Navigating the Arctic

Russian ports will likely need to add to the existing eLoran strucutre Russian ports will likely need to add to the existing eLoran strucutre

In a bid to improve shipping safety across emerging Arctic shipping routes, the UK and Russia are to collaborate to develop compatibility in advanced navigation technologies at ports.

The General Lighthouse Authorities of the UK and Ireland (GLAs) and Russia’s Internavigation Research and Technical Centre will develop interoperable resilient position, navigational and timing (PNT) technologies.

This will further the development of eLoran, a resilient GPS technology already installed at major ports across the UK, and the development of eChayka in Russia.

“To assure the navigational accuracy, integrity, availability and continuity-of-service required for the harbour entrance and port approach phase of navigation, even if GPS signal is lost, ports need to install differential eLoran reference stations,” Martin Bransby, research and radionavigation manager, GLAs, told Port Strategy.

Arctic shipping routes have only become viable in the past few years due to melting polar ice, enabling shipping times between Asia and Europe to be cut by around a third.

The new routes also allow vessels to avoid issues with territorial disagreements and pirate threats on routes around Asia and Africa.

Shipping traffic through the Northern Sea route along has quadrupled in the last year alone, according to the Northern Sea Route Administration.

“Around 95% of UK trade comes by sea and therefore, through ports. If we are unable to navigate ports effectively, fewer ships will be able to dock, having significant impact on port productivity and ultimately, the economy,” Mr Bransby added.

Due to shallow water, submerged obstacles and high traffic densities, ports are especially difficult to navigate, particularly in bad weather or at night.

“Most of the time GPS and other GNSS systems provide vessels with the data they need to manoeuvre and dock safely, but what if GPS fails?,” Mr Bransby said.

The GLAs say to ensure resilient PNT, vessels need an eLoran receiver onboard to transfer to a station in the case of GNSS failure.

Earlier this year, seven eLoran reference stations were installed at major ports along the South and East coast of the UK. There are also several installed in Russia.

But, Mr Bransby told PS that if we are to have a truly reliable system across Arctic shipping routes, Russian ports would most likely need to add to the existing structure.

South Korea has also shown interest in an eLoran alliance with the UK.

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