Digital technology improves safety at sea
An EU-funded project is creating a global online communication platform as well as digital standards for weather reports, nautical charts and other aids to improve communications and safety at sea.
© Danish Maritime Authority, 2016
Out at sea, a ships crew must navigate not only the waters, but also a wide range of communication systems. From radio and paper, to interactive websites, sailors must adapt how they communicate with authorities, ports, companies and other ships, according to the systems they use.
Furthermore, when authorities need to communicate with ships to share danger warnings or weather reports, they currently use dated technology with inflexible formats.
These processes take up valuable time and mental energy from the mariners who should be focusing on navigating the ship safely, says project coordinator Christopher Saarnak of the Danish Maritime Authority.
EU-funded project EfficienSea2 is drawing up much-needed common digital standards to better connect the maritime world and improve the current situation. The project is also building a new online platform enabling those in the maritime sector to share data and communicate much more efficiently.
Reporting 158 times
EfficienSea2 project researchers started out by investigating the problem. They found that a crew sailing from Helsinki to Rotterdam and calling in at three ports along the way had to report to authorities or ports 158 times, often exchanging the same information in different ways. It is currently impossible to share this information automatically, which places a huge administrative burden on mariners.
Maritime safety could also be improved. Between 2001 and 2010, there were more than 12 000 accidents at sea which resulted in the loss of over 6 000 lives a figure EfficienSea2 believes could be reduced with better communications.
The ambition is to connect all maritime stakeholders to a network where all data is standardised and therefore useable across borders and different equipment, says Saarnak.
The project has started building a maritime connectivity platform. This will allow mariners to share relevant data based on their location and to access information provided by maritime authorities in real time, which could potentially save a ship from impending disaster.
EfficienSea2 is also drawing up digital standards that can be used worldwide for maritime safety information, weather reports, ice charts, crowdsourcing ice information, risk zones, the best routes to take, traffic monitoring, port reporting and nautical charts.
In parallel, the team is developing a very high frequency (VHF) data exchange system. Successfully tested aboard ferries running from Gedser in Denmark to Rostock in Germany, it can provide a fast and reliable data connection from shore to some 50 kilometres out to sea. Traditionally, VHF is used for voice communications using it for digital communications will help ships cut costs by eliminating the need for satellite communications in coastal waters.
The project aims to improve navigation and emergency response systems in Arctic waters with tools that will allow vessels to share their locations. In addition, EfficienSea2 plans to develop a satellite weather forecasting tool to help ships to avoid patches where GPS communications are hindered by solar events or changes in the Earths magnetic field. Finally, the researchers hope to contribute to improving the monitoring of emissions from ships by creating a monitor for sulphur dioxide emissions.
EfficienSea2 will demonstrate its services at its final conference on 5-6 April 2018 in Copenhagen.