As maritime traffic grows in busy waterways, ports and vessel traffic management authorities face increasing challenges to maintain the safety and efficiency of vessel movements. Higher volumes, larger vessels, environmental and safety concerns and competitive pressures are all contributing factors.
Traffic management technology can play a major role in assisting the responsible authorities to address those challenges by allowing them to realistically model and schedule vessel movements well in advance, and more effectively support the Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) function.
Photo above: Constructing Routes as a virtual series of waypoints allows KleinPort to process complex rules to validate safe sailing plans.
Vessel traffic systems technology
The available technology for monitoring vessel movements has become highly sophisticated. Products such as Saab’s V3000 VTMIS platform merge AIS data with ground-based radar data to provide a highly accurate, real-time picture of vessel activity. Software modules analyze traffic data to ensure that vessels are following their recommended sailing plans, and to predict potential conflict or accident situations, by extrapolating their course and speed and combining that information with tide, current and meteorological data.
In most traffic areas, however, vessel scheduling for traffic management purposes is minimal or non-existent. Decisions about traffic priorities, i.e. who should proceed first into a narrow channel, are done on a first come, first-served basis, or co-ordinated via VHF communications among the vessels’ pilots and bridge officers. In some particularly restricted areas, local rules may be in place to smooth the process, but they are typically still applied on a near real-time basis to a very limited area.
Technology exists now to more effectively plan vessel movements well in advance thereby avoiding traffic conflicts and optimizing vessel movements. Saab’s KleinPort application allows authorities to map out standard vessel routes as a series of defined waypoints between locations in their traffic area. Using either vessel speed or a time allowance between waypoints, combined with a vessel’s estimated departure time, the system can predict ETAs at the included waypoints to model a vessel’s passage through the traffic area. Once this model is created, the system can be configured to apply defined business rules at key waypoints and the destination berth to ensure that vessels have a safe sailing plan in place. Using a vessel’s physical characteristics, expected sailing drafts and the physical restrictions of waypoints and berths, these business rules can apply tide and current predictions and hydrographic data to validate that a given sailing plan is safe. Furthermore, the software can check against concurrent plans of other scheduled vessel movements to ensure that safe separations are being maintained between vessels at key waypoints.