Improving Shared Situational Awareness through Digitization

Shared Mental Models for Shared Situational Awareness

Improved Collaborative Decision Support

Reducing Administrative Burden while Increasing Trust in Automation

Digitization & Digitalization - a vision

Improving Shared Situational Awareness through Digitalization, within the context of cooperative traffic information sharing, is the overall vision of SESAME Solution II. This includes both the transmission of vessel traffic and safety information to supplement and perhaps replace voice communication, as well as the digitization of safety and pre-arrival reporting that reduces and eventually eliminates paperwork. While digitization is a general trend in the shipping industry, more digitization is needed in both ship and shore operations. Currently, very little data is exchanged ship to shore in the context of nautical operations, with the exception of AIS and DSC (Digital Selective Call) data.  SESAME Solution II seeks to digitize certain types of data that have been analog

Digitization & Automating Ship Reporting

In most countries, ship reporting requires a great deal of attention from the ship master with multiple forms to submit by using a confusing mix of technologies. Only a few countries, such as Norway, have a National Single Window (NSW). With Norway’s NSW, called SafeSeaNet Norway (SSNN), ship masters submit all reporting information required for through one portal. Yet even with SSNN, improvements can be made in file formats, inconsistencies, and dependencies on specific equipment.

Digitization becomes particularly important when autonomous ships are introduced to a Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) area.  While SESAME Solution II is not concerned explicitly with autonomous ships (known as MASS), digital communications between a VTS and an autonomous ship, as described above, will be essential.  This is why the SESAME consortium strongly believes that MASS will be the first adopters of SESAME technology.

Linking Just-in-Time Arrival Technology

In order to fully realize cooperative traffic information sharing, ship and shore operators need to have a shared mental model of the situation in which the ships operate. Research from the previous SESAME project identified gaps between the mental models of ship and shore operators that indicated differences in their understanding of local traffic situations, port resource availability and challenging weather. SESAME Solution II will focus on these areas to see if the gaps can be reduced, and if that will in turn lead to increased shared situational awareness. This will be accomplished by expanding the just-in-time arrival technology developed in the previous SESAME project to allow enhanced information sharing between the VTS and port services (berth, pilot and tug services) as well as developing additional e-navigation services such as weather routing, route optimization and a recommended route service.

To increase maritime safety, improved collaborative decision support is needed. The primary purpose of a cooperative ship traffic management system is to improve the safety, efficiency and security of vessel traffic.

The Cost of the Status Quo

Between 2014-2015, maritime losses declined 3%. The 2015 accident year represents a significant improvement on the 10-year loss average. Large shipping losses have declined by 45% over the past decade, driven by an increasingly robust safety environment and self-regulation. However, regional disparities remain. More than a quarter of all losses in 2015 occurred in the South China, Indochina, Indonesia and Philippines maritime region, which has been the top loss hotspot for the past decade. Losses are up year-on-year and are double those of the next highest loss region, the East Mediterranean and Black Sea.

The ship and shore need to have the same picture. The verbally reported and anecdotal experiences of VTS operators in Singapore suggest that the traditional tools used to predict collisions – visual and audio alerts using Closest Point of Approach (CPA) and Time to Closest Point of Approach (TCPA) values as the sole triggers, are not effective in densely trafficked areas as the parameters must be set very low due to the close proximity of vessels to each other. VTS operators in Singapore are left with two bad choices; either receive too many alerts, or receive too few and risk having no time to attempt to prevent an collision.

Automated electronic ship reporting is a central focus of the SESAME Solution II project and one that receives a much attention these days from the International Maritime Organization (IMO), CIRM, IALA and others11. As mentioned above, reporting today is already digitized in some areas, e.g. with SSNN. This project proposes to further automate and digitize the reporting process to the maritime single window, as this information provide very important ship and cargo data to the VTS operator.

Trust in Automation

However, increasing the level of automation may introduce new challenges for both ship and shore operators. Increasing the level of trust in automation has been identified as highly important factor if automated systems are to be accepted by human operators. Digital message exchanges remove the human from the communications loop. This reduces the workload but in turn requires more emphasis on correctness of data as well as electronic authentication and integrity checking of messages. If there is no trust in the message exchange, the workload and worries of the operators will increase rather than decrease as they will have to check and double check all systems and operations.

Critical Cybersecurity in a Digital World

In addition, data transmission may be vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Digital messaging opens up ships and reporting systems for cyber-attacks. This may be to gain information about, e.g. ship's cargo and arrival details, to avert authorities attention on certain aspects of the ship (e.g. contraband fastened to the hull), or to interfere with message exchanges for other purposes. Cyber-risks should always be considered when increasing automation and digitalization of processes.

Ship Reporting and Administrative Burden

The reporting obligations that today lie on the ship crew and master causes a disproportionately large administrative burden. While reporting today is somewhat digitized with SSNN Norway, the extent of the administrative burden related to ship-shore reporting is not documented in actual reports, studies or statistics. Rather, it is an adopted truth in the shipping community supported by a mountain of anecdotal evidence. The administrative burden of ship reporting needs to be benchmarked in order to quantify the consequences of automation.

More automation, including automated reporting, has been discussed since before year 2000 when the first FAL Compendium was approved for publication16. However, implementation has been very slow due to ship owners reluctance to invest in communication systems and reporting software, as the net value of this is perceived as lower than the investments and resulting complexity of systems. This may be true if one only considers the reduced workload and the safety benefits. However, SESAME Solution II will perform a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis, including commercial and operational issues such as increased risks for port state detention due to errors in reporting, less accurate logistics information that may cause delays in port etc.


As e-navigation now evolves from concept to operational reality, harmonizing systems and equipment, interoperability, integration and standardization are crucial factors to its success. The SESAME projects have all these elements!

John Erik Hagen, Regional Director, Norwegian Coastal Administration