The integration of technology into the industrial world is a persistent subject of many debates regarding its impact; is it complicating or easing operations? Though the debate is open-ended and thus have relatively endless answers it is still possible to limit the scope and present facts while making an effort to relate back to a real-life situation; presenting flaws of older methods and arguments why technology is a better alternative.
Firstly, it is important to consider that professionals coming from an older generation have a tendency to share a sentiment for older, less technologically-advanced methods of operation; mostly due to the familiarity. This is especially true for navigation officers who prefer to plot paper charts.
Starting with production, processing, exchange and other usage of information, ship navigation is the first field which is greatly benefited by technology. The ECDIS (Electronic Chart-Displaying and Information System) is now greatly supported by the IMO therefore the availability is the first factor where even last-minute voyages can be entertained with quick arrival of the charts; saving time as well. Shipping operations run on a tight schedule with ports and deliveries therefore can’t afford to wait for late charts or tolerate any errors found in hasty deliveries. (which can themselves be wrong)
ECDIS also allows the officer to plan and summarise passages faster than on paper; with added accuracy and ability to import to MSExcel therefore reducing effort to manually input waypoints upon compiling the voyage plan. Referring once more to time management, checking for errors in charts is a time-consuming task therefore requires some amendments.
ECDIS also allows for a safer voyage as it has built-in anti grounding alarms that are customisable; preventing vessels from running aground and suffering damage. Finally ECDIS also has a safety depth monitoring function which helps determine the optimal depth for the vessels to stay afloat. Obviously the following requires the most precision as the fate of the vessel is on the line therefore even the smallest mistake can have serious consequences; human error is at its highest regarding the following.
However, technology can occasionally have gaps which can be exploited by terrorists; gaps are present even where technology is minimal. Marine security gaps are more common on commercial ships and port facilities; cargo carriers, tankers and gas carriers along with employees themselves. (terrorists can disguise as employees) What technology can be used to thwart a possible threat? Answers start from scanning (X-Ray, Neutron, Gamma ray) which can help blowing cover of terrorists disguised as employees of a port facility by detecting anomalies in their behavior and their carry-on inventory.
A covert attack can also be detected with equipment such as biometric scanners which require input from real employees in terms of voice, eyes and fingerprints from hands; voice recognition remains the most popular. Implementing such measures is done using a computer terminal for fingerprint identification; including iris scans, facial recognition and vascular pattern scanner. This detects only existing employees therefore making disguises futile.
Aside from biometric scanners there exist other technological advancements to fill gaps within local security but without any new additions but enhancements to existing tools. Radio Frequency Identification tags (RFIDs) are the first innovation which targets communication equipment; consisting of a microchip which contains information about types of cargo, manufacturers, serial numbers etc.
Innovations discussed above improve maritime operations in terms of security and ship management; 2 aspects where human error makes a significant negative impact on occurrence. Human error is prominent where most work is done manually therefore technology is the safer alternative to older methods.