Open Source's Opportunity to Increase Safety at Sea

Open Source’s Opportunity to Increase Safety at Sea

With more than 90% of global trade estimated to be carried by sea, the safety of international shipping vessels and routes is critical to the health of the global economy.

The number of lives lost annually at sea has been over 1,000 for each of the past five years. The “Costa Concordia” cruise ship disaster on January 13th, 2012 at Isola del Giglio, Italy, costed the loss of 32 lives with the insurance claim of more than $1 billion, and still expected to rise considerably. More than two years after the Costa Concordia disaster, improving passenger ship safety continues to be a priority. There were 2,596 casualties during 2013 with the East Mediterranean and Black Sea region topping the list (464), whilst the British Isles has been the scene of the most casualties over the past decade.

The World Shipping Council estimates that on average there are approximately 675 containers lost at sea whilst the number of containers lost in a catastrophic event can vary greatly from 50 to several hundred. Yet, the industry continues to pursue measures to reduce the number of incidents at sea to zero.

Safety and efficiency in maritime operations is depended on a constant flow of valid, up-to-date, secure, and reliable information about things like navigational warnings, weather conditions, and relevant information about other ships. The Internet has made it possible to update and publish information on a day-to-day or even by-the-minute basis. However, in many areas around the world it is not realistic for ships to neither receive, nor send information as quickly as it is produced; the cost of communication is a significant barrier.

The ways of communicating between ships, between ships and shore, and between shore authorities and other parties, has not experienced the same development in converging communication infrastructure as we have seen in the land based domain. Thus the maritime world has not yet reaped the benefits of fast and easy communication in terms of:

  • Reduction in number of accidents
  • Increased security
  • Efficient exchange of information
  • Reductions of administrative burdens
  • Efficient sea traffic management
  • Logistic chain integration
  • Easy monitoring of compliance to regulations

European Efforts: MONALISA 2.0 EU project and Sea Traffic Management

Sea Traffic Management (STM) seeks to create safe, efficient, and environmentally friendly sea voyages. Magnus Sundström of the Swedish Maritime Administration, project manager of the MONALISA 2.0 EU project, talks about the vision for Sea Traffic Management: “The vision is to shake up and sharpen up the whole transport chain by making real-time information available to all interested and authorized parties. STM will change the maritime world.”

STM is the dynamic, integrated management of the seaborne and shore-based functions of the sea traffic and maritime space (including sea traffic services, management of the maritime space and sea traffic flow management) — safely, economically and efficiently — through the provision of facilities and seamless services in collaboration with all parties.

One of the main goals of the MONALISA 2.0 project, co-financed by the European Commission, is to achieve full and seamless interoperability of Sea Traffic Management systems between ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore, as well as between the various shore-based Sea Traffic Coordination Centres in a multi-vendor environment. A key factor in Sea Traffic Management, as well as in e-Navigation, is the focus on the end user. Therefore, all STM systems shall be designed with the end user (i.e. mariner, ship owner/operator) in mind.

A key concept in the MONALISA 2.0 project and Sea Traffic Management is sea Route Exchange (REX). REX will realize improvements in safety, environment and efficiency. Today only ships' crew know the details of their individual routes but are unable to share them with other maritime space users in order to communicate their intentions. Being able to share and exchange route details will help ship crews plan ahead, prevent incidents and thus avoid dangerous situations. Studies have shown (SSPA: Vessel traffic in Kattegat) that sea routes can be shortened by up to 12% in coastal waters. The potential improvements are huge, even if just a fraction of the potential is realized. In the Baltic Sea region alone, a 2% reduction in total routes length means 200,000 tons of bunker oil saved, 600,000 tons of CO2 emissions, and $25 million in fuel cost savings annually. By multiplying these figures by a factor of 10 we arrive at pan-European scale of this impact. Global figures will therefore speak for themselves with approx. 80 thousand registered commercial vessels and 40 million pleasure craft.

In a strongly cost-driven sector like maritime, achieving interoperability between navigational systems, purposeful usage and unleashing the full potential of STM sharing of ships' sensor data can be realized by utilizing cost effective solutions based on open source software and open architecture with, the help of open standards. The first pioneering STM REX solutions have been developed based on open source software and MARSSA architecture and are currently being demonstrated and tested in selected maritime locations, with the Oslo Fjord area in southern Norway, setting the course for the maritime industry. Given the proven advantages and experiences from other transport related domains (such as automotive, aviation, and naval operations), open source systems and technologies could help lead the way to reducing total cost of ownership for maritime communication and go a long way towards increased safety at sea.

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