New IT-based technology and cleaner aesthetics have been the driving forces behind the modern superyacht bridge.  In a decade, will every bridge look like a spaceship?

SuperYacht Business asks the experts. Michael Verdon reports

A decade ago, the bridge of most superyachts was typically designed as the exclusive province of the captain, a place created to be functional and utilitarian, but not especially high-tech or attractive. But in the last five years, the bridge has become a crown jewel for designers, engineers and owners who want to show off what is seen as the operations centre of the yacht.  Both technological advances and greater aesthetic appeal having been driving the bridge’s evolution, moving toward what many integrators and manufacturers call the “full integration” of the bridge.

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“The technology in a traditional navigation system comes to the superyacht sector through commercial shipping, so it is limited by IEC performance standards that regulate different pieces of equipment,” says Oliver Schwarz, the bridge equipment specialist with Bond Technology Management. Components like radar and ECDIS also have to be typeapproved for IMO and IHO performance standards. “But even with limitations that the standards impose, yachts have a higher budget than cargo ships, so they’re putting more emphasis on the integration of systems.”

Schwarz says serial interfaces of equipment are now being replaced by network interfaces. “More of the equipment is PC-based, which makes it much easier to use than in the past and allows for a much higher exchange of information,” says Schwarz. “Initially, there was a separation between the navigation and IT networks, but we’re seeing that go away. People were worried about viruses tampering with navigation equipment, but that problem can be dealt with.” The fast-track integration of IT applications on the bridge has been one of the main evolutionary drivers of the modern bridge, and will continue to push it forward. “The IT is so much more advanced, there’s no comparison to the bridge of 10 years ago,” says Schwarz. “Bridges have become more complicated because there is so much more data available. But on the other hand, they have improved because the captain has more information for making his decisions.”