eNavigation 2010 underway in Seattle

By Brian at November 16, 2010 14:43
Filed Under:

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!

Another one bites the dust

By Brian at August 28, 2010 09:26
Filed Under:

From USCG press release:

Attu, Alaska – The Coast Guard demolished the 625-foot Long Range Aids to Navigation tower in Attu home of the westernmost Coast Guard unit in Alaska Wednesday before LORAN Station Attu is scheduled to be decommissioned August 26. Due to the deteriorating condition and with no funding for repairs, the station’s 625-foot LORAN tower was becoming an ever-increasing risk of uncontrolled collapse. The Coast Guard began decommissioning its LORAN infrastructure in response to direction from Congress provided in the 2010 budget. LORAN Station Attu ceased transmission of the LORAN signal Feb. 8, 2010 and the Russian-American signal ceased Aug. 1, 2010.

See the video here.

Old and older...

By Brian at June 28, 2010 14:17
Filed Under:

That's Cape Hatteras Light (older) on the right and a Loran tower* (old) in the center distance (it may be hard to make out).  Another photo I took includes even older - the foundation of the original location of the Cape Hatteras light where it was erected in 1872 (it was moved in 1999 to its current location) which is near where the original light was built in the early 1800s.


Something curious to consider as we move forward with e-Navigation - the "newer" technology (Loran) is not in use anymore but the light is still going strong 138 years after it was established, probably another 100 years or so after a light was first placed there and thousands of years after the first use of lighthouses.  Navigation by visual means is still a critical part of seafaring, and will continue to be so no matter what technological wonders e-Navigation brings.


In order to be successful, e-Navigation must accommodate existing forms of navigation, in particular visual navigation.  There has been a lot of talk about how lights, buoys, beacons and other visual aids can be reduced or even eliminated as we head into the brave new e-Nav future.  Besides the obvious need for redundancy and backup ("what will you do when the generator dies/batteries go flat/system crashes/GPS is jammed," etc.), these are time-tested, reliable, refined tools for the navigator, not to mention they exist in the same real world as the vessel and the navigator.


e-Navigation must thoughtfully, gracefully and elegantly incorporate and enhance traditional navigation methods in order to be accepted, successful and ultimately useful.



     *I'm pretty sure that's the Loran tower; in any event it's in the right location.  According to loran-history.info, Cape Hatteras had a Loran-A station until 1980.

AIS text messaging Marine Safety Alert

By Brian at May 31, 2010 07:05
Filed Under:

The Coast Guard posted a Marine Safety Alert (.pdf) on AIS text messaging that Jorge Arroyo mentioned during his presentation at the RTCM Annual Meeting a couple of weeks ago (noted in this post). The alert covers three areas of AIS use by vessels:

  • Navigation -  while AIS can serve as a valuable situational awareness tool to aid in collision avoidance, the "use of AIS text messaging does not relieve the vessel of other requirements, such as the Vessel Bridge-to-Bridge Radiotelephone regulations or of the requirements to sound whistle signals and display lights or shapes in accordance with the International or Inland Navigation Rules."
  • Emergencies - the alert warns against the use of AIS text messages for distress communications, particularly as a substitute for communications via GMDSS equipment.
  • Proper operation - the alert notes that "AIS is only as good as the information provided and exchanged, therefore, users must ensure their unit is always in effective operating condition and broadcasting accurate information" and reminds operators of their obligation to keep dynamic, static and voyage-related AIS data up-to-date.  It provides a link (.pdf) to a guide on shipboard AIS data entry.

There have been stories floating around that AIS has been improperly used in the manner cautioned against in the alert, including at least one investigation (.pdf;  see p. 28) that mentions vessels attempting to contact each other via AIS rather than by radiotelephone resulting in a collision - the so-called "AIS-assisted collision" that has been speculated about since the introduction of AIS.

The use of AIS in emergencies touches on the contentious issue of a navigation system being used for distress purposes - something that we'll likely see more about, as AIS SARTS, AIS equipped EPIRBS and other distress equipment is integrated with AIS.

The complaint heard most often about AIS is thet you can't trust it - we've all heard stories of incorrect vessel names, MMSIs and other data, as well as vessels apparently sailing "sideways" due to improper entry of dimensions or incorrect heading input devices.  This alert is a welcome reminder about these problems and hopefully will help mariners comply with the requirement for proper operation of AIS equipment.

AMSA AtoN Conference

By Brian at May 29, 2010 09:54
Filed Under:

I'm behind on RTCM and other blog updates, but hope to get to them this weekend.  I just returned from the Australian Maritime Safety Agency (AMSA) AtoN 2010 symposium, held in Adelaide, South Australia 24-26 May.  See the press release about the symposium here; I'll post more details about this outstanding event very soon.


By Brian at April 26, 2010 12:36
Filed Under:

I'm attending the American Society of Civil Engineers PORTS2010 conference* this week and presenting a paper on Tuesday afternoon.  I arrived Monday just in time for the luncheon. Several awards were given out and then the lunch speaker was announced.  It was a civil engineer and I resigned myself to an earnest but boring (to me) talk about pouring concrete and big projects, maybe with a few incomprehensible equations and unreadable tables thrown in.  Instead, I was pleasantly surprise to be treated to a presentation called "Bridginess" presented by Brian Brenner that was quite entertaining and educational.

He covered several seemingly-unrelated aspects of bridges in a very humorous way - including an allusion to the movie "Diner:" he said he made his wife take a test on bridges before she could marry him (he proceded to give us this "test" and then said we were all now qualified to marry him).  In addition to pointing out the symbiotic relationship between ports and bridges, he also presented his ideas about what makes a bridge "bridgey" through images of spans, some famous and some not, and discussion about why they were "bridgey" or not.  Mostly subjective, of course: his favorite bridge is the Verrazano**, whereas I find it rather boring (of course the most beautiful bridge is the west span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge).  But bridginess also captures a bridge's harmony with its surroundings and utility, including for navigation.  It was one of the best luncheon speeches I've attended, appropriate to the theme of the conference, interesting and entertaining.

I get absolutely nothing from this, but here's a link to Brenner's book "Bridginess."


*here's a nice article calling the conference "the ‘Super Bowl’ of navigation conferences" - appropriate (and probably intentional), as the gala dinner was held at the Jaguars' stadium

**he also pronounced Mackinac as ending in "nack" instead of "naw," but I quibble.