Big brother's watching

LRIT promises improved security, assistance with search and rescue operations and environmental protection LRIT promises improved security, assistance with search and rescue operations and environmental protection
Industry Database

New tracking and identification regulations mean that ships can be monitored from port to port. Alex Hughes investigates

The IMO has made it mandatory for the deployment of Long Range Identification & Tracking Systems (LRIT), which essentially make use of satellite communications to track vessels at sea. While security was the main driver, the concept of LRIT has been broadened to make data available for search and rescue purposes and for environmental protection.

Conceptually LRIT and VTS systems exist for two entirely different purposes. LRIT systems are designed to bridge the gap between ports; at present when a ship sails from a port it effectively drops of the map until it arrives at its destination. Vessel Traffic Systems are designed to enhance port/ship safety and better manage shipping movement in the congested waters close to ports.

According to Paul Morter, head of sales and online services at Transas Telematics: "All our LRIT systems are designed to offer supplementary advance data to VTS operators to assist with the port planning processes. Our system principally uses satellite derived positional information, but will also support input from AIS base stations so as to provide a complete picture."

Mr Morter believes that what sets Transas apart is they have all the necessary in-house skills and technologies under one roof to offer a complete shore-based monitoring solution to both port operators and flag administrations.

In his opinion, ports seeking to acquire LRIT technology need to look at integrating it seamlessly with any other software that they are using. "This can be a real problem, which is why Navi Manager v4 has been designed to overcome this problem with comparative ease."

There have been some very high profile examples of late of ports introducing LRIT which has palpably failed to live up to expectations. Such failures, stresses Mr Morter, can be avoided by buying equipment from suppliers with a track record and that offer proper technical back up support. It also demonstrates the importance of understanding traffic levels before committing to new systems.

In terms of calculating a return on investment on LRIT, Mr Morter observes that the advance intelligence that LRIT can bring could prove to be very cost effective as a preventative measure.

Another positive that LRIT brings, suggests Mr Morter, is it makes available more accurate ETA information, thereby enhancing port planning. The Panama Canal Authority, for example, uses satellitederived tracking information to improve scheduling of transiting ships;

non-participating ships may experience longer delays.

"LRIT information can also be used to better plan berth slots, this must surely contribute towards better planning of port resources, " he says.

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