Bridge electronic systems
Mr Viv Hoyle managing director of Racal-Decca Electronic (HK) Ltd. addressed our branch meeting to enlighten us on the integrated bridge electronic systems from the early beginnings of ARPA to what is available on the market today.
Viv Hoyle is no stranger to seafaring. having gone to sea as a Sparks with 'Joe Shell' in 1965, and from his presentation and replies to answers it was obvious he has kept well abreast of the changes that have taken place and the current needs of seafarers from the integrated bridge electronic systems' point of view.
He started by mentioning the origins of ARPA, which we were surprised to learn was a result of the Apollo Space programme winding down which made two engineers, Jim Collaugh and Jack Heter, redundant, who then put together in a spare garage a device they called a relative motion tracker.
After 15 years since it was first developed. ARPA, as it is now known, will become compulsory for vessels over 15,000 gt this year.
This led to the subject of integrated electronic systems and Mr Hoyle then described how various systems could be interconnected via the processor. These systems included: gyro, log, echo-sounder, auto-pilot, auto chart table. ARPA, Satcom, etc.. plus of course position fixing systems such as Racal Decca MNS 2000 which can he connected to Decca, Loran, Omega, Transit and GPS. There followed some discussion on which position systems should be used where, and how two of these systems could be combined.
Mr Hoyle then went on to describe the automatic chart plotters which have normal BA charts laid on them. He pre-empted the question of how do you know if it's reliable by suggesting if you didn't believe it you could always go out in the rain and take visual bearings!
One possible aspect which might alarm members is that, with the day not far away when every ship will have Satcoms, an owner will be able to interrogate his vessel via Satcom to find its position, speed, RPM, stress on hull in heavy weather, etc., without the crew necessarily knowing about it.
Mr Hoyle explained that such integrated systems are not in the far distant future by any means as Racal Decca has already fitted one BHP ship with an integrated system where everything, including engine instrumentation, is monitored from one console on the bridge. Suchsystems it seems are creating havoc with the story about the bridge manned by the dog who was trained to bark when it saw smoke on the horizon. The modern version seems to he that the bridge is now manned by one man and a dog, the dog being there to bite the man's hand if he tries to touch anything!
Contributed by Paul Owen, MNI
Seaways June 1988