NOAA charges vessels with speeding - collects from three

By Brian at January 13, 2012 07:54
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On 10 January 2012 NOAA issued a press release stating that they had collected payment in full for three penalties issued last fall to vessels for violating speed restrictions off the east coast of the US. Six vessels were cited; presumably the other three are contesting the citations.

The speed restrictions were enacted to protect the endangered Right Whale, of which there are believed to be less then 400 remaining in the world. Details about the endangered whale and the efforts to protect them can be found here.

The release doesn't state, but I assume AIS data was used extensively, if not exclusively in the enforcement actions. One commenter on the gCaptain blog states that a vessel from his company was improperly cited. He reviewed a spreadsheet of data; it may have consisted of the AIS position reports transmitted by vessels suspected of violating the restrictions.

In addition to being used for tracking and enforcement, AIS is also being used to inform vessels about the presence of these whales.  Acoustic sensors off of Cape Cod detect the whales; the detections are used to trigger the creation of AIS application specific messages that are sent out from an AIS shore station. Vessels with charting systems that can decode these messages will be able to see on their charts the areas where whales have been detected.

Image from NOAA:


San Francisco Port Access Route Study "available"

By Brian at June 18, 2011 06:38
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The Coast Guard issued a "Notice of availability of study results" for the Port Access Route Study (PARS) condiucted off San Francisco recently.  The Notice includes a summary of the study's recommendations:


- Extend the northern TSS 17nm to the northern end of the VTS San Francisco area of responsibility

- Add a dog leg turn in the northern TSS just below the 38th parallel to keep vessels on a predictable path in a prime area for fishing.

- Change the current flared configuration of the northern TSS to a 3 mile wide approach. The 3 mile wide TSS would consist of 1 nautical mile wide lanes, separated by a 1 nautical mile wide separation zone.

- Extend the western TSS 3nm seaward to the 200 fathom contour at the edge of the continental shelf.

- Shift the seaward end of the outbound lane closest to the Farallon Islands in the western TSS 3.7 nautical miles to the south. No shift in the inbound lane of the western TSS.

- Change the current flared configuration of the western TSS to a 3 mile wide approach. The 3 mile wide TSS would consist of 1 nautical mile wide lanes, separated by a 1 nautical mile wide separation zone.

- Extend the southern TSS 8.5NM to the southern end of the VTS San Francisco area of responsibility.


A couple of observations:  First, it appears these changes were made to mainly address the concerns of fishing interests in the area.  This was probably directly related to the collision of a fishing vessel and a large ship in 2007 (if I recall correctly it was a few months before the COSCO BUSAN incident in November 2007).  Second, while there are a lot of references to VTS San Francisco and it's area of responsbiliy (VTS Area or VTSA), and several of the changes are to extend the TSS to the extent of the VTSA, I'm curious why no changes were proposed for the VTS itself, including expanding the VTSA? There are extensive fishing grounds both north and south of the current VTSA, and major shipping lanes: to the south, vessels transiting between SF Bay and LA-Long Beach, and to the north, vessesls headed to and from Northwest ports as well and those arriving and departing transpacific. With AIS, there is now the ability to track vessels pretty much along the entire coast of California, although the Coast Guard doesn't have full base station capability in this area. This PARS seems to have had the opportunity to look at US VTS in a new way, expanding their area to cover wider stretches of coast (as is done in many European areas and in Canada) possbly even integrating the operations of the VTS centers on the West Coast.


Try as I might, I have yet to be able to find the actual study on the website, despite the instructions in the Notice.  I'd like to see the study as it presumably will provide more explanation for these changes, which seem reasonable (although I'd like to see them charted in comparison with the current TSS).

I'll just have to wait until I can find that study...



Note: I have disabled comments on the blog due to extensive spam; I welcome any comments at: blog at maritimespatial dot com

Great Lakes and Ohio River Division Lockmasters Workshop

By Brian at May 24, 2011 14:11
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The Great Lakes and Ohio River Division Lockmasters Workshop is being held near Pittsburgh Tuesday through Thursday, 24-26 May. This will be an outstanding forum to hear the concerns and needs of the folks actually workng the locks on the inland waterways and Great Lakes.  There are about 45 attendees, most from the Great Lakes and Ohio River area, but also some from other waterways. So far they've covered lock operator training and have an ambitious agenda for the rest of the workshop.

I'll be giving a presentation Wednesday morning on AIS, River Information Services (RIS) and LOMA and I anticipate a lot of questons and hopefully some good discussion. One of our LOMA beta testers will also be presenting his impressions of LOMA, so I look forward to hearing his unvarnished view of how it's working for him.

Here's some information about LOMA:

I can be contacted through blog at maritimespatial dot com for more information and questions.

RTCM 2011 - Tuesday random items

By Brian at May 17, 2011 14:38
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I saw a brief demonstration of Pharos Marine Automatic Power's iNav AIS analysis software; according to their website: "The first AIS Analyzer software program that gives the AIS network administrator a valuable tool to monitor and analyze Class A, Class B, Base Station and Aton AIS transponder performance on the AIS VDL."  Here's an image from their product sheet:

This is the first time I have seen an actual AIS "slot map" depicted.  It is described in various standards and guidelines, but it always seemed very conceptual to me. It is interesting to see that, as implemented by Automatic Power, it looks a lot like what I had in my mind.

The software also includes other valuable analysis tools, such as graphs of slot usage and VDL loading. You can also dig deeper into the graphs to get data on who is using the slots and what messages are being used. I can really see the value of this particularly in high VDL load areas such as we are seeing in New Orleans. It will be a big help in VDL management, including determining FATDMA assignment and figuring out other ways to reduce VDL loading, such as identifying moored vessels that are still in an "underway" nav status, thus transmitting more frequently than they actually should.


The main focus for today at RTCM 2011 was on electronic charts - basic information on what they are, their use in various applications and the collection and production of ENCs.  A good refresher and some new information.


As usual at RTCM the discussions between presentations and in the vendor suites are as interesting and valuable as the meeting agenda.  Some of us discussed some potential innovative uses of AIS, such as vessels transmitting their depth sounder readings with their position report.  This might allow those entities responsible for surveys (e.g., NOAA and the Corps of Engineers in the US) to monitor waterway depths in real time and get advance notice of potential shoal areas without having to do an expensive survey on their own. Of course there are technical issues, such as ensuring calibration of the sensor, making sure the depth of the sensor is known, whether to create a new AIS message, use spare bits in an existing message or "repurpose" a field in an existing message.  And of course there are policy issues, such as what liability there is for use of these soundings, how to use this information for making survey and dredging decisions and many others.

RTCM 2011: USCG regulatory updates regarding AIS

By Brian at May 16, 2011 10:30
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Larry Solomon from the Coast Guard Spectrum Management office provided his usual informative presentation at the 2011 RTCM Annual Meeting regulatory update session.  He covered USCG proposed changes to Part 80 of the FCC rules which govern maritime communications in the US.

He briefly touched on some problems with the current Part 80 - it has been 25 years since the last comprehensive revision to the regs and there are substantial changes that should be made to make them more usable.  There also are issues with regulations that use "incorporation by reference" (IBR), where another document (e.g., a technical standard) is referenced rather than including the whole text in the regulation. There are approximately 30 IBR updates pending due to hold up at the Federal Register office. Ideally there would be a comprehensive review of the Part 80 rules, but USCG doesn't have the resources to do this (estimated at 6 months to a year's worth of work).

However, there is an interesting proposal to create a new subpart (the currently-unused Subpart Q) to the Part 80 regs solely for AIS regulations. Right now AIS requirements are in various parts of part 80; Subpart Q would gather them together, including: Class A, Class B (SO and CS), AIS-SART, AIS AtoN, AIS testing. One question is whether other aspects of AIS management would fit into this subpart?  Issues such as VDL management, the process for creation and use of application specific messages, and other uses (and prohibitions on use) of the AIS service.

Jorge Arroyo concluded the update with a tantalizing promise that the semiannual regulatory agenda - due to be published any day at - would include news on the "Final Action" for the AIS carrige requirements regulation. The NPRM was published in December 2008, and final comments were collected by mid-2009. Hopefully this will give us a light at the end of the tunnel for the expansion of the AIS carriage requirements. Jorge also reminded us of the very informative AIS information website he helps maintain with the USCG Navigation Center.

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.