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Posted on 24 July 2018

5P’s to make you more PPU ready

Due to the increased complexity of modern day piloting which demands the ability to handle large ships safely and efficiently, it is becoming more common for pilots to bring their own portable navigation systems onboard with them.

In general, these pilot/port owned portable devices are referred as Portable Pilot Units (PPUs).

These provide an additional source of navigation information which usually cannot be generated accurately by the ship’s systems hence facilitating decision making for a safe and efficient pilotage.  The accuracy of the PPU is deterministic and can be maintained and augmented to meet the demands of the port and pilotage in contrast to the vessels’ fixed ECDIS system.

Navicom Dynamics Ltd. are a New Zealand based market leading company that builds and supplies a range of Portable Pilot Units to over 30 countries.

The following five points, which Navicom Dynamics refer as the 5P’s of a PPU would warrant safety and efficiency of the piloting operations with PPUs.

 1. Power 

It is always a good idea to keep the PPU charged, which ensures it is ready to go anytime. This includes the main sensors (Navicom Dynamics HarbourPilot, ChannelPilot or GyroPilot), auxiliary augmented sensors if any (Navicom Dynamics GyroPilot Plus, GyroPilot Triteia), and the display that runs the ECS software. Since proper functionality and expected runtime of these components are crucial for successful and safe pilotage, keeping everything charged is of primary significance.

If the user intends to keep a PPU as a backup unit or store a PPU to use in an event of a failure of a unit on operation, he must ensure that all the components are charged at least up to 50% and store in a cool, dry place.  Needless to say, that the stored unit need a full charge before commencing the operation.

It is not advisable to fully charge the PPU and store it for a prolonged period as this practice will reduce the lifetime of the batteries. The user should always use the chargers provided by Navicom Dynamics for the respective PPUs as they are designed to provide accurate levels of charging demanded by the PPUs, which ensures guaranteed runtimes and prolonged battery life.


            Before commencing the pilotage, the user needs to have an action plan. This includes ensuring the connectivity between PPU and display, setting up tidal information, tidal stations and ship data on ECS system. Ensure that the display and the ECS kept in up-to-date with their latest operating system updates and software updates which guarantees the reliability of the system.  

In addition, it is always a good idea to check whether the electronic charts (both vector and raster) has updated recently and whether they manifest the reality at the port, terminal and the channel. For example, an older vector/raster chart might not have the latest information about the channel and may not have the recently constructed features included within.

Also, the user should plan his route before and in case using a saved route, ensure that the critical features of the route, such as waypoints and turning radius are appropriate for the pilotage.

5Ps Fig1

Figure 1 Tidal Stations Setup - Qastor 2.5

3. Pack

            After ensuring that the sensors and augmented antennas can successfully communicate with each other and the display, the user should pack the PPU before the pilotage. Many users prefer to leave the laptop in either sleep or standby mode that ensure minimal power consumption prior to commencing the pilotage while guarantees a quick start-up. Making sure that there are no pending operating system updates is also recommended as such an update while performing a pilotage may render the display unusable for a significant amount of time.  Also, the user should check that he has all the necessities for the pilotage including the paperwork and radio.

4. Position

            HarbourPilot, ChannelPilot, GyroPilot Plus and GyroPilot Triteia require a clear view of sky for their operation. Always make sure that there are no metal structures overhanging or obstructing the sky view.  Position the sensors and the antennas strictly as described in product manuals and training presentations, while noting the mounting coordinates. Enter or verify the pre-programmed coordinates of the PPU within the ECS settings. This step is vital for precise pilotage as an inaccuracy in position of the ECS system would result in offsets of the ship on the electronic navigational charts. Also, the user must confirm that data is coming from the sensor and there are no erroneous offsets being set for the position and heading information. 


5Ps Fig2

Figure 2 Transit Setup and Heading Correction Qastor 2.5

5. Pilotage 

            The PPU is now ready to provide with the information that the user needs to ensure the safety of the ship, the port and the environment. All the above described techniques would ensure the safe and efficient pilotages which Navicom Dynamics is committed to deliver. Certain features in the ECS can record the voyage for future playback or training purposes.


Navicom Dynamics run a range of training presentations on demand for the new and experienced PPU users.  For support enquires and your training requirements, please reach the Navicom Dynamics team via

Navicom Dynamics always maintains that PPUs are designed to perform as an aid to marine pilots in the safe pilotage of vessels.  It is not intended, nor shall it be construed as intended, to be a primary source for navigation



Sam Ransara – Engineering & Production lead, Navicom Dynamics Ltd.

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