Bringing the pieces together

L-3 Valmarine specialises in the engineering of marine navigational and automation systems. Originally an independent firm by the name of Valmarine, it was bought by international communications technology conglomerate L-3 in 2005 and has subsequently gone from strength to strength. Business performance has grown substantially whilst research and development has accelerated into market-defining systems. The most recent version of its integrated automation system (IAS), the VALMATIC Platinum, epitomises where the company is today – at the forefront of its market.

The VALMATIC Platinum integrates all of a vessel’s information into a single stream of information that can be accessed anywhere onboard, whether in the captain’s office or the engine room, via Multifunctional screens. This means all automated functions such as machinery parts, power management and HVAC can be integrated with navigational information from the proprietary NACOS Platinum system. Crucially, the architecture of VALMATIC Platinum offers a great deal of redundancy, a single failure can at maximum affect one I/O card. The new VALMATIC platinum development has greatly forcused on easy maintenance so that cards and other components can be hot swapped.

When Shipping & Marine last spoke with Valmarine, the VALMATIC Platinum was entering the final phase of testing. Eight months later the first vessel with it installed, Carnival Breeze, has been delivered. Automation division director Odd Magne Hjortland discusses this in more depth: “At the end of May, the system’s pilot vessel was delivered to the ship-owner Carnival Cruises from the yard in Italy. Since the beginning of June it has been sailing, with passengers, in the Mediterranean. We have had good feedback both from the yard and the owners that the hardware and the system have been working according to specifications. L-3 delivers both the automation- and the navigation systems onboard on Carnival Breeze. The two systems are based on the same platinum platform and have been integrated to work on the same network so they can deliver data from navigation onto the same interface as automation data, and visa versa.”

He goes onto to talk about the next step for the VALMATIC Platinum: “The Carnival Breeze is a fairly big ship but the system that has been installed is not, from our perspective, the biggest. We now have a new contract for Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) called Breakaway that will be much larger in terms of size. We have a total of 45,000 I/O signals on the Breakaway and this requires further testing on the system to make sure there is a guarantee of full integration between automation, emergency shutdown, safety management, navigation and – this is new – dynamic positioning (DP). DP integration will therefore be the next important step for the VALMATIC Platinum.”

Though DP has been part of the L-3 offering since 2006, when it acquired the technology from Nautronics, its integration into Platinum series of products is now L-3’s R&D priority. Whilst DP is less crucial for the cruise industry that currently comprises the largest slice of the company’s business, it is essential for the operation of ships in the offshore sector. By integrating navigational and automation information with DP data, the VALMATIC Platinum would become an ideal solution for offshore construction vessels, PSVs, OSVs, wind farm support boats and other similar types of ships. L-3 will therefore use the Breakaway project to test the reliability and efficacy of integrated DP before bringing it to the offshore sector.

Another area of development focus for Valmarine is green technology. It is working on its information management system (IMS), which can log onboard energy and fuel consumption data for up to one year that has proved popular with the cruise industry in particular. Its data logging means that owners can compare and benchmark the data then work with Valmarine to improve vessel fuel economy. The VALMATIC Platinum and its IMS combined with the Speed pilot and ECO pilot on the NACOS platinum navigation opens numerous opportunities for greener than ever sailing.

Looking at business, Odd illustrates the success Valmarine continues to have with its products: “The automation side of our business has been a levelling curve recently whilst we wait to see how the VALMATIC Platinum pilot turns out. There are also new competitors in this market. It has not been doing badly, just stable. The navigational side of our business, though, has seen a steep upward curve. This is partly a result of increased vessel refits in the Norwegian market but mostly, I believe, due to increased activity in the Norwegian offshore sector, and also to Brazil because many Norwegian shipping companies operate internationally.”

Having had a long and close relationship with the cruise and ferry industry, the company is beginning to stretch its wings and look at new areas of business. “The offshore sector is a high focus area for us, because it has customers that require the safety and reliability we can offer with our systems,” outlines Odd. “We have had good marketing toward Norwegian owners in this sector, sold some systems and received great feedback already so offshore is definitely one of the markets we believe will continue growing.

”Naval navigation is another high focus area. Valmarines NAVINET navigations system has already gained good reputation in the naval market with its special functions for the specialist nature of war ships. The final high focus area for the future is megayachts, where we just received our first contract on a very large vessel. Essentially, you can say we are interested in everything that can be considered ‘advanced offshore’ because they are at the top of requirements for safety and reliability and Valmarine’s products can meet that.”

Successful new system launch
Developing DP integration
Growing in the offshore sector