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Interview by Curtis Hand, Photos from Hefring Marine

Really…How Fast is too fast?…in Iceland?!

Well, we can answer that in a moment.  But, while the coffee is brewing in a machine for someone’s cup somewhere, Maritime Security & Defence (MSD) magazine is sharing the result of its rare opportunity to catch up with and interview Björn Jónsson, COO and Founder of Hefring Marine.

We wanted to have benefit of his unique perspectives concerning high speed boat operations in the naval defence and maritime security arena worldwide. So, during the HSBO Forum‘s recent event, we sat with him and had a chat and a coffee, much like you might be doing now…

MSD: What precipitated the development of your system?

Jónsson: The co-founders of Hefring Marine were working together on a another boating project in Iceland which involved research and comparison of motion responses of high-speed marine vessels. The research took place at the same time as a number of accident occurred on board high-speed rigid inflatable boats operating in popular tourist places along the Icelandic coast line. The co-founders decided to develop a solution, the Hefring Marine system, that could improve the awareness of high-speed vessel operators with a focus on prevention to improve safety, comfort and efficiency in boating and vessel operations. The development included a number of research projects focusing on the frequency and magnitude of wave impacts and resulting g-forces in high-speed boats. The research analysed among other the effect that an onboard monitoring system could have on the behaviour of a captain when operating a vessel. These research projects produced some very important information, with two of the most important findings being, how a captain’s awareness of an onboard monitoring device dramatically changed the profile of the boating trip and the other being the difference in the severity of wave impacts depending on the location of the motion sensors onboard a high-speed boat.

MSD: When was this developed and when did it first go into production and where is it currently in deployment?

Jónsson: The initial research and the development took place in 2017 to 2018 but the Hefring Marine company was established in the end of 2018. The initial system prototype was ready in early 2020 and several partners in Iceland, Norway and the Netherlands tested the system in the first months of that year. These partners include the Icelandic Coast Guard, Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue and tourist local tourist boat operators. Other partners include the Norwegian Sea Rescue Society and De Haas Maassluis, a builder of high-speed patrol boats in the Netherlands. The system has been tested and used by commercial and tactical users in Iceland, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and in Norway.

MSD: Which advantages are quickly realised? What about cost-benefit?

Jónsson: The system includes two functions, a admin portal and vessel operators guidance. The guidance improves greatly the sensitivity of operators for a safe speed and awareness of the severity of impacts experienced on board high-speed boats. The system supports the operators by providing a real time collection and analysis of conditions in which the vessel is being operated. Research and testing with the trial partners have shown that operator’s awareness of an onboard monitoring device reduced the peak g-force impact by 60-70% compared to not being aware of a monitoring device. The testing and research have also indicated a cost savings of 10 – 30% per annum in improved safety, less accidents an injuries, less impact related maintainance cost and improved fuel efficiency. The trip data logged, and available in the system admin portal, also provides the users with profiling of vessel operations which can be an important data when negotiating with insurers on premiums.

MSD: Who benefits in the short-/long-term?

Jónsson: In the short term, using a Hefring Marine system to monitor vessel and operator performance demonstrates that the vessel manager and employer is doing all they can to ensure Duty-of-Care and the safe operation of the vessel. Proper use of the system also ensures that crew and passengers as well as cargo are afforded the maximum level of safety in the vessel operations. In the case of an accident, the Hefring Marine system can be used to demonstrate that the vessel was operated safely. In cases of any accidents in which the vessel was not operate safely, having Hefring Marine installed demonstrates that the vessel owner/operator has taken all available precautions to ensure that vessel operators were aware of how to operate the vessel safely by monitoring new personal and trainees to give feedback of their boat handling performance. In the long run the proper use of the system can improve operators skills as well as reducing the life cycle cost of vessels by improving safety, reducing impact related maintenance cost and improve fuel efficiency and whereby reducing CO2 emissions. Manufacturers of Unmanned Surface Vessels have also shown interest in incorporating the Hefring Marine system as a sensory guidance for remote control systems in order to improve the safe operation of USV´s.

MSD: Why does it work?

Jónsson: Operator behaviour is a key factor for safe and efficient vessel operation and the Hefring Marine system has been shown to modify the behaviours of vessel operators such that they pilot high-speed boats in a safer way. The Hefring Marine system provides vessel operators with a variable, real time display of a calculated recommend speed and heading for a vessel, where the system automatically varies its guidance to reflect prevailing sea and weather conditions. With this functionality, the system can provide guidance to reduce unsafe impacts and wave slams, the risk of motion sickness, fuel consumption, and the risk of damage to the vessel and equipment.

MSD: How has it changed the way HSBO are conducted?

Jónsson: Hefring Marine provides a clear display of the actual boat speed compared to the safe operating speed, known as the Red-Speed-Over-Ground (ROG), so that vessel operators are aware of when they are operating the boat too fast for the prevailing conditions and what speed to default to. The system has a clear indication of actual speed compared to the maximum safe operating speed (ROG) calculated and displayed by the system. Therefore the proper use of the system improves the awareness of vessel operators in a way which is in line with the outcome of the research previously mentioned, where monitoring and guidance improves the awareness with intelligent proprietary processing to present operators with actionable information for safer operation of vessels within a safe, comfortable and efficient operational envelope.