Cruise ship navigation systems

Tuesday, 17 January 2017
Cruise ship navigation systems

Modern cruise ships are equipped to the hilt with efficient navigation systems, the crew are highly trained and ocean navigation procedure requires backup systems for just about everything. From Gyro Compasses to radar, voyage data recorders to navigational lights it has become very hard to lose your way at sea. These are just ten of many navigation systems used by modern cruise ships.

A Gyro Compass

Unlike the magnetic compass, a gyro compass is not influenced by magnetic fields and is therefore able to hold the true north position. The gyro compass is made up of a few key elements such as the master compass, repeater compasses, and course recorders.


Radar has been used for decades, and was a prominent navigation and wartime tool used in the Second World War to spot objects, land, and other enemy vessels in the surrounding waters. As it indicates physical objects in the area of the ship, it is possible to safely navigate a cruise ship through or around these obstacles.

Automatic Radar Plotting Aid

The ARPA makes use of the radar information provided, and shows where the ship is in relation to other vessels, land, or other obstacles in the area, and then automatically plots a safe route automatically in order to avoid any collisions.

Electronic Chart Display Information System

The ECDIS is used in naval vessels and other ships, and is a set of electronic charts that provide a set of information which enables the crew to pinpoint locations, and therefore makes it much easier to work out the necessary direction to take.

Long Range Tracking and Identification System

LRIT is a requirement under the SOLAS convention for all ships at sea. SOLAS stands for - safety of life at sea - and is an international convention, which aims to prevent marine pollution from ships, and to safeguard human life and the marine environment. LRIT is a tracking system that monitors the movement of all ships across the globe.

Voyage Data Recorder

As the name suggests, a VDR is installed on a ship and continuously tracks and records information that concerns the operation of that vessel. It also includes a voice recording system to monitor on-board activity, most likely in the bridge.

GPS Receiver

Offering assistance from shore is made even easier with the use of a Global Positioning System, or GPS. This device links to the satellites orbiting the earth and then transmits that signal to show the exact location of the vessel, anywhere in the world.

Navigational lights

For centuries now it has become a requirement for all vessels at sea to make use of navigational lights. The main purpose of the lights is to prevent collisions during dark or misty conditions.

Manoeuvring booklet

The manoeuvring booklet is a quick reference booklet that records all previous performances of the ship during various types of weather conditions. It can be used to refer back to, should the crew need to understand how best to operate the ship or deal with certain conditions while at sea.

Echo Sounder

An echo sounder is used to measure how deep the ocean is at any point on a voyage. It makes use of sound waves that reverberate off the bottom of the ocean, and then through scientific calculations, the crew is able to monitor the distance between the ship and the sea floor. 

By utilising these and a vast number of other navigation tools and techniques, a ship’s crew is able to operate and navigate a ship’s course very safely and efficiently. With all of this technology, that has been developed over centuries of ocean travel, there is almost zero room for incident. Good to know hey? So why don’t you go ahead and contact one of our consultants to book your cruise to anywhere in the world!

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