RTCM 2010 Annual Meeting - Monday Afternoon

By Brian at May 20, 2010 14:40
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Monday afternoon at RTCM began with a panel providing updates on standards and regulations.

Larry Solomon of the Coast Guard gave a good overview of the legal framework in the US for regulating communications - including the establishment of the FCC under the Communications Act of 1934

The FCC presentation provided a summary of pending actions, including many submissions from the USCG:
 - Possible addition of an AIS section to Part 80 rules
 - AIS AtoN and AIS-SART use and certification
 - Reconciliation of MMSI requirements for Class A and Class B AIS

Jorge Arroyo gave an update of USCG regulatory issues:
 - The codification of the Inland rules was effective today (17 May 2010) - see my earlier post on this and why I think it’s significant.
 - Status of SOLAS Chapter V and ECS regulations, which are intended to implement SOLAS changes from 2000 in US regulations, as well as navigation equipment requirements for US laws.  Jorge also touched on some of the capabilities that were being considered for inclusion in the requirements for ECS, including integration of AIS capability.  The SC109 working group on ECS is meeting on Wednesday and more details will be available then.  The ECS regulation is hoed to be out of Coast Guard HQ by the end of 2010, so actual publication of the final rule will be at lest a year after that (likely more) and you can anticipate a phased implementation, so it will be at least two years before these requirements are in place  (my estimate).  However, development of ECS to meet these regulations will continue, so there we can anticipate improved ECS capabilities in advance of the rulemaking. 
 - Status of the expanded AIS carriage requirements regulation - The USCG is reviewing and considering about 80 comments received during the comment period that closed about a year ago (April 2009).  There is no current timeline for final rule but there will be one issued in October 2010 - so it will not be out before then.  There are several challenges associated with this regulation; standards and technology are moving forward and regulatory developments need to keep up with them.  Addressing the use of Class B is complicated and the USCG received many comments on this (the NPRM asked specifically for input on use of Class Bs) and the Navigation Safety Advisory Council (NAVSAC) issued a resolution with their recommendation.  Finally, the regs also need to consider the development of the SOTDMA Class B device.

Jorge reminded the audience about the AIS FAQ page on the NAVCEN website which includes an excellent new entry on “how do I program my AIS” which is intended to address the root cause of most “bad” AIS data - that which requires operator input and update.
The NAVCEN site also includes mention of a soon-to-be issued Safety Alert cautioning about the use of AIS for distress communications.

The afternoon session concluded with a session on weather; a couple of speakers covered the “past, present and future” of marine weather forecasting.  One presentation included a photo of a USCG PBY dropping a hurricane warning to a sailing fishing boat - I didn’t know the USCG used to fly out to sea and drop hurricane warnings to vessels back before radio warnings.   There was also a presentation on the NOAA PORTS® system that included mention of the efforts to transmit their data via AIS; the subject of a more detailed presentation on Tuesday.

Observing system on the Chesapeake Bay highlights e-Nav opportunities and challenges

By Brian at April 13, 2010 13:36
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I’m trying to catch up on a few articles that have come across in the past few weeks.  Here’s one from the Annapolis Capital Gazette about the Chesapeake Bay Observation System (CBOS).  The CBOS website unfortunately shows most of the stations not currently active.  They’re probably still deploying the buoys after the winter and performing maintenance.  Of course it’s possible they are experiencing funding problems (who isn’t these days).

CBOS is affiliated with PORTS®, although they appear to have a more scientific bent (environmental monitoring), rather than collecting information for navigation safety.  At the same time, it is emblematic of the e-Navigation concept:  there are multiple stakeholders involved and they are loosely connected.  You can imagine multiple users accessing the same information but for different purposes, and requiring different means of access.
An excerpt from the article:

“Its goal? To develop a widespread network of observation and monitoring stations across the bay and its tributaries that can be integrated to better share, interpret and disseminate data vital to environmental protection, fisheries, shipping and recreational activities.

“’The wider goal is to someday have all the collected date available through one location. For people to be able to find, grab, or look at the data on the Web, that is the goal,’ said Doug Wilson, an oceanographer in NOAA's Annapolis Chesapeake Bay headquarters.”

"’Everyone is collecting data for a different primary reason’, Wilson said. ‘But if we put it all together it will serve a larger audience than the target audience.  And that is a good idea.’"

This illustrates some of the opportunities of e-Navigation:  a lot of existing information and data may be available, even if it's not originally intended for e-Navigation purposes.  Not surprisingly, it also presents challenges: the information may not be available in the most appropriate way for e-Navigation purposes - especially for use on board.  It may primarily be accessed via the internet or by phone (like PORTS®)?  But onboard, how? AIS is an obvious means, but it may not always be best, due to bandwidth and other considerations.  AIS will also not serve the other users of the data, who may use other communications methods.  As with many aspects of e-Navigation, the solution is probably a variety of  methods that need to be integrated and harmonized to meet user needs.