Building a bridge

The bridge of Antarctic icebreaker RSV Nuyina has come a long way from a scale model on paper to a final functional design boasting cutting-edge technology.

Just as ‘form follows function’ in modern industrial design, function is a key design driver on the bridge of the Nuyina, and critical to the vessel’s efficient and safe operation.

So who better to apply this design principle than former ship Captain and Australian Antarctic Division Icebreaker Project Officer, Mike Jackson, and former Captain of Australia’s current icebreaker Aurora Australis, Scott Laughlin.

To begin, the pair covered walls and work benches with sheets of paper printed with life-size graphic representations of the bridge instruments.

Then, by sitting at the central and side-wing ‘conning’ (driving) positions, and “using a bit of role play” to move between the different functions of the bridge, they were able to adapt the original bridge design, provided by the Damen ship-builders, to their needs.

“In the central conning position, for example, we looked at what we’d need to do if we were conducting helicopter or boating operations, and then we moved to the side positions and repeated the process,” Mr Jackson said.

“On the starboard side of the ship there are two conning positions; one facing forward for icebreaking and cargo operations, and another facing aft for scientific work and stern and side deployments.

“So we looked at things like visibility and radio communications, using windscreen wipers, and ensuring the bridge instrumentation was in the right position for operations facing both ways.

“Printing the shapes of the instruments to scale on individual sheets of paper made it easy to move the pieces around and find the best solution to each operational need.”

As they found functional efficiencies, the pair also saved space, with room opened up for the harbour pilot to dock their laptop, and more room for navigation charts.

In November 2018 Mr Jackson travelled to Norway to see the design in action, witnessing the Factory Acceptance Test of Nuyina’s bridge systems, before installation on the ship.

The three day trial involved inspecting all the consoles and instruments, and then testing the ship’s systems in normal and failure situations using a simulator.

Four critical systems were tested — the bridge navigation system, the ‘sensor integrator’, the ‘dynamic positioning system’, which maintains the ship’s position, and the ‘Seapath 380’, which provides positional information to scientific instruments to allow them to adjust for ship movement.

“In one test we checked that the navigation radar changed scale, that it could acquire and track a target, and that an alarm sounded if the target was lost,” Mr Jackson said.

“In another test we removed power from one of the thrusters and checked that the dynamic positioning system adjusted the other thrusters to pick up the load.”

The sensor integrator is a critical part of bridge operation. It collects information from a swath of navigation sensors, such as the ice and navigation radars, compass and gyros, and provides it to all the multi-function display consoles as required.

“The Nuyina has an integrated bridge, which means that information from the sensor integrator is available on all the consoles,” Mr Jackson said.

“For example, you can display the ship’s navigation and controls, or the radar information, on any or all of the multi-function displays, and you can overlap the radar on the charts.”

The Factory Acceptance Test was attended by representatives from Norwegian company Kongsberg Maritime, who supplied most of the consoles and equipment, as well as Damen, Serco and Mr Jackson.

Once the bridge instrumentation is installed on the ship, there will be a Harbour Acceptance Test (HAT).

“The HAT is a repeat of what we’ve already done but using the ship’s sensors rather than a simulation,” Mr Jackson said.

“After that we’ll do a Sea Acceptance Trial, where we can use the displays, track radar contacts, and find all the loose nuts and bolts as the ship moves around.”

Wendy Pyper
Australian Antarctic Division