Ferretti Group adopts Watchit grounding and collision safety software
Aqua Marina Tech's founders explain the system and their ambitions to revolutionise navigational safety at sea…
In February 2022, Aqua Marina Tech announced that it has signed its first commercial agreement with Ferretti Group to integrate the Watchit patented technology within all lines of the Ferretti Group yachts. Having never heard of Aqua Marina Tech, nor Watchit, my interest was piqued. For a manufacturer the size of Ferretti Group to adopt the technology across its ranges, it must have been an impressive sea trial. So, what exactly is Watchit, and how does it work? Commenting at the time of the announcement, Ferretti Group CEO Alberto Galassi stated:
“Safety, which means peace of mind and relaxation, is one of the keys to the success of our yachts. “Watchit” is a highly innovative system that Ferretti Group will adopt on an exclusive basis, once again showing it is a step ahead of everyone in terms of the quality of the cruising experience. With this new technology, the owners, captains and crews of our fleet know they can count on an unparalleled standard of safety.”
But what is it and how does it work?
Aqua Marina Tech was founded by Amir Eyal, Ofer Sela and Eldad Barnoon in 2019 in Herzliya, Israel. The company develops and provides marine innovation technological solutions. 'Running aground’ still happens frequently. Most deck teams will at least have a story of a close call, or a scrape. Certainly, most tenders will have more than a few crapes and bent propeller blades. While technological failure is sometimes a factor, human error is the most significant cause of groundings. The ‘unchartered reef’ that is often blamed for groundings is less often the true culprit than may be implied. SuperyachtNews speaks with both Eyal and Sela about the origins of the system, and how they hope to change the way vessels navigate.
“We are very happy that Ferretti Group yachts will be the first to install our "Watchit” technology,” comments Amir Eyal, founder of Aqua Marina Tech. “We decided to take up this challenge to leave a mark on the yachting sector by making navigation more of a pleasure, by reducing pointless and expensive damage, and above all by raising safety standards to save lives at sea.”
Human error is still the number one cause of groundings, by a significant margin. Watchit, the founders explain to me, hopes to play a major role in changing this. “I remember our first conversations about this when we said that this is a problem dating back to ancient history, and here we are with the same problem!”
“I saw this team coming together, with engineering and high tech support that could solve the problem. Vessels run aground around 10 thousand times a year, we calculated, and so our mission is to solve it and the next step was a patent in the USA.” States Eyal. “Amir and I served together in the Navy as small patrol ship commanders" starts Sela, “I am also an engineer with a tech background, so when Amir called me with his idea, after two minutes I stopped and said that there is no way this does not exist already. But it did not.”
Watchit is based on Aqua Marina's Tech intellectual property, U.S. Patent # 10,723,423. The Watchit technology utilises the data from existing boat sensors, such as GPS position, heading, speed, rudder angle, log, wind indicator and vector charts data (GIS) to calculate in real-time the grounding risk at any point while sailing to alert the bridge. It is not a navigation tool, Eyal is quick to state, but a software system that integrates existing data streams on board to provide a dynamic alert system for the bridge.
The software creates what Sela explains as a Dynamic Alert Zone or DAZ, that changes relative to the data inputs outlined above. Having the data there is one thing, but as Sela recalls, that does not always prevent a grounding. “You may recall, in 2016, one of the Volvo Ocean race boats ran aground in the Southern Ocean. It didn’t hit a hidden reef, it ran into an entire island! The data was all there, and the boat had some of the most sophisticated technology on board. The investigation found that they were too far zoomed out on the electronic chart and could not see the island.”
As more and more of the superyacht fleet goes paperless, almost all yacht bridge teams are fluent in ECDIS systems. And, of course, ECDIS has its own alarm systems. Sela sees the Watchit system adding another layer. "With the DAZ, irrespective of the zoom, the skipper or navigation officer would have been alerted (In the cases of the 2016 Volvo Ocean Race grounding). ECDIS, for example, allows you to set an alert box. But this is a static area that is set at a certain distance. What can also happen is the officer will have too many alarms going off, and will eventually turn them off.”
Currently set to work in conjunction with Ferretti Group's Navico systems, Eyal explains there are plans to expand to other systems, as well as integrate radar data in the pipeline. “We are not trying to replace a chart plotter or an ECDIS obviously, but what has been missing from navigation I would say, is the interpretation of the data. We are not inventing anything new in terms of this data, nor are we bringing any new data to calculate. We take the existing data and for the first time, do the dynamic interpretation that can give the captain time to react, and hopefully prevent groundings.”
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