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On A Bridge Navigational Watch Alarm System

Using Verbal Communication As A Human-Machine Interface

Junji FUKUTO, Masayoshi NUMANO
National Maritime Research Institute
6-38-1, Shinkawa, Mitaka, Tokyo 181-0004, Japan
A Bridge Navigational Watch Alarm (BNWA)
system, which has a verbal communication sys-
tem as a human-machine interface, is introduced
in this paper. The BNWA is installed in a user-
friendly navigation support system (NSS) devel-
oped by Japan Coastal Tanker Association, Na-
tional Maritime Research Institute (Former Ship
Research Institute) and Mitsubishi Heavy Indus-
tries, Ltd. (Project Team). The BNWA uses ver-
bal communication system to reset it and to give
voice alarm to the ocer of the watch (OoW) by
an articial voice synthesizer.
The NSS was developed to support safety one-
person bridge operation (OPBO). The NSS has
many navigation support functions such as an
ECDIS, a track control system, etc. While the
project team was designing the NSS, (1) Proper
set of reliable automated functions, (2) Accept-
able usability and (3) Countermeasures for sys-
tem malfunction were investigated. A verbal
communication system was used as a human-
machine interface to satisfy demands on the in-
teraction with OoW and the NSS, which is given
by active users.
The NSS including the BNWA has been used
to a coastal tanker (749GT LPG Carrier) for 4
years. Through her commercial runs, the BNWA
and the NSS were evaluated its eectiveness by
active users. As the result, it is conrmed that
they are reliable and usable enough for practical
use at sea. The BNWA is well accepted by ac-
tive users, because the voice alarms and reset ac-
tions to the BNWA is easy and they do not inter-
rupt ongoing tasks, especially looking out ships
The BNWA was introduced at Navigation sub-
committee of IMO and it was accepted by them.
Shortage of skillful sailors, especially young
sailors, may make a heavy impact to keep ma-
rine transportation safety. Eorts to improve
working environment and to realize safety nav-
igation with less crew have been made to over-
come this situation by several organizations. A
user-friendly navigation support system (NSS)
for one-person bridge operation (OPBO) is the
unique solution. The development of the NSS
was carried out through a cooperative research
between Japan Coastal Tanker Association, Na-
tional Maritime Research Institute (Former Ship
Research Institute) and Mitsubishi Heavy Indus-
tries, Ltd. (Project Team)
A Bridge Navigational Watch Alarm (BNWA)
system using verbal communication system was
also developed through producing the NSS.
3 Development of a Navigation Support Sys-
tem for OPBO
First of all, the project team held a series of ship
handling simulator study to nd requirements for
OPBO with the NSS for practical use. From the
results, they found following requirements.
(1) Proper set of reliable automated functions
(2) Acceptable usability
(3) Countermeasures for system malfunction
including OoWs error
The verbal communication system was
adopted to the BNWA to t the conditions of
acceptable usability.
A block diagram of the NSS is illustrated in
Figure 1[1]. The NSS is mainly composed of
3 elements, (a) NSS Console with Touch Panel
Screen, (b) Speech Information Processor (SIP)
and (c) I/O Interface. These 3 elements are
linked through a shipboard LAN. The Console
can control all functions of the NSS such as
Figure 1: Block Diagram of the NSS
TEM, etc. through a visual human-machine
interface. The Speech Information Processor is
a controller of verbal human interface of the
NSS. The Navigation Equipment I/O Interface
can communicate with sensors and actuators.
Through the I/O interface, the NSS gets/sends
information from/to sensors and actuators.
4 Verbal Communication System
If the human-machine interface of the NSS does
not satisfy OoWs needs, functions of the NSS do
not work. Through the simulator experiments,
the examinees found out that eye-free operation
and quick & reliable response was demanded.
Eye free operation means all functions of the NSS
can be operated without looking at it. OoWs do
not want to be disturbed ongoing tasks such as
watching ships around. In order to realize the
eye free and quick operation, verbal communica-
tion and touch panel screen with popup menus
are adopted as a human-machine interface.
The verbal communication is used widely to
interchange the information between OoW and
the NSS through the SIP. This function enables
OoW to realize Order and Question with
ones voice and to realize Report, Advice
and Answer with articial voice. The SIP has a
speech recognition system and an articial voice
synthesizer. The SIP gets OoWs order from a
microphone and outputs the order to the NSS
console. It also outputs the information from the
console with articial voice. Through the SIP,
most of daily bridgework can be performed.
Figure 2: A Sapmle Dialog Between an Oper-
ator and the NSS
Figure 2 illustrates a sample dialog to change
course to 190 and to ask about ships around. In
the case of order, at rst OoW says Course to
notice to start course change command. Next the
NSS repeats Course to conrm the command.
If the repeated command was incorrect, OoW can
cancel the command with just saying, Stop it.
After that, OoW says, 190 to order new course
and the NSS also repeats 190. Finally the NSS
announces OoW command to conrm it. After
receiving nal conrmation OK, the NSS per-
form the order. The NSS also answers OoWs
questions with articial voice. For example, the
NSS answers, There are two encounter ships in
front to the OoWs question Is there any ship
near here?
Figure 3 shows daily watch with the NSS on
5 Bridge Navigational Watch Alarm
(BNWA) system
The purpose of a Bridge Navigational Watch
Alarm (BNWA) system is to guard against hu-
man failure on vessels bridges, which could lead
to marine accidents. The system monitors the
awareness of the Ocer of the Watch (OoW)
and automatically alerts others if for any rea-
son the OoW becomes incapable of performing
the OoWs duties. Additionally, it provides the
OoW with a means of calling for immediate as-
sistance from others if required. This purpose
Figure 3: A Photo of Daily Watch
is achieved by a series of indications and alarms
to alert rst the OoW and secondly other mem-
bers of the ships crew. The BNWA should be
operational whenever the ships heading or track
control system is engaged.
During OPBO, countermeasures for system
malfunction including human error in operations
are very important to keep navigation safety.
The NSS has countermeasures for malfunctions
of both a human operator and the NSS itself.
For the NSS, every main element has self-check
function. The mutual check function among the
elements of the NSS is also installed to improve
detectivity. In case of malfunctions, the NSS is
disconnected with just one switch and then the
ship is controlled manually. While the ship is
controlled manually, backup crews may x the
elements in trouble.
For OoW, a Bridge Navigational Watch Alarm
(BNWA) system with verbal communication
technique and safety transfer system are used.
The BNWA system is also realized verbal com-
munication system to detect OoWs disability
and to give alert and information to OoW. Figure
4 shows the Operational Sequence of the BNWA.
Monitoring: Once the NSS is activated, the
BNWA is also activated automatically. Au-
thorized operator sets the duration of the
dormant period of the BNWA. The BNWA
monitors the soundness of OoW with receiv-
ing appropriate voice or other reactions to
the NSS; therefore whenever the NSS gets
voice or other reaction, the NSS resets the
BNWA timer.
Urging reset action: At the end of the dor-
mant period, the BNWA gives the informa-
tion of recent navigation condition and it re-
quests an acknowledgment to the informa-
First stage alarm on the bridge: If no reac-
tion to the warnings from the NSS or an-
nouncement for urging to reset, the BNWA
activates visual alarm on ECDIS display and
sounds voice alarm on the bridge.
Second stage audible alarm: If no reset ac-
tion after three voice alarms on the bridge,
the BNWA sounds remote alarm for back up
Slow down the ship: If no reset action after
predened period, example: 90 seconds, the
BNWA blows whistles to warn other ships
around and then the NSS slows the ship
down automatically.
6 Evaluation of the BNWA
After crews learned the way of operating the
NSS, evaluation test of the eectiveness of the
NSS was carried out at Shin Propane Maru, a
749GT LPG tanker. She is usually operated by 6
crews (Captain, 2 navigators, 2 engineers, and 1
cook). She is the rst ship, which equipped with
the NSS. The principle dimensions and equip-
ments are shown in Table 1.
Lpp 61.50m
B 11.20m
d 4.0m
Gross Tonnage 749GT
Class Regulations for
One Person Bridge Ope.
RADAR/ARPA 2 with 30 targets each
GPS and DGPS GPS x 1 and DGPS x 1
Table 1: Principal dimensions and typical
First, task analysis through onboard observa-
tion of the bridge operation with the NSS and
Figure 4: Action Flow of the BNWA
interviews to users were carried on a voyage from
the port of Mizushima to Kawasaki. At that
time, the project team checked that the func-
tions of the NSS were used properly in each main
elementally tasks such as Ship Handling, Sit-
uation Recognition, etc. Then they asked the
user to do subjective evaluation of task load, to-
tal amount of task, eectiveness of support and
trust for the NSS compared with the bridge op-
eration by using conventional navigation system.
All users judged the tasks with the NSS were
better than that of conventional way. They also
evaluated the task load was low enough to keep
safety navigation and tasks are allocated prop-
erly to OoW and the NSS. Actually the utiliza-
tion factor of the NSS through the voyage was
Verbal communication was evaluated to be
reliable and easy enough for practical use as
human-machine interface. Measured correct
speech recognition rate was almost 100%, and no
user claimed to the speed for recognition. The
users can make response quickly by using touch
panel screen when they demand. The combina-
tion of verbal communication and touch panel
screen was rated well acceptable by active users
because of its eye free and quick operation. A
merit of the verbal communication is it can make
strong partnership between OoW and the NSS.
This partnership helps to reduce loneliness and
feeling of alienation of OPBO and encourage
OoW with friendly voice.
The BNWA with verbal communication is also
well accepted by active users. Because the voice
alarms and actions to the BNWA do not inter-
rupt ongoing tasks, especially looking out ships
around. Many users pointed out that the ver-
bal communication is more user-friendly and ac-
ceptable rather than other method such as the
BNWA with a push button. The periodic voice
information of recent navigation state was also
evaluated that it is helpful for protecting from
falling asleep at the wheel.
The project team adopted verbal communica-
tion system as a human-machine interface for
the NSS. The NSS also equipped with many ad-
vanced functions such as an ECDIS, and a track
control system. All functions of the NSS can be
used with OoWs voice. The interface is well con-
sidered about not only the usability but also the
safety of operation.
The BNWA also used the verbal communica-
tion system and it is integrated into the NSS. The
BNWA monitors the soundness of OoW through
verbal communication to the NSS.
Verbal communication is evaluated to be easy
and reliable enough for practical use as a human
interface. Measured correct speech recognition
rate was almost 100%, and no user claimed to
the speed for recognition. Many users pointed
out that the verbal communication is more user-
friendly and acceptable rather than other human
interfaces used before.
The NSS was evaluated well acceptable for
practical use, because of the advanced functions
and usable and reliable human interface. It is
conrmed that all support functions were worked
properly. The users also evaluated the task load
was low enough to keep safety navigation and
tasks are allocated properly to an operator and
the NSS. Actually, the most of helmsmans tasks
are transferred to the NSS and voice command
and track control system were always used eec-
tively through the observation.
Now IMO is revising SOLAS Chapter V and
is making recommendation on performance stan-
dard for bridge navigational watch alarm system.
The BNWA is introduced to Navigation subcom-
mittee of IMO and the BNWA and its human
machine interface with verbal communication is
accepted at Nav. Subcommittee of IMO. [2]
[1] Junji Fukuto, Masayoshi Numano, Keiko
Miyazaki, Yasuyoshi Itoh, Yujiro Murayama,
Kazuo Matsuda, and Norio Shimono. An
advanced navigation support system for a
coastal tanker aiming at one-man bridge
operation. Proceedings of IFAC Workshop
on Control Applications in Marine Systems,
CAMS98, 1998.
[2] Junji Fukuto. NAV 47/INF.7 On a bridge
navigational watch alarm system using ver-
bal communication as a human-machine in-
terface. IMO NAV Subcommittee, July 2001.