Coast Guard to suspend IRVMC reporting

By Brian at January 08, 2011 08:37
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The Coast Guard issued a temporary final rule suspending the reporting requirements for CDCs on the inland waterways.

The Inland Rivers* Vessel Movement Center (IRVMC) was established after 9/11 to track dangerous cargoes on the inland waterways.  Instead of using technology (in particular AIS), the Coast Guard mandated reporting at certain locations of vessel location and hazardous cargo.  These reports could be made by almost any means - electronically, or by radio, telephone, fax, email or carrier pigeon possibly.  In the 8+ years IRVMC was in place, little effort was made to shift to a fully-automated reporting system, which would have had the additional benefit of expanding the actual coverage area and probably increasing the security of the reported data.

Belatedly, the Coast Guard and Corps of Engineers are starting to work on prototype River Information Services (RIS) efforts that will ultimately provide IRVMC-like capabilities, and not just for the Coast Guard and not just in support of Homeland Security.  If implemented as envisioned, US RIS efforts will benefit the Coast Guard, the Corps and other Federal agencies; the navigation industry will also benefit from increased efficiency and single reporting of required information to the government.

However, these RIS efforts will take years to develop and implement, especially in these economic times.  It's a shame that the relatively flush years post-9/11 were not used to advance RIS and expanded AIS efforts.  Hopefully the good intentions and dedication of stakeholders, public and private, will overcome the financial hurdles.


*Are there any offshore rivers?

Finally! VTS LMR is "legal"

By Brian at November 25, 2010 10:18
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On October 28th, the US Coast Guard published a final rule establishing Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) Lower Mississippi River.  I quote from the text:

"On April 26, 2000, the Coast Guard published a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) entitled ``Vessel Traffic Service Lower Mississippi River'' "

No, that is not a typo - the NPRM was published over 10 years before the final rule came out.  Of course a lot happened in the intervening time - the events of 9/11/2001, hurricane Katrina, the development and implementation of AIS and a general change in the way VTS and shore-based monitoring and surveillance was perceived.  However, there was also a major slowdown in the implementation of new regulations under the existing administration as well as effects from the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security, which had a hard time seeing the importance of safety regulations.

It's good to see this regulation finally come out, making VTS New Orleans "legal," and kudos go to those who worked behind the scenes for so many years on it.  However, there are still at least three other US VTSs without regulations, and I don't think an NPRM has even been published for them yet.

An old photo of VTS LMR I took around the time the NPRM was issued - note the large CRT screens (long since replaced with flat screens).

eNavigation 2010 underway in Seattle

By Brian at November 16, 2010 14:43
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The 2010 eNavigation conference is underway at the Bell Harbor Conference Center in Seattle.  About 100 participants have already been treated to presentations on identifying problems related to eNav.  Throughout the conference we will work on how to address these problems.

You can follow the conference on this blog and through Twitter - I'll be posting as @MaritimeSpatial and using the #eNav2010 hash tag.  Join the conversation!

Change to St. Lawrence Seaway water level AIS message

By Brian at October 13, 2010 17:15
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Below is the text of a recent St. Lawrence Seaway notice regarding a change to their version of an AIS message used to transmit water level information:

AIS Water Level Data Transmission
In support of vessels using a draft optimization tool, mariners are advised that effective October 5, 2010, the water level data being transmitted via AIS will be based on actual readings, as currently done, or based on readings of adjacent sensors, in the event of problems with the primary sensor. The AIS water level message type will display ‘act0’ when the level is from the primary sensor and ‘est1’ when the level is estimated using data from adjacent sensors. The AIS version message has been changed to 4.1 from 4.0 to reflect this modification.
October 5, 2010

The pdf version of the notice is available here.

Here is version 4.0 of the water level message:

It's unclear to me where the "act0" and "est1" indications have been placed, but probably in the "reserved for future use" bits in the Reference Datum or Reserved fields.  The Notice states that "The AIS water level message type will display ‘act0’ when the level is from the primary sensor and ‘est1’ when the level is estimated using data from adjacent sensors."  This is somewhat presumptious - the actual portrayal would depend on how the manufacturer of the navigation system implemented it.

Th St. Lawrence Seaway has been on the cutting edge in the use of AIS since the early 2000's for which they should be commended.  However, they mostly serve a captive audience so they can make these sort of changes fairly easily.  The problem is that the rest of the world is using other messages, and it is unlikely many manufacturers will implement the SLS messages in their software, putting users at a disadvantage if they do sail the Seaway.

There is an international effort to develop and use common AIS messages, and to establish a registry of international and regional messages.  IALA is hosting this registry, which (unfortunately) currently has no submissions.  In the US, we are actively working to clarify the process for development and qualification of new mesages, and plan to submit messages to the IALA registry.  Others, including the SLS are encouraged to submit messages to the registry and are invited to join in or find out more about the US efforts on AIS application specific messages.

VTS 2012 Symposium - First Announcement

By Brian at October 12, 2010 14:44
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The first announcement has been issued for the 2012 IALA Vessel Traffic Services Symposium, to be held in Istanbul, Turkey in September 2012.  They have also posted their website with preliminary information.

The Symposium topic areas include:

- VTS Role in Maritime Domain Awareness

- Provision of VTS in International Waters

- VTS and e-Navigation

- The Role of VTS in Port/Waterway Efficiency

- VTS Developments in Polar Regions

I hope to attend - with luck by then we will have significantly advanced our e-Navigation and River Information Services (RIS) efforts here in the US.  Perhaps a presentation on "RIS and VTS in the US" or an update on the development of AIS application specific messages that may be useful for VTS would be possible.

eNav8 group photo

By Brian at September 22, 2010 06:17
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Here are the 80+ 98 attendees of the IALA e-Navigation committee, 8th Session on the plaza outside IALA HQ in St. Germain en Laye on a beautiful September morning:

I'm right in the middle - good luck trying to pick me out among the crowd...

eNav8 AIS coverage definition

By Brian at September 22, 2010 05:58
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EfficienSea submitted an input paper with a suggested definition of AIS coverage.  They recognized a need for a definition as they work to provide e-Navigation services through their test bed in the Baltic Sea area.  If you advertise the availability of services, you need to be able to determine the level of service you can provide.  For services depending on AIS, coverage is a key part of the level of service - you cannot provide AIS-based services outside of your AIS coverage area.
The definition EfficienSea came up with is:

where QAIS is:

We provided a variety of comments, in summary:

-    Recommended that the definition be separated to define “AIS receive” (i.e., receipt ashore of AIS messages from ships) and “AIS transmit” (i.e., ship receipt of AIS messages transmitted from shore stations).
-    Another definition of coverage area may be needed to measure ship-to-ship AIS coverage, as this would be critical to preserve the navigation safety aspect of AIS.
-    Levels of AIS service should be matched with the specific services provided;  e.g., the level of service for provision of traffic organization services  would be higher than that required for information services.
-    Coverage may be measured using a variety of criteria, including:
AIS receive:
•    AIS report rate, i.e., the frequency of receipt of reports from vessels by a base station
•    Distance traveled between reports, i.e., the distance travelled by a vessel between receipt of AIS reports
•    Percentage of receipt, i.e., AIS reports received by a shore station vs. number of reports expected to be received from vessels based on their speed, rate of turn, etc.
AIS transmit:
•    Probability of receipt of a message transmitted by a base station by a vessel within a defined distance from the base station
•    Basic coverage area should be determined using calculation of the expected RF coverage area, given a defined power level, antenna height, etc.
-    It was noted that receive coverage will vary based on the AIS installation on the vessel (e.g., height of antenna, quality of installation, power of transmitter), and the type of AIS (i.e., Class A vs. Class B)

This input will be provided to EfficienSea as they continue their work, and the final definition will ultimately be included in the appropriate IALA recommendation or guideline (possibly the draft IALA guideline “An Overview of AIS” which we are also working on this week).

8th Meeting of the IALA eNav Committee this week

By Brian at September 20, 2010 07:08
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Attending the IALA eNav8 meeting in St. Germain en Laye, France this week.  Here's the draft agenda, version 3 (it's already been revised to version 4).  You can see there is a lot to be done in 4.5 days.  Obviously I won't be able to keep up with or participate in everything, but I plan to focus on items related to AIS and data standards and interchange.

Photo of the 1st day plenary session, just before we got started - anticipating 80+ attendees:

And another one gone...

By Brian at September 18, 2010 15:30
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No tower demolition this time (yet) but another LORAN station is decommissioned.

Here's the Loran History website for this staton; that's where I got this photo:

Save the date - eNavigation 2010 Seattle 16-17 November 2010

By Brian at August 28, 2010 09:45
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Each fall since 2001, Pacific Maritime Magazine has hosted an extrordinary conferencee on navigtion technology.  It originally started as a conference about AIS; at the time there was a lot of uncertainty in the operational maritime community about what AIS was and how it would affect them.  There had been many other conferences and meetings where AIS was a topic, but they had primarily been focused on the technical development of AIS, and not on how it would actually be used, involving actual mariners and vessel owners and operators.

The implementation of AIS via international and national rules was rapidly approaching; and the timeline for implementation was accelerated by the events of September 11th, 2001, which occurred just before the first conference.  The organizers of the first AIS conference sought to present the non-techincal side of AIS, bringing government representatives to discuss what the regulatory requirements would be, mariners to discuss what they expected and feared from the new technology and industry representatives to discuss what they anticipated the effect would be on them and the maritime industry.

As the concept of e-Navigation developed, the conference organizers recognized that AIS was part of something bigger, so in the mid-2000s the name and focus of the conference was changed.  This year's conference will move the discussion of e-Navigation further, taking a deeper look at the potential problems that may be addressed by e-Navigation, or that may even arise through the implementation of e-Navigation.

You can see the initial agenda here and get informtion about logistics, registration, sponsorship; below are some brief details:


eNavigation 2010:
Technology, Policy and People - Building the Foundation for Fully-Integrated Application
When: November 16-17, 2010
Where: Bell Harbor Conference Center, Seattle, WA USA

Through interactive discussion, presentation of case studies and examination of real world application of navigational technology, eNavigation 2010 will focus on the identification of the gaps between the technologies and the users of that technology with an eye toward collaboratively closing those gaps.
The conference will address:
    * What problems have been found and how does misuse, operator intimidation of system complexity and unobserved systemic failure contribute to modern day casualties?
    * How do we integrate data into the performance of traditional mariners’ skills, in compliance with regulations with and good seamanship?
    * How do we reconcile what mariners need with what manufacturers produce?
    * What can be learned from ongoing uses of eNavigation technology by governments and other shore-based activities?

eNavigation users, afloat and ashore, Regulators, and technology providers are invited to an interactive continuation of the world’s only user-oriented eNavigation conference.

As the conference agenda develops, I'll be posting more information and raising issues that will be open for discussion at the conference.  Of course, check the eNavigation 2010 website for periodic updates.