solutions to help shipowners address their operational efficiency, safety, and environmental challenges.  

For example, Japanese ship operators, suppliers and solution providers are participating in The Nippon Foundation (TNF)’s MEGURI2040 Fully Autonomous Ship Programme, which promotes the adoption of fully autonomous navigation systems. TNF’s seminar held in July 2023 noted the increasing importance of addressing the number of maritime accidents caused by human error and training crew on new technologies.   

One partner contributing to the MEGURI2040 initiative is Furuno, a navigation and communications firm. Furuno will help to create four fully autonomous vessels including a passenger ferry that will operate on a remote island route by 2025 that will have situational awareness, automatic collision avoidance technology and will be digitally connected to onshore support centres.  

Ship operators are also implementing various navigational technologies to protect passengers and crew against unsafe weather conditions. For example, weather forecasting services provider Navimeteo uses meteorological and oceanographic data models to deliver specific predictions for cruise operators. It also assists ship operators with route planning by suggesting safe diversions to avoid uncomfortable sailing conditions. 

Navimeteo is currently running daily weather analytics for a cruise line that is preparing to launch a new itinerary for 2024. It will predict potential conditions and weather downtime for the year to help the client prepare for expected conditions on its new route. 

In addition, the industry is using navigation technology to help map the ocean. FarSounder, for instance, is developing a platform to share bathymetric data about the underwater depth of ocean floors between fleets operated by FarSounder’s customers. Currently, the firm’s customers can opt to share their bathymetric data they gather in support of the Seabed 2030 project, which is being managed by TNF and the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans organisation to deliver a complete seabed map for understanding ocean circulation. The goal of this project is to increase public safety and reduce the effects of climate change.  

“Mapping our ocean floors will provide safer navigation not only for FarSounder users but also for everyone within the maritime community,” said Cassie Stetkiewicz, director of operations at FarSounder. 

Ship operators are investing in improved connectivity solutions too. One reason is that fast and reliable internet services are an essential requirement for both guests and crew who want to remain in contact with others on shore.  

“Each cruise ship is like a city at sea, a vibrant consumer economy built on services and technical support, and each of those functions must be self-sufficient in communication,” said Simon Maher, senior vice president of sales in maritime and cruise at satellite communications provider SES. 

Some operators are exploring how they can also use connectivity technologies to reduce their emissions at sea, according to network solutions provider Marlink. It is promoting the use of low-latency internet to monitor ship performance in real time, which enables operators to optimise energy use, and to support digital twins to help with predictive maintenance and reduce vessel downtime.   

Now that ship operators are beginning to invest in these emerging technologies, there is an increasing need to train their seafarers to use them effectively, according to classification society DNV’s paper The Future of Seafarers 2030: A Decade of Transformation.  

DNV found that 81 per cent of surveyed seafarers said they require either partial or complete training to work with the advanced technology that will be onboard future ships – including navigation, communication and decarbonisation solutions.  

The report recommends that “key stakeholders, including the International Maritime Organization, flag states, shipowners and training academies, actively evaluate and address the skill gaps in digitalisation and decarbonisations within the maritime industry during the current decade.” 

Meanwhile, satellite communications services provider Inmarsat Maritime suggests using operation optimisation technology to help cruise and ferry lines with energy transition and decarbonisation. Its Decarbonisation Toolkit sets out a practical framework for using technologies to implement sustainable initiatives.  

“The key to a successful decarbonisation strategy lies in implementing a practical, data-backed plan for the application of solutions that support greener, more efficient shipping companies today and for decades to come,” said Ben Palmer, president of Inmarsat Maritime. “Inmarsat remains committed to supporting businesses in overcoming their challenges, seizing their opportunities and achieving their decarbonisation goals.” 

This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2023 issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. Subscribe to Cruise & Ferry Review for FREE to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox. 

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