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

RTCM 2010 Annual Meeting - Monday Morning

By Brian at May 18, 2010 16:11
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I’m attending the Radio Technical Commission for Maritime Services (RTCM) Annual Meeting in San Diego this week, and will try to post updates on items of interest that come up at the meeting.
The morning of day 1 (Monday, 17 May) was devoted to business, review of the agenda and upcoming working group meetings.  There will be some interesting meetings on Weds and Thurs: Electronic Navigation Charts (SC109), e-Navigation Steering Group and AIS (SC121).

The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) report included some intriguing mentions of AIS-related work, including development of the 2nd  edition of the Class A AIS, AIS repeaters, an SOTDMA version of the Class B AIS and limited base station.  Also mentioned were the development of an “AIS EPIRB” and AIS for man overboard - these were met with some concern about the possible “mission creep” of AIS - a navigation safety system - being used for distress and rescue.

The technical sessions began with a presentation analyzing the methods used to notify USCG of distress.  This analysis will be used to make a business case for continuing or discontinuing various SAR communications capabilities.

Joe Hersey gave his annual presentation on the threats to the maritime radio spectrum - this years’ focused on the “National Broadband revolution” which promises to bring more internet accessibility, via WiMAX, better cellular data coverage, cheaper satellite broadband and otehr wireless means.  On the positive side, Joe said this expansion may help enable e-Navigation capabilities, but there would be limited benefits to maritime users from shore-based capabilities.  More importantly, there would be possible negative effects on maritime users as it may result in a “spectrum land-grab” and radio spectrum for maritime use is vulnerable.  For example, there may be a reallocation of marine spectrum; e.g., marine radars may be in the same band as high-power military radars (there was a presentation about the effect of high-powered radars on GPS antennas at RTCM a few years ago that included some cool pictures of GPS antennas destroyed by high-power radars).  Joe also provided a good overview of why the US spectrum for maritime VHF is different than international, due to allocations for railroad, commercial, public safety and others that have chipped away at maritime spectrum.

Sea-Tow provided a presentation on their radio system, which appears to be pretty sophisticated and flexible.  It uses voice over IP and they have the ability to configure it via computer software, which allows them to monitor their radios from different places, so they can have a single watchstander monitor a very broad area.  They also demonstrated their “automated radio check” capability - mariners can tune to the appropriate channel for their area, transmit a radio check and it’s automatically replayed back to them.  This is supposed to cut down on use of channel 16 for radio checks; we’ll see how that works out.

More on Monday afternoon's session and Tuesday's session as I get time to post.

21 years ago today…

By Brian at March 24, 2010 08:01
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…the EXXON VALDEZ ran aground in Prince William Sound.  The reaction to the grounding and subsequent oil spill changed the way the United States and the world dealt with maritime safety.   The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 was a direct result, as was state legislation and establishment of agencies charged with oil spill prevention in California, Washington, Alaska and other states.  These laws and subsequent regulations resulted in substantial improvements in maritime safety and arguably spurred the development of navigation technology, such as electronic navigational charts (ENC) and automatic identification systems (AIS), that are in greater and greater use today.  The development of these technologies may well have languished if not for the attention the incident focused on navigation safety.

Many of the projects we’ve worked on originated with the EXXON VALDEZ incident, and subsequent efforts to improve navigation safety.  These include improvements in vessel traffic services (VTS) technology, VTS operations and VTS regulations; implementation of vessel routing schemes to protect the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary; and expanding the use of AIS for navigation safety.

(Thanks to Denny Bryant for inspiring this post with his annual entry about it on his excellent blog)

Grumblings about the delay in AIS carriage regulations

By Brian at March 19, 2010 07:58
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Panbo posts "get 'er done, please!" about the delay in issuing expanded AIS carriage regulations in the US.  The Coast Guard issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on December 16th, 2008 and the comment period closed on April 15th, 2009.  Since then the CG has been reviewing comments and presumably altering the rule to address and incorporate them.  While the delay seems rather long, in the CG's defense it's not that long compared to many rulemakings (not that that's an excuse) and there are a substantial number of issues to consider, in particular about the possibility of allowing Class B AIS units to meet carriage requirements for certain vessels.

Of more concern (and longer delay) is the issuance of rules to mandate electronic charting systems aboard vessels.  ECSs would make AIS much more usable aboard vessels, not only allowing the display of other AIS-equipped vessels on an electronic chart, but also presenting additional information transmitted via AIS to the mariner.