Alarming success

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, ship’s bridge technology relied primarily on paper and electromechanical systems. A young team led by a marine navigator and electronics academic, however, recognised the potential for using advanced networking and solid state computing instead to improve bridge operation. Bringing a small team together, Applied Marine Instrumentation (AMI) was created more than 20 years ago to deliver new solutions to the market that would improve the efficiency of sailing throughout the industry.

Technology has changed during the last two decades and AMI with it. “As technology and information requirements evolved, the need for more varied interface functionality grew and so did AMI’s product range, quickly becoming a world leader in interfacing and retransmission of data,” illustrates director John Cox. “When the installation of Voyage Data Recorders (VDR) became mandatory in 2001, it was a natural progression for AMI to utilise existing expertise in interfacing in order to collate all required information from Fire Door Status, navigational data, radar images, and audio communications, then capture and record them into our own VDR system launched in 2001.”

Staying at the forefront of technology is AMI’s forte; ongoing success underlines its ability to deliver high quality, reliable models. In July 2012, safety legislation determined that all cargo vessels over 3000 gross tons must be fitted with a bridge navigational watch alarm system (BNWAS). In order to meet and exceed expectations, AMI’s KW810 BNWAS product was the first in the world to gain full IEC 62616 type approval. All models of the touchscreen-operated alarm offer two interaction options: a push button that requires physical intervention by the bridge officer, and a motion sensor that detects motion to reset the timer.

Gaining early approval has paid off for AMI. “Our KW810 model BNWAS has been very successful with its three year warranty and clean, modern design,” says John. “Owners like the fact that it is easy to link in with other navigational equipment without the need for additional interfaces, as well as the fact it can automatically alert other vessels or the owner via GMDSS or SSAS if the bridge remains deserted, due to piracy for example. We are very busy supplying the KW810 at the moment.”

He goes on to discuss the technology and popularity of AMI’s flagship product, the ship’s movement information display system (SMIDS): “SMIDS is type approved speed and distance equipment as required by vessels over 50,000 gross tons under SOLAS V/19 2.9.2 and is easily retrofitted when the vessel is at sea, as it requires no hull penetrations or underwater transducer. It uses both GPS and GLONASS satellite constellations to deliver dual motion accuracy of 0.01 knots, which is ten times better than Doppler or EM logs.

“Separate sensors at bow and stern mean that movement is measured rather than calculated, delivering reliable and accurate information. It has the added benefit of being completely reliable in any water or sea state, and is unaffected by depth, turbulence, aeration, particulate content, temperature, or salinity. Because of its accuracy, reliability and easy of installation and use, SMIDS has been very popular with a wide range of vessels including tankers, LNG carriers, container vessels, and dredgers.”

AMI’s client base is truly international. It has created a network of marine electronic engineers – choosing this method to offer greater technical service and flexibility than branch offices or agency agreements – across the Far East, Middle East, Europe, and North America. Subsequently it has gained the attention of clients ranging from small independent ship owners to multinational shipping majors and, with phase four of BNWAS bringing the product to vessels 150 gross tons and over, this looks set to expand even further during the coming years.

The increasing collection of small vessels into global maritime legislation extends beyond BNWAS and AMI is reacting by introducing new versions of its product range. At Seawork 2012, for example, it launched the VHF Recorder VR973. This unit records VHF traffic both from the VHF transmissions itself as well as ambient bridge communications through the microphone. These are saved with date and timestamp for easy retrieval on standard audio file formats. Because it is a particularly compact design with easy install methods that can be carried out by crew it is ideal for small workboats and has already become popular with crew transfer, harbour patrol, and security vessels.

Technology and regulations continue developing and AMI is already considering what the market holds for its future. It highlights the area of information management as a key area of growth, for example, and is already near the final stages of ukcompleting the development of a new management system that was launched at SMM 2012.

John concludes with confidence in AMI’s ability to remain at the top of its game: “Our interfaces have stood us in good stead until now and our world-leading expertise in this field has allowed us to move confidently into other areas. This diversification has allowed us to expand over recent years, and we are committed to continuing this strong growth. We have an excellent R&D programme that will deliver a stream of new products so that we will be well placed when the market starts to grow. Our headcount is also increasing in every department so that we can ensure we deliver the support our customers deserve. We will always look at balancing costs with ensuring that AMI offers the best technologies and services, so that every client sees real benefit form using our equipment.”

Applied Marine Instrumentation
Rapidly selling BNWAS
Technologically advanced
International engineer network