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 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.

America's Cup on San Francisco Bay

By Brian at February 02, 2011 11:53
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The organizers of the 34th America's Cup challenge have announced the racing area in San Francisco Bay.

It will be in the Central Bay, apparently in an area extending from the Golden Gate west of the bridge, between Alcatraz and Angel Island and just west of Treasure Island to the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.  There is an interesting "spur" of the indicated area just east of Angel Island that might indicate they plan to use the "A" buoy there as a mark.

The announcement says "America’s Cup Race Management will work with the U.S. Coast Guard to coordinate activities with other users of San Francisco Bay and to ensure that the deepwater channel will remain open during the event."  You can bet the Vessel Traffic Service will be deeply involved in this effort.  I wonder if they'd like to hire a VTS consultant with sailing experience to help them out with this event?  I might be able to recommend one...


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).

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.

AIS text messaging Marine Safety Alert

By Brian at May 31, 2010 07:05
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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.

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.

The Inland Navigation Rules have a new home

By Brian at April 15, 2010 08:15
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Thanks to Denny Bryant for his post today:

"The US Coast Guard issued a final rule placing the Inland Navigation Rules in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). Several years ago, Congress authorized the Coast Guard to adopt regulations for the Inland Navigation Rules and directed that the statutory version of the Rules would be repealed upon such adoption. The final rule comes into effect on May 17. This is solely an administrative process and no substantive changes to the Inland Navigation Rules are intended."

Here's a link to the new rules.

While there are no substantive changes to the rules, this is not a trivial action - this places the Nav Rules in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), rather than as part of the US Code (USC).  Prior to this move, any change to the inland rules literally required an act of Congress - it would entail a change to legislation.  This also allowed for the possibility of landlubbers making changes to rules intended for mariners' safety without real knowledge of their impact. 

With the rules in the CFR, changes can now be made administratively, as with other regulatory actions  This should allow for more flexibilty and responsiveness to changes necessary for navigation safety.  The CFR process also provides the opportunity for public input and comment, ensuring stakeholders have their say in proposed rule changes.  I don't anticipate any immediate changes to the Inland Nav Rules, but it's good to know that the process to make future necessary changes is now somewhat easier. It might be nice if the rules in the CFR were cleaned up a bit, such as moving some of the requirements that are currently in the CFR annexes onto the Rules themselves.  Again, this sort of housekeeping is made much easier by the fact that the rules are now all in the CFR.