John Erik Hagen is remarkably relaxed given the scale of the task appointed to him. The regional director of the Norwegian Coastal Administration is also chair of the IMO intercessional working group on e-Navigation and he chaired the working group held during the recent NAV 57 sub-committee meeting.
His task is a little akin to re-wiring the shipping industry, but involves writing the specification as it evolves, connecting some existing components with some yet to be invented ones while using a new language as the basis of communications.
Along the way he has to navigate political squalls and heavy weather from vested interests while continuing to make enough speed to keep the crew and passengers happy.
As a result, the report he submitted to NAV57 prepared by the intercessional group is a work in progress but it includes some of the main planks of the structure and strategy for e-Navigation. We caught up with him during a break in the working group proceedings to discuss the report and its implications.
“I think this report represents some milestones,” he says. “First of all we have agreed on an overarching architecture, which is the principal guideline for the information flow between ships and between ship and shore.”
For practical purposes that meant replacing one data flow diagram with a more detailed one, incorporating the Common Maritime Data Structure (CMDS) and the Worldwide Radio Navigation System.
Further issues discussed and agreed during the meeting were an agreement to use the IHO’s S-100 standard as the basis of the CMDS and the establishment of a Harmonisation Group on data modelling.
This progress he attributes to a willingness to compromise, not to mention the personal interest of the secretary-general.
“There were a lot of discussions, both on the architecture and the other issues as well but I think that we compromised and we agree on the important issues, so my feeling is that we are heading in the right direction,” he adds.
Work on the strategy implementation plan resulted in a co-ordinated approach to the implementation which covered not only the safety of navigation but also radio communications, search and rescue, the human element and training-related aspects.
With agreement on principles for further development, he says, progress can be made on completing the gap analysis on user needs and priorities. Many of these have already been identified across the operational, technical, legislative and training categories and he hopes to complete the process between now and next year, before proceeding onto the risk and cost benefit analyses.
It’s no quick fix but Mr Hagen is relaxed about the timetable, noting that the plan is currently to present the strategy implementation plan to the first meeting of the Maritime Safety Committee in 2014.
And what of the supposed controversy that attended e-Navigation at the start of this year? Is the industry in step or are there still dissenting voices on the direction and pace of proceedings?
“I have been chairing this programme now for a couple of years, and I think that when I started as chairman, I recognised that there were differences of opinion on what the concept should be,” he says carefully.
His response was to never travel without the strategy implementation plan close to hand but he says he noticed a different tone at the NAV meeting.
“I think that the different parties have now begun marching as a troop. I remember that there was a conference recently where it was expressed that for the first time the observer organisations of the IMO now had a very close co-operation in the development of e-Navigation, based on the strategy plan. So that was very good to hear.”