Pacific Maritime Magazine - Marine Business for the Operations Sector

BC Ports are Investing in Maritime Domain Awareness


November 1, 2017

Nanaimo Assembly Wharf deep sea terminal log loading operations. Arrowsmith Aerial photo courtesy of the Nanaimo Port Authority.

Stakeholders at British Columbia ports are finding that investments in maritime domain awareness are paying dividends in better safety, security, efficiency and affordability.

Prince Rupert's port partners have benefited from increased situational awareness provided by SIGNALIS that integrates automatic information system (AIS) ship identification data, radar tracks, camera imagery and other information. The new system features three Terma surveillance radars, a pair of Scanter 5202s and a Scanter 5102, situated at elevated sites (Prince Rupert Grain Storage Facility, Mount Hays and Dundas Island) delivering shore based radar coverage extending to the northeast of Haida Gwaii as far north as the Alaskan border.

AIS identifies radar targets and can assign cameras for and confirmation. AIS is a notification system. Radar is an alerting system. But together, AIS, radar and cameras provide notification, alerting, and confirmation.

The project, which includes a $2 million investment from Western Economic Diversification Canada, is the result of five years of collaboration between Prince Rupert Port Authority, Canadian Coast Guard, Royal Canadian Mounted Police and industry. The system creates an enhanced, real-time visual network for Canadian Coast Guard's Marine Communications and Traffic Services (MCTS) to monitor and manage vessel traffic movement in the Prince Rupert Harbour regardless of size, AIS capability, or whether they are required to report their location to MCTS.

"We're improving our radar and navigational aids, so we can have world-class, leading-edge approaches and procedures for the safety, security and efficiency of the port," said Don Krusel, who retired as CEO of the Prince Rupert Port Authority in September. "This project will result in a new and foundational piece of our marine safety and security network at the Port of Prince Rupert, providing an additional layer to the maritime picture we use to keep our Harbor safe and ensure a diverse range of cargoes continue to flow securely through our trade gateway."

The increase in traffic, as well as the nature of the cargoes, has prompted Prince Rupert to make maritime safety and security part of the infrastructure improvements. In addition to its existing business that includes forest products, coal, grain and containers, Prince Rupert also has several planned LNG (liquefied natural gas) terminals in various stages of proposal, financing and permitting.

"Shore-based radar coverage of the British Columbia northern coastline around Prince Rupert is an important contribution to Canada's public safety and the strategic priorities of the RCMP," said Chief Superintendent Sean Bourrie, head of the RCMP's Federal Policing in BC. "This tool will help us gather and analyze intelligence at the port and from the surrounding maritime environment in support of our law enforcement initiatives."

Kevin Obermeyer, president of the Pacific Pilotage Authority said the addition of shore-based radar at Port of Prince Rupert ensures that the smaller vessels not utilizing the AIS system or participating in the MCTS system will now be tracked and reported upon. "This is a great example of the Port of Prince Rupert identifying a marine safety need and acting upon it for the benefit of all the port users. It is initiatives such as this that ensures the Port and its partners can accommodate the growth of this Canadian trade gateway."

Nanaimo's Marine Electronic Highway

To the south, the Port of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island has also focused on developing a better picture of Nanaimo's marine domain awareness with the installation of its "Marine Electronic Highway."

"The current system Marine Communications and Traffic Services (MCTS) in Canada does not offer the operational picture in our area we need as port authority because of our geography and volume of shipping. So our primary focus right now is to refine and develop our own marine domain awareness program inside of our port and the immediate area of our jurisdiction," said Nanaimo Harbour Master Captain Edward Dahlgren.

The Marine Electronic Highway uses TITAN Sentinel, a program developed by Xanatos Marine of North Vancouver, which is basically a number of different sensors working together to increase e-navigation, and to enable and increase safety, security, and environmental stewardship. "Sentinel has a variety of straight geo-fences and polygons that trigger a cascading series of warnings based on criticality of the vessel movement," Dahlgren said. "It is a layered display of data giving real-time position, movement and identification of vessels. It allows me to monitor my anchorages and ensure that the vessels are on position; that there isn't any illicit trade being performed between the vessel and shore; and that we have appropriate safety exclusion zones around the anchored vessels."

According to Dahlgren, the port benefits with better security, safety and efficiency. "We are building a much better picture of our operation and capacity than we ever had before. Now that we're putting in place this ability to capture large amounts of data directly relating to the movement of ships and cargo, we're building a better understanding of the actual ebb and flow of our traffic. We're finding out how valuable the data is."

Better MDA means more effective incident response capability, which reduces risk, and that reduces insurance costs, Dahlgren said.

"It also has given us the ability to do additional port control functions," Dahlgren said. "I have one of five Transport Canada designated speed control zones in Canada. It was created because of the narrow channel, the marinas, concern about heritage sites and shore erosion. This lets me put in place a series of filters that track vessels and then trigger alarms. If a vessel exceeds the speed limit, the system automatically slews cameras, sends messaging, and dispatches patrol boats. And conversely in the two water aerodromes, we get alerts if a vessel reduces speed below 2 knots, because we want them to move promptly through the area where aircraft will be landing or taking off on the water."

"We're looking at additional AIS receivers on light houses which are on promontories and capes, which have a good operational sight line for traffic movement," Dahlgren said. "If we buy the equipment, manage the data storage, and allow our stakeholders to pull from it, they'll make infrastructure available for us to work with them as a partnership."

Although the TITAN Sentinel system can use any kind of radar, Xanatos Business Development Manager Kris English says the company prefers to use Terma when possible. "We're not tied to any one manufacturer and we frequently work with existing equipment. But if we can, we use Terma radars because of reliability and performance. When people look at our system, they don't look at the radar. They look at the total system. If something fails, it's not the radar, it's our system, and our company."

English said Xanatos has installed several similar systems to Nanaimo's at ports such as Port Saint John, Canada, Portland Port in the UK, Surabaya in Indonesia and many others. "At Surabaya, the system is constantly tracking over 500 ships at a given time."

Xanatos implemented weather sensors on buoys and fixed locations that provide valuable information to the marine community. "The weather stations are able to broadcast real-time wind, current, wave height and intervals, temperature, barometric pressure, visibility which is available to mariners such as pilots via a portable pilot pack," English said. "We're transmitting the data autonomously through AIS which means there is no cost for the marine community to receive the data. It is quite straight forward, as they approach the sensor, they can see the data."

One of the Terma radars being installed on Dundas Island. Photo courtesy of Prince Rupert Port Authority.

"One of the key features of the system in Nanaimo is that it can be accessed by approved stakeholders," English said, "For example, Nanaimo Fire Protection can use the thermal imaging camera to see potential fires, other stakeholders may want to get a closer look at a suspicious vessel or perhaps BC Ferries would like to look at the wind and wave height information to assist in making a decision to sail or not sale. The TITAN Sentinel system implemented for Nanaimo allows the data to be shared which is one of the reasons they are excited about the system."

Captain Edward Lundquist, U.S. Navy (Retired), is a principal science writer at MCR Federal in McLean, Virginia, and chief engagement officer of Echo Bridge LLC, in Springfield, Virginia. He served on active duty with the Navy as a surface warfare officer and public affairs officer.


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