Pacific Maritime Magazine - Marine Business for the Operations Sector

Marine Software Systems


November 1, 2017

Vancouver, BC-based Robert Allan Ltd., which recently celebrated the milestone of having designed more than 1,000 tugboats, uses ShipConstructor software for its engineering services. Artwork courtesy of Robert Allan Ltd. Houston.

There are many moving pieces when building a ship and many pieces to move. SSI, a Victoria, BC-based marine software company, has created EnterprisePlatform, a tool for sharing product data model information, which works in tandem with its ShipConstructor software, an AutoCAD based CAD/CAM product line.

With ShipConstructor, the virtual ship is stored in a Microsoft SQL server database and then, using EnterprisePlatform, data about the ship can be shared easily with other systems used throughout a Shipyard. Marine companies are able to use the software for production, purchasing, planning, sales and marketing. The Autodesk platform also allows for the capacity to be able to view the ShipConstructor model in the cloud, on a tablet device or on a phone.

Vancouver, BC-based Robert Allan Ltd., which recently celebrated the milestone of having designed more than 1,000 tugboats, has used ShipConstructor software for its engineering services. "They've done more than 100 projects in our software," says Mark Waldie, SSI's PR Coordinator. "More workboats from more clients around the world are engineered in Ship Constructor software than any other competing shipbuilding software."

ShipConstructor software is highly compatible with all types of Autodesk software, because it's a shipbuilding-specific version of AutoCAD. "We add shipbuilding-specific menus and tools to the standard AutoCAD drafting program, so that you're not just designing a shape, you're designing a specific part of the ship," explains Waldie.

Then, to that, in the backend, SSI connects the system up to a Microsoft SQL server database, which stores all the details of the ship so that one person could be working on the structure, another could be working on the piping, and another person could be working on the electrical system. Each person sees their own individual computer screen, and all those relationships are building what's called a "virtual model" of the ship that's stored in the database.

"We call it a Marine Information Model (MIM)," says Waldie. "You can use that to spit out the various drawings used for the welders and production workers, and also to robots for cutting steel, and nowadays, they even have robotic welding. We've developed a way where it can take the data from our program, and go directly to the robotic welding machine, as opposed to you having to reprogram the welding machine every single time. Bedsides the ability to share data efficiently, a key benefit of our software is the fact that it is easy to use. Because engineers are already familiar with using AutoCAD, ShipConstructor is a natural extension, and this helps a company find workers and train users, and helps them become more productive, because it's using a familiar interface."

The software is sold in a modular format. Clients can purchase one just for piping, another just for weld management, or buy a complete suite. The more things that can be modelled in the software, the more traceability there is, the more quality control there is. "You can take things down to an extreme amount of detail," adds Waldie. "For instance, you can say that it's using such-and-such a bolt, which is found in bin 42 on shelf 16, in building A."

Recently, Great Lakes Shipyard completed the first of 10 Damen Stan Tug 1907 ICE vessels. These tugs are significant because they are the first tugs built to meet the new USCG Subchapter M regulations, and the first Damen tugs to be built under license in the United States. Longtime SSI client, Genoa Design International did the production detailing in ShipConstructor, and Great Lakes Shipyard has also now purchased software from SSI.

Simulator Training

The Seattle Maritime Academy (SMA) has Transas full mission bridge and full mission engine simulators. The simulation lab is equipped with 18 computers; eight of which can run the NTPro navigation software. All 18 can run the engineering software, which Sarah Scherer, MA, Director/Associate Dean, says is still a rather new concept for training future mariners.

"There aren't that many engine room simulators around yet," she says, commenting that many in the industry feel the simulators can help engineers build confidence in their abilities. "Just like with bridge simulators, we're finding ways to help engineers come together and increase their learning and confidence and contingencies, as well as general operations."

The full mission bridge simulators are used for myriad scenarios that include running deck students through their (RFPNW) Ratings Forming Part of a Navigational Watch. "They use simulation in their Rules of the Road class," she explains. "It's very different to study the rules of the road while looking at the lights and sounds in a book. And then to put them in the bridge simulator and say, we're coming into Seattle. It's dark. What are you seeing? A very different perspective."

Another benefit of SMA's simulation lab is that various marine transportation companies can build their own type of simulation training. "Right now we have some industry partnerships that they are coming in and developing their own simulations to do things like move people from AB to Mate," says Scherer, explaining that these trainings are not formal Coast Guard assessments but for in-house assessment of workers and new employees to test the skills of someone who is getting hired, for instance. SMA can also help companies build customized training or help build customized training for them.

One of SMA's industry partners is Washington State Ferries. The company has created simulations to test their contingency plans should vessels lose propulsion or steering, suffer a fire, etc. Those situations can be hard to practice for when the vessels are always running. "I think it is great to try and make sure that their mariners know what to do when emergencies happen."

Workboat Management

Houston, Texas-headquartered ABS, has ramped up the range of software products it is offering shipowners and operators to help them meet their environmental compliance obligations. All are part of NS Enterprise, the ABS Nautical Systems (NS) suite of fleet-management software solutions. The NS Enterprise suite is cloud-based, which makes it easier and cost-effective for customers to implement, deploy and manage the software.

NS Workboat, a completely mobile 'app' developed specifically for the workboat sector, was released in the spring to support compliance with the new USCG Subchapter M regulations, but works equally well for workboats worldwide. It comes pre-configured on a tablet and is designed around day-to-day vessel operations to allow crews to capture information without having to interrupt their routines.

Other mobile applications unveiled this fall include NS Superintendent and NS Vessel. Both were designed in the same way, with simple, easy-to-use interfaces that ensure greater accuracy of onboard data collection to support compliance reporting and decision making in the office.

"Shipowners are facing a series of regulatory challenges in the next year, most of which are aimed at lessening the maritime industry's environmental footprint. Whether it's Ballast Water or emissions-related, they need practical solutions that will support their compliance activities," says Stephen Schwarz, VP and Chief Operating Officer, ABS Nautical Systems. "We have been busy this year completing a suite of software products that we believe offers the most comprehensive compliance solution in the market."

The latest release of the NS software this October includes a number of improvements to NS Voyage Manager, NS HSQE Manager and ABS' new business intelligence solution, NS Insight.

NS Voyage Manager supports voyage planning and compliance with a variety of environmental regulations including MRV, IMO DCS, Ballast Water, Fuel Switching, MARPOL, MARPOL V and VGP. Compliance data is captured through standard noon reports, or the process can be automated through the NS Autologger, a secure marine-grade appliance that captures data directly from ship automation systems and sensors.

NS HSQE Manager links safety management systems, risk mitigation, inspection and management of change activities in a comprehensive compliance-management process that helps to ensure safe operations. The newly-designed web interface features intuitive dashboards with simple and efficient access to all the information needed to view and manage the entire safety and compliance program.

Type Approval

Recently completed, after a detailed review process, Nippon Kaiji Kyokai (ClassNK) ship classification society (and parent company of Helm Operations), issued a Type Approval Certificate for Helm CONNECT as a recognized planned maintenance software system. The Victoria, BC-based marine software company has been providing a suite of software options for workboats over the past eighteen years. With the new Type Approval, the company is expanding into the blue water shipping markets globally.

Helm CONNECT is touted as the industry's first software system designed through user experience principles, which makes it intuitive for use by everyone in the company, whether onboard a vessel or in the office. "We've been talking to blue water operators for some time now, and we had several that were just waiting for our type approval to come through," says Ron DeBruyne, Helm Operations' Founder & CEO. "They had already seen the software and were quite impressed with what they saw. So my expectation is that we will start to see now blue water customers coming onto the platform very shortly."

The new Type Approval demonstrates the most modern, state-of-the-art software Helm has to offer. The company began 18 years ago, building the original software package that was called Helm, its legacy system. DeBruyne knew the code base would eventually reach an end of life, thus Helm CONNECT was developed.

A web-based solution, Helm CONNECT software automatically synchs work inputted on the boat with the shoreside versions, so there is no loss of information, even when a vessel doesn't have an Internet connection. The next time a web connection is available, all data is synchronized across every user.

"Legacy maritime platforms that are out there tend to be really complex, and they're hard to implement, and really hard to train on," explains DeBruyne. "So what we focused on with Helm CONNECT was making sure we were focused on the user experience, and really making it easy to understand the software and use it. Technically, our first release of Helm CONNECT came out in July 2016. In just a little over a year, we have about 90 companies on the platform and somewhere around 1,700-1,800 vessels. So it has taken root very, very quickly."

Helm CONNECT is designed to provide everything that a maritime organization needs to run daily operations, short of an accounting system. The software can be purchased in modules such as Maintenance, Compliance, Inventory, Personnel, and Jobs, or as a suite. The software also has the capacity to track jobs and billing, and can integrate with any accounting system that a marine company uses.


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