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A selective history of Maritime ICT Standards

⇒ NMEA and IEC 61162 (1983-2012)

⇒ The MiTS Standard (1991-1997)

⇒ ATOMOS, DISC and DISC II (1992-2001)

⇒ PISCES and IEC 61162-4 (1998-2010)

⇒ MarNIS and Efforts - ISO 28005 (2004-2012)

⇒ Flagship and IEC 61162-450 (2007-2011)

⇒ Shipping KPI and MOPS (2006-2014)

⇒ References

This page does absolutely not contain the full history of ICT developments in the maritime sector, but it will attempt to cover some projects that have had important impacts on the results presented on these web pages. The perspective is very much from Norway so many important projects in other parts of the world will not be mentioned. However, if one takes a closer look at the resources and references one should be able to get a better overview also of these. In particular, one may want to have a look at the LWE (Light Weight Ethernet) paper in the resources section (Rødseth Ø.J., Christensen M.J.; Lee K. 2011).

NMEA and IEC 61162 (1983-2012)

The National Maritime Electronics Association - NMEA is a private US organization catering for the need of the maritime electronics industry. It was originally US based, but has now a very international membership. NMEA has been active in developing interface standard and has a very good relationship to the International Electrical Commission (IEC) to put these standards into the SOLAS domain.

NMEA 0183 and its international cousin IEC 61162-1 is arguably the most influential standards in bridge integration at the moment. While the first versions of NMEA 0183 was published around 1983 (hence the name), it was version 1.5 from 1987 that started to get a wider international acceptance on SOLAS ships.

IEC logo

In 1995, NMEA 0183 was transliterated into an international standard through IEC TC80 and published as IEC 61162-1 which later was updated to edition 2. The standard has evolved, but it is still for most purposes identical to NMEA 0183. Currently, the main difference is that it does not include the parts of NMEA 0183 that are not related to SOLAS shipboard equipment.

NMEA 0183 uses a simple text based format transmitted over serial lines. The NMEA 0183 format has also been adopted as baseline message format for several other network standards, including the Light Weight Ethernet standard (IEC 61162-450).

NMEA also developed the CAN based NMEA 2000 standard. This is a bus type standard with higher speed and ability to cross-connect many devices.

The MiTS Standard (1991-1997)

MiTS logo

MiTS (Maritime Information Technology Standard) was developed through a Norwegian research project in the period 1991 to 1993 (Rødseth Ø.J., Øgård O., Hallset J.O., Haaland E. 1992). It used a single, non-redundant Ethernet on the physical layer and the IP protocols, mainly TCP/IP on the transport layer. A specific companion standard specification was used for application level interfaces (Rødseth Ø.J., Haaland E. 1993). MiTS has also been demonstrated over serial lines on the physical layer.

MiTS was developed as an integrated ship control (ISC) protocol which could integrate, e.g., a NMEA 0183 network on the bridge with, e.g., a Profibus network in the automation system.

In the period 1993 to 1996 several projects deployed the MiTS protocol on a number of ships. The specification as well as software was offered to the general ship control community through MiTS Forum. International standardization work was also started through IEC TC80.

Uptake of MiTS was slow, in part because it did not offer standard support for redundancy. It was also adversely struck by the general downturn in the shipping industry and the related restructuring of companies. In spite of this, it is safe to say that it had a remarkable impact on the industry and certainly helped to pave the way for later initiatives in this area. The IEC 61162-450 standard (see below) is in that sense a true child of MiTS. It is for this reason the name and logo of this site has been adopted from the MiTS project.

ATOMOS, DISC and DISC II (1992-2001)

ATOMOS was a series of four EU funded research projects that worked with maritime information technology and safety in general. DISC II was the third in the series and are sometimes referred to as ATOMOS III. Particularly in the area of ship networks, ATOMOS has had a strong influence on the work the finally led up to IEC 61162-450. Also, ATOMOS was the originator of an ISO standard on the development and use of programmable electronic system on-board ships (ISO, 2005).

DISC logo

The DISC (Demonstration of Integrated Ship Control) project was an EU funded cooperation between four consortia, including MiTS, with the aim to develop common guidelines for the development of safe and efficient integrated ship control systems. The project produced a final report describing the main findings and ideas (DISC, 1998). This is also available from the resources section, however with a few of the figures garbled.

DISC was continued in the larger DISC II project which undertook to actually demonstrate the concepts developed in DISC. Again, this was done as a combined effort between the same four consortia.

PISCES and IEC 61162-4 (1998-2010)


When it became apparent that MiTS would not really break through, a new European project was launched to remedy what was perceived as the main technical problems in MiTS. This was mainly related to the support for redundant network topologies, but also lack of support for alternative transport protocols and in particular ARCNET (ATA/ANSI, 1992).

This new project was called PISCIS and was running from 1998 to 2000. It resulted in specifications and prototype software for a fully redundant network system based on dual Ethernets and the IP protocols. Many of the ideas, including the software architecture and the application program interface was adapted from the MiTS Specifications.

The specifications were taken up by IEC TC80/WG6 and were developed into the IEC 61162-400 series of standards [8]. However, also this standard failed to get any significant market penetration. The reasons for this were mainly that no professional quality software was available and that the standard was too complex for in-house development.

MarNIS and Efforts - ISO 28005 (2004-2012)

MarNIS Logo

MarNIS (Maritime Navigation Information Services) was an integrated research project in EU that may be said to inaugurate or at least pre-date the e-Navigation and e-Maritime initiatives. It run from from 2004 to 2009. It investigated many aspects of information management, including port calls and operations (see Single Window) as well as communication technology (see Communication). The work on Single Windows was the direct precursor to the ISO 28005 series of standards and the ship communication work laid the basis for later developments in ship-ship and ship-shore communication specifications.

MarNIS also contributed to the work on an integrated information architecture for the maritime domain. This was based on ARKTRANS and focused on mapping the administrative organizations' roles and information needs.

Efforts Logo

Efforts was a somewhat smaller project that focused more on the operational aspects of ship/port interfaces, but this did also include a further investigation into ship-port communication services for e-Navigation applications. The focus on this was on shore based communication services and it can be found as a resource on the communications page.

MarNIS and Efforts also did the initial work on the ISO 28005 standard on electronic port clearance. This work was done through the International Standards Organization and Technical Committee 8. More on this in the data model section.

Flagship and IEC 61162-450 (2007-2011)

Flagship Logo

Flagship was a large integrated project on use of information technology on ships. An overview is available from its web site. In the context of IT standards, it did in particular contribute to the development to IEC 61162-450 and the final stages of ISO 28005.

Shipping KPI and MOPS (2006-2014)

Shipping KPI Logo

The Shipping KPI standard was developed through two Norwegian Research Council projects in the period 2006 to 2011. MARINTEK was the research partner in the project. The project has defined a number of standardized indicators to measure different aspects of ship management performance.


The recently started MOPS project will investigate how the set of Shipping KPIs together with benchmark values from the IMKE database can be used to measure and improve internal ship management processes. The project had its kick-off in February this year and will soon establish its own web site on the SINTEF project server.


Rødseth Ø.J., Øgård O., Hallset J.O., Haaland E. (1992). Integrated ship control and open systems (Authors' draft), IFAC symposium on Control Applications in Marine Systems, Genova 8-10 April 1992

Rødseth Ø.J., Christensen M.J.; Lee K. (2011). Design challenges and decisions for a new ship data network, ISIS 2011, Hamburg, 15th to 16th September 2011.

ISO, (2005). ISO 17894:2005 Ed. 1, Ships and marine technology - Computer applications - General principles for the development and use of programmable electronic systems in marine applications

Rødseth Ø.J., Haaland E. (1993). MITS: An Open Standard for Integrated Ship Control, Proceedings of ICMES 93, Hamburg September 1993


DISC, (1998). Final Report, Demonstration of ISC - DISC. ID Code: D101. Date: 1998.03.24

Last updated 2012-08-29 by Ø.J.Rødseth @ MARINTEK