Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Proceedings blog is going offline

This blog is ceasing operations. Read Coast Guard news at http://coastguard.dodlive.mil/.

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Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Automatic Identification System: Then, now, and in the future.

Excerpt from U.S. Coast Guard Proceedings of the Marine Safety & Security Council magazine by Mr. Jorge Arroyo, program and management analyst, U.S. Coast Guard Office of Navigation Systems, Electronic Navigation Division.
Congress enacted the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 after the Exxon Valdez oil spill incident. This act made significant changes: It changed the way the nation deals with oil pollution prevention and response and made participation in Coast Guard vessel traffic services (VTS) mandatory. Another important provision in the law was the mandate to create a dependent surveillance system to monitor tankers navigating to and from Valdez, Alaska.

Room for Improvement
Prior to this incident, vessel traffic services typically provided vessel information by inquiring about vessels’ intentions and tracking their movement within the system via some manual plotting board or similar device. 

Though the inclusion of radar greatly enhanced the ability to track and monitor vessel movements, its range is limited, so the cost of providing full radar coverage throughout an entire VTS area and its approaches was prohibitive. 

Further, radar does not provide the ability to positively identify a vessel among other vessels or physical objects, such as ice. This limitation was always known, but became more evident after the Exxon Valdez disaster.

The U.S. Coast Guard Office of Vessel Traffic Management researched various means to improve vessel tracking, opting to modify the digital selective calling (DSC) communications protocol relied upon for Global Marine Distress Safety System alerts. 

DSC allows for scheduled broadcasts and the ability to poll for information, which led to a shipboard system that would allow specific very high frequency DSC messages composed of vessel identity and position for tracking purposes. 

Mandating Universal Standards 
In 2000, the International Maritime Organization mandated universal automatic identification system use on all tankers, passenger vessels of 150 gross tonnage or greater, and other ships of 300 gross tonnage or greater (500 gross tonnage or greater in domestic voyages).
Today we track more than 7,000 vessels a day via a shore-side network of Coast Guard VTS transceivers and AIS receiver stations through our nationwide automatic identification system. In addition to our land network, we have also received AIS reports from what was initially a Coast Guard project to receive and decode AIS from commercial satellites.
IS-SAT graphic courtesy of exactEarth Ltd. and the Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc.
Full article is available at http://www.uscg.mil/proceedings/spring2011/.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Developing Navigation Standards

Excerpt from U.S. Coast Guard Proceedings of the Marine Safety & Security Council magazine by Mr. Edward J. LaRue, Jr., chief, Navigation Standards Division
U.S. Coast Guard Marine Transportation Systems Management Directorate.

The International Maritime Organization
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations, based in the United Kingdom. IMO’s main task has been to develop and maintain a comprehensive regulatory framework for shipping. Its responsibility today includes safety, environmental concerns, legal matters, technical cooperation, maritime security, and shipping efficiency. The Maritime Safety Committee is the highest technical body of the organization.

The NAV Subcommittee
Under the instructions of the Maritime Safety Committee and with input from the Marine Environmental Protection Committee, the Subcommittee on Safety of Navigation (NAV) considers matters related to obligations of governments and operational measures related to safety of navigation.

The subcommittee is charged to develop any necessary amendments to relevant conventions and other instruments, as well as to prepare new instruments, guidelines, and recommendations for consideration by the committees.

Major Developments
At a typical session, the NAV will consider more than a dozen ship routing or reporting proposals. Many of them are quite complex and require careful examination to ensure they meet the criteria of the general provisions on ships’ routing. Over the past three NAV sessions the subcommittee has taken action on a number of proposals.

Of particular interest to the U.S.: amendments to the existing traffic separation scheme in the approach to Boston, Mass., that moved ship traffic away from the preferred feeding grounds of the Northern Right Whale. Additionally, areas to be avoided and mandatory “no anchoring” areas were approved for two offshore liquefied natural gas facilities off the northeast U.S. coast to caution mariners of their presence and provide a measure of protection for the facilities.

Today, NAV continues to contribute in large measure to IMO’s mission—safe, secure, and efficient shipping on clean oceans.

Full article is available at http://www.uscg.mil/proceedings/spring2011/.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Vessel Traffic Services as Information Managers

Excerpt from U.S. Coast Guard Proceedings of the Marine Safety & Security Council magazine by CDR William Burns, chief, Vessel Traffic Services Division, U.S. Coast Guard Office of Shore Forces.

Improving how information is shared with stakeholders
The capabilities and authorities of vessel traffic services uniquely position them as information managers among public and private maritime stakeholders. While some new processes inevitably will need to be developed, each vessel traffic service (VTS) has been collecting, interpreting, and sharing information for many years.

The data a VTS collects varies due to different types of traffic and environment, but the overall information is fairly consistent. Vessel traffic services adopt processes for sharing this information to match the unique needs of maritime stakeholders.

Though each VTS is unique to its operating environment, all are alike in that they provide information services, navigation assistance services, and traffic organization services to enhance navigation safety and marine environmental protection.

Incident Management
A vessel traffic service’s 24/7 monitoring watch makes each vessel traffic center a natural communications hub for mariners and allied shore-based services. In fact, most initial reports to the Coast Guard for incidents in a VTS area are made to a vessel traffic center watch person.

Quick-response checklists and other mechanisms help ensure the response is consistent and coordinated, including the proper transfer of responsibility for incident management.

Public Outreach
VTS directors coordinate services with maritime stakeholders, many times through the local harbor safety committee, to improve traffic management and port infrastructure and protect the economic viability of local businesses.

Continuing Interaction
A VTS’s influence extends well beyond the daily interactions with pilots and vessel masters. It includes all port partners and several not-so-obvious public and private maritime stakeholders, including lightering interests, tow companies, shipping agents, marine exchanges, oil refineries, terminals, carriers, harbor tugs, port authorities, railroads, the Army Corps of Engineers, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, public utilities, maritime construction companies, and multi-modal transportation authorities.

Maintaining these bonds takes a dedicated and consistent effort. For all vessel traffic services, it means meeting the maritime users through ship rides and facility visits, arranging maritime stakeholder VTS visits, and consistently and actively participating in local maritime committees.

Shown are the geographic boundaries of each of the traffic service centers included in the cooperative vessel traffic service (CVTS) for the Juan de Fuca Region. Graphic courtesy of the Canadian Coast Guard.

Full article is available at http://www.uscg.mil/proceedings/spring2011/.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Domestic Icebreaking Operations—Part 2

Excerpt from U.S. Coast Guard Proceedings of the Marine Safety & Security Council magazine by LT Benjamin Morgan, mobility and ice operations, U.S. Coast Guard Office of Maritime Transportation Systems.

On the Great Lakes
Throughout the Great Lakes region and the St. Lawrence Seaway, icebreaking activities are organized into two task groups:

  • Operation Taconite encompasses the waters of Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, the St. Mary’s River system, the Straits of Mackinac, and northern Lake Huron. Icebreaking efforts in this region are coordinated from the vessel traffic service at Coast Guard Sector Sault Ste Marie, Mich.
  • Operation Coal Shovel is responsible for Lake Erie, the Detroit River, lower Lake Huron, Lake St. Clair, and the St. Clair River. This operation is jointly managed by U.S. and Canadian forces via USCG Sector Detroit and the Regional Ice Operations Center in Sarnia, Canada.
The Way Ahead
The Coast Guard’s domestic icebreaking mission is at a critical juncture, as many icebreaking assets—specifically the 140- and 65-foot icebreaking tugs—are at or past their designed service life. Additionally, performance analysts are investigating icebreaking resource allocations to ensure that cutters are placed in a position that best meets the needs of our diverse customers.

Another vital component of the continued success of the domestic icebreaking program is sustaining professional relationships with commercial industry stakeholders, such as the Lake Carriers Association, tug/tow operators, commercial fishing fleets, ferry services, and the businesses that rely on year-round maritime transportation.

Close cooperation with commercial icebreaking companies is also important, as there are many demands for icebreaking assistance on the Great Lakes that the Coast Guard simply cannot meet.

Full article is available at http://www.uscg.mil/proceedings/spring2011/.

Subscribe online at http://www.uscg.mil/proceedings/subscribe.asp

Friday, May 18, 2012

Domestic Icebreaking Operations—Part 1

Excerpt from U.S. Coast Guard Proceedings of the Marine Safety & Security Council magazine by LT Benjamin Morgan, mobility and ice operations, U.S. Coast Guard Office of Maritime Transportation Systems.

Domestic icebreaking operations are important for maritime mobility and support our national transportation infrastructure.

Operations include:

  • establishing and maintaining tracks (paths through the ice) in connecting waterways during the winter navigation season,
  • escorting vessels to ensure their transit is not impeded by ice,
  • freeing vessels that become beset,
  • clearing/relieving ice jams,
  • removing obstructions or hazards to navigation,
  • advising mariners of current ice and waterways conditions.
This vital icebreaking mission is executed domestically by one heavy icebreaker, nine ice-breaking tugs, 11 small harbor tugs, and 12 ice-capable buoy-tending vessels.

International Icebreaking Cooperation
In addition to U.S. Coast Guard assets, the Canadian Coast Guard operates two icebreakers on the Great Lakes.

The USCG and Canadian Coast Guard keep each other advised on the location and status of icebreaking facilities/assets and coordinate operations to keep critical waterways open for commerce. A cooperative agreement between our two nations allows the assets from one country to conduct icebreaking operations in the territorial waters of the other, as necessary.

East Coast Icebreaking
Along the East Coast, icebreaking generally occurs to facilitate deliveries of home heating oil, critical supplies in isolated communities, and ferry services in its busiest ports.
During January and February, East Coast ports can receive more than 15 million tons of petroleum products, food, and other cargo. Nearly 70 percent of the home heating oil in the U.S. is used in the Northeast, and 90 percent must travel by barge.

The Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw breaks ice in tandem with the Coast Guard Cutter Neah Bay on Lake St. Clair during Operation Coal Shovel. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Ensign Guillermo Colom.
Find out about icebreaking on the Great Lakes in part 2.

Full article is available at http://www.uscg.mil/proceedings/spring2011/.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Revolution and Evolution of e-Navigation Systems—Part 2.

Excerpt from U.S. Coast Guard Proceedings of the Marine Safety & Security Council magazine by Mr. Bill Cairns, F.R.I.N., IALA e-Navigation Committee chairman.

International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities

The IALA e-Navigation Committee is structured specifically to support the IMO:

The e-Nav Position, Navigation, and Timing Working Group identifies and examines technologies that may contribute to effective position, navigation, and timing, including radar and associated aids to navigation, terrestrial positioning systems, global navigation satellite systems augmentation, visual and optical techniques, echo sounders, inertial navigation, and alternative uses of existing systems.

The Portrayal Working Group evaluates new proposals for displaying e-Navigation-related information, including AIS application-specific messages, virtual AtoN, and marine information overlays.

The Automatic Identification System Technical Working Group focuses on efforts including AIS aids to navigation, satellite detection, terrestrial long-range AIS, and the next generation of AIS.

The Communications Working Group studies operational and technical requirements for communications and information systems in e-Navigation.

The Architecture Technical Working Group harmonizes sensor and architecture integration. In addition to creating the conceptual and technical framework for a shore-based e-Navigation system, the architects are developing a data model and an “e-Navigation stack” analogous to the International Organization for Standardization open systems interconnection stack.

International Hydrographic Organization
The International Hydrographic Organization is at the heart of the development of electronic navigational charts. IHO has built electronic navigational chart data presentation and transfer standards leading to a template for a new data model known as S-100: IHO Hydrographic Geospatial Standard for Marine Data and Information.

Committee on the Marine Transportation System
The Committee on the Marine Transportation System is a federal inter-departmental committee chaired by the Secretary of Transportation to create a partnership of federal departments and agencies with responsibility for the marine transportation system.

The committee works to develop and implement national marine transportation system policies that are consistent with national needs and reports its views and recommendations to the president.  

Full article is available at http://www.uscg.mil/proceedings/spring2011/.

IALA e-Navigation architecture. GNSS = Global Navigation Satellite System; UMDM = Universal Maritime Data Model.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Revolution and Evolution of e-Navigation Systems—Part 1

Excerpt from U.S. Coast Guard Proceedings of the Marine Safety & Security Council magazine by Mr. Bill Cairns, F.R.I.N., IALA e-Navigation Committee chairman.

The Office of Navigation Systems in the U.S. Coast Guard Marine Transportation Management Directorate is continuing to help define and shape e-Navigation through its efforts at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities (IALA) e-Navigation Committee.

Domestically, the office is the lead for developing a U.S. e-Navigation strategy for the Committee on the Marine Transportation System.

International Maritime Organization Efforts
In May 2006, the IMO Maritime Safety Committee approved a new work item on e-Navigation for its subcommittee on safety of navigation.

E-Navigation is also being considered at the subcommittees on radio communications, search and rescue, and Standards of Training and Watchkeeping.

In July 2010, the safety of navigation subcommittee endorsed initial gap, cost benefit, and risk analyses. It also approved e-Navigation user needs and invited IALA and the International Hydrographic Organization to finalize gap analyses on shore-side aspects of e-Navigation.

Subsequently, the correspondence group plans to outline further analyses for navigation and related shore-based services issues and produce a provisional draft of an e-Navigation strategy implementation plan, which will describe the data framework that will support user needs and ensure maximum interoperability.
                      Automatic Identification System aid to navigation. Courtesy of Zeni Lite. 

Find out more in part 2.

Full article is available at http://www.uscg.mil/proceedings/spring2011/.


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Pilotage: One of the oldest yet least-understood maritime professions.

Excerpt from U.S. Coast Guard Proceedings of the Marine Safety & Security Council magazine by Captain Michael R. Watson, president, American Pilots’ Association.

Even though pilots are a critical component of safe and efficient maritime transportation of people and cargoes, and have been operating in port areas for hundreds of years, there still exists some confusion and misunderstanding regarding the role and function of pilots.

When a ship is in U.S. compulsory pilotage waters, responsibility for its safe navigation is shared between the pilot and the vessel master. A pilot, when aboard a ship and engaged in pilotage duties, directs the ship’s navigation. The pilot’s authority to direct the ship’s movements is, however, subject to the master’s overall command authority and responsibility for the ship’s safety.

Since the pilot is not a crewmember, he or she is insulated from the economic pressures on shipping interests, and directs the movement and navigation of the ship in a manner that protects the marine environment and maintains navigational safety while facilitating waterborne commerce.

American Pilots’ Association Guidance
It is not unusual in some segments of the maritime community to hear a pilot described as merely an “advisor” to the master. That description is not consistent with principles of U.S. pilotage law; it is counter to mandates given to vessel masters under international regulations and doesn’t reflect how a pilot carries out his or her duties on the bridge of a ship.

It is important to the overall navigational safety of a vessel that the master, bridge team, and other vessel interests have an understanding of—and respect for—the role and responsibilities of the pilot.
While not having the legal effect of case law, agency rulings, or regulations, the American Pilots’ Association statement on the role and responsibilities of the pilot is a good reference in the event of any confusion or misunderstanding regarding the proper role of the pilot.

Captain Morgan Hoburg, San Francisco Bar Pilots, steps from the
pilot boat to the pilot ladder.
Full article is available at http://www.uscg.mil/proceedings/spring2011/.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

The San Francisco Bay Region’s Harbor Safety Committee: Communication and collaboration fuel success.

Excerpt from U.S. Coast Guard Proceedings of the Marine Safety & Security Council magazine by Ms. Joan Lundstrom, chair, Harbor Safety Committee of the San Francisco Bay Region.

The Harbor Safety Committee of the SF Bay Region’s jurisdiction extends 100 miles from the San Francisco Lighted Horn Buoy 12 miles offshore to the inland Ports of Sacramento and Stockton.
The Harbor Safety Committee (HSC) of the San Francisco Bay Region is continuing its collaboration with the Coast Guard, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and local stakeholders to enhance navigational safety and prevent maritime accidents and spills.

AIS Dock Identification System
In 2005, the HSC navigation work group labored to develop a dock and berth numbering scheme based on local codes used to indicate AIS locations. Working with the Coast Guard vessel traffic service (VTS) staff, the stakeholders in the region numbered every current and future dock in a logical and consistent manner.

Though there was some initial reluctance to move away from the legacy dock and berth names, the VTS and community became more comfortable using the new identification scheme, and it has become the standard and the model for other regions.

Near-Miss in Dense Fog
Subsequently, during an HSC meeting, a ferry captain reported a near-miss of two commuter ferries in dense fog at the ferry building. The ferry operations work group analyzed and developed an approach and maneuvering scheme for the congested ferry building approach and departure area, as well as a routing protocol in the central Bay, to decrease the risk of collision for commuter ferries.
With ferry routes charted, other types of vessels, including recreational boats, can more easily predict the locations of the fast ferries and steer clear.

Container Ship Struck Bay Bridge
In November 2007, a container ship struck the Bay Bridge in dense fog. Within days of the spill, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger directed the Office of Spill Prevention and Response to investigate the causes and response to the allision. The office called upon the harbor safety committee to analyze the navigational safety-related issues of the governor’s directive and make appropriate recommendations regarding prevention.

Loss of Propulsion Incidents from Mandated Low-Sulfur Fuel
In 2009 another maritime challenge arose when Coast Guard Sector San Francisco and the bar pilots alerted the harbor safety committee of a dramatic increase in total loss of propulsion of ships following implementation of the California Air Resources Board (ARB) low-sulfur fuel switching requirement. 

The HSC chair contacted the ARB staff to meet with the maritime community to discuss the unintended consequences of the regulation. As a result, the California Air Resources Board agreed to actively promulgate safety exemption provisions to mariners, work with the Coast Guard on outreach, and report monthly to the harbor safety committee on waivers.

The Coast Guard and the HSC continue to monitor propulsion failures in the San Francisco Bay region. While the number of ships experiencing problems associated with fuel switching is down, it is essential to determine where low-sulfur fuel results in a loss of propulsion, determine the cause, and vigorously communicate lessons learned.

Every day commercial ships transit in and out of San Francisco Bay.
Full article is available at http://www.uscg.mil/proceedings/spring2011/.