Amid the huge digitalization reformation that the maritime industry is going through, Aids to Navigation (AtoN) still play a major role in the safety of shipping and in the development of the industry. Peter Stanley, CEO, International Foundation of Aids to Navigation (IFAN), and Mahdi Al-Mosawi, General Manager, Middle East Navigation Aids Service (MENAS) explain to Robban Assafina more about the companies’ roles in providing and maintaining the essential risk reduction service, as well as providing Aids to Navigation courses for ports authorities in the Gulf market.

To begin with, we would like to introduce MENAS and IFAN to our audience, role and goals.
Stanley: IFAN (International Foundation of Aids to Navigation) is a parent company, its origins go back to 1911. IFAN’s aim is to promote safe navigation and protection of the marine environment through the use of Aids to Navigation. A global company, IFAN supports objects and projects from the South Pacific Community all the way through to running courses in the Middle East.

MENAS (Middle East Navigation Aids Service), is a branch of IFAN which was founded in 1951, it’s based in Bahrain and it’s the only independent lighthouse authority in the world. MENAS’ remit is providing marine safety information and NAVTEX warnings for the Middle East and Gulf region. The company has four Differential Global Positioning System (DGPS) to provide accurate positions, with 54 Aids navigation located in the Middle East and Gulf area.

Mahdi Al-Mosawi, General Manager, Middle East Navigation Aids Service (MENAS)


Established in 1951 and operating from Bahrain, how do you evaluate MENAS operating services to all the Middle East region?
Al-Mosawi: The Middle East and Gulf region is one of the busiest waterways. This drives MENAS to provide the latest and best services in the market, as we were the first entity to provide AtoN AIS, and satellite monitoring systems in the region. We always have positive feedbacks from the authorities, as we are the leaders in navigational matters. 

Furthermore, we are working on training to deliver fully accredited Aids to Navigation courses that will be first of its kind in the region.


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Being experts in navigation systems, we would like to know how Navigation Aids have developed through these years?
Al-Mosawi: Historically, all Aids to Navigation were fitted with Gas Lanterns, but around the end of 1990s, we switched to solar energy with batteries and solar panels. In the early 2000s, the new technologies came to the market starting with LED lights, and AtoN monitoring systems through satellite, GSM & VHF to know the status and the health of the equipment installed on the AtoN, whether floating or fixed, and AtoN AIS including the Radar Racons. 

Safety is always a top priority, and MENAS has reflected that lately by winning the Health and Safety accolade from RoSPA. What image has this safety performance reflected to MENAS’ staff as well as to its clients?
Al-Mosawi: As we have ISO for Quality Management System, we also needed an external body to audit our health, Safety and Environment management system (HSE), therefore, we have registered in RoSPA in 2018 and since that time, we have been awarded with 4 awards which gave us the motivation to improve our HSE system and ensure safe work environment for the staff and people that reflect the quality that we have of this system.

Peter Stanley, CEO, International Foundation of Aids to Navigation (IFAN)

Recently, the cost of providing MENAS Nav Aids has increased and has therefore forced MENAS to change its charges. Tell us about the challenges that you are facing, how will this step help?
Stanley: The biggest challenge that we are facing, is making sure that we keep the AtoNs in good working order and in the right place, in addition to keeping the equipment updated, in order to offer the best service. 

Yet, that comes at a cost. With the increase in input costs, wages, energy and steel costs during the past 2 years, Nav Dues are not at a level that allows for a sustainable future for MENAS to go forward. That is why, for the first time since 2006, we are taking this step to review our tariff, and increase it by 21%. With these changes, we will generate enough income to make MENAS sustainable in the long return and to fund the capital reinvestment program that is needed. 

There’re many challenges in keeping AtoNs in good condition and providing navigation warnings for shipowners and charters in the Gulf. We’ve kept all costs the same up until 2006 and we have done that with good cost management, but we had to look at our primary tasks in keeping Aids to Navigation current and updated to ensure safe waterways. That would not have been possible with the same old cost.

Al-Mosawi: As Peter mentioned, we are trying to do our job smartly with an adequate number of staff in the aim of investing with proper equipment to fulfil the need of the industry and within the standards. As we all know, and due to inflation, all costs are increasing including equipment like Differential GPS, so we had to upgrade the lanterns, the AIS system and other AtoNs equipment according to standards. AtoNs should be equipped with certain devices that are vital such as Racons and AIS. And since they are located in remote areas, that means they should be equipped with a monitoring system to know their operational status.


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What kind of relationship/partnership do you share with shipowners/stakeholders?
Stanley: We have a good relationship with our shipowners and stakeholders, as we have very a large majority of shipowners and charters who recognize that they receive an essential service, a really strong mechanism for reducing the risk in difficult waterways. 

The insurance companies and P&I clubs also recognize that we are providing an essential risk reduction service for shipowners. In this case, even if the cost is now a bit higher, they should feel that it is right to pay for this service. Based on that, we expect the relationship to stay same, receiving a positive feedback from the shipowners and charters.

What are MENAS/IFAN’s offers to the maritime community in these challenging times?
Stanley: Part of our current work is to educate and share our knowledge, and as Mahdi mentioned, we are working on giving courses and trainings to port authorities and people in the gulf who want to learn more about Aids to Navigation standards. We are also sharing our information through IALA’s technical committees. We continue to offer the highest international standards in terms of provision of AtoNs in the Gulf area and we will continue to take on the responsibility, sharing our knowledge and capabilities with others.  

Al-Mosawi: I would like to add that we are using IALA risk assessments to reflect the guidelines and standards of IALA to the maritime industry. We have just completed an AtoN survey in Bahrain, as well as two previous projects with the Authorities of Oman and Abu Dhabi Ports. This survey is done to evaluate all the AtoNs and provide advice to the authorities on the status of each AtoN, and recommend what changes should be done with the appropriate equipment.

Robban Assafina, Issue 87, Sept./ Oct. 2023, Maritime Host, p 89


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Issue 87 of Robban Assafina

(Sept./ Oct. 2023)


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