Koninklijke Vereniging - Société Royale



Strait’s navigational safety gets a boost

Singapore has been in the news recently due to a couple of high profile collisions, plus a  clamp down on bunkering operations.

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) has been actively pursuing increased safety of navigation in the Singapore Strait for several years, which is one of the most used stretches of water in the world

For example, in August, the MPA and IT giant IBM announced that they had jointly completed the pilot trial of three modules under the MPA-IBM SAFER project, which will be rolled out progressively starting this month.

Project SAFER, derived from ‘Sense-making Analytics For maritime Event Recognition,’ is a collaboration between MPA and IBM to develop and test new analytics­based technologies, aimed at improving maritime and port operations to support increasing Singapore’s growth in vessel traffic.

Altogether, there are seven modules under the project, which offer many new capabilities for automating and increasing the accuracy of critical tasks that previously relied on human observation, reporting - VHF communication, and data entry.
These seven modules include:

  • Automated movement detection.
  • Infringement analytics.
  • Pilot boarding detection.
  • Bunkering analytics.
  • Prohibited area analytics
  • Vessel traffic arrival prediction.
  • Utilisation detection and prediction. The pilot trial of the three modules completed included automated movement detection, infringement analytics and pilot boarding detection. The rest of the modules will be rolled out by January, 2018.

MPA’s Port Operations Control Centre (POCC) handles more than 1,000 vessel movements daily in Singapore waters. One of the many roles of the Vessel Traffic Management (VTM) officers is to enter the start and end time and location of vessel into the Port Traffic Management System whenever a Master reports a movement over the radio.

Using cognitive and analytics technologies to detect and predict vessel movements, this module is deigned to reduce radio communications between the MPA control centre and the Masters and eliminates the need to enter ship movement details by automatically detecting the start/end time and location of vessel in real time.
In addition, SAFER improves the accuracy of the information in movement time and location by up to 34%, as well as frees up VTM officers to carry out their other roles, the MPA claimed.

Infringement analytics –

MPA’s port inspectors (PI) keep the area safe by enforcing regulations on marine safety and environmental protection. They also co-ordinate and respond to any marine incidents in the port.

Common infringements include operating in port waters without a valid permit or licence, transponder-related infringements, such as switching it off deliberately and speeding.

Previously, PIs were guided by their intuition to look for suspicious activities rather than quantitative information when patrolling the waters. As a result, they may miss certain events of interest. With the machine learning based analytics and vessel prediction models, developed for the SAFER system, PIs are able to detect suspicious or abnormal vessel behaviour through alerts that are sent through. This enables them to take a more targeted approach when conducting inspection, hence improving efficiency of their daily routine.

Pilot Boarding Detection - MPA works closely with PSA Marine (PSAM) to ensure that 95% of vessels requiring pilots will be served within 15 minutes. Currently, MPA conducts audit checks when there is an appeal or dispute. The SAFER module enables MPA to automatically detect the pilot boarding time thus validating PSAM’s pilotage service levels. The system will also facilitate dispute resolution, if any.

“We will continue to develop our digital strategies through the use of data analytics and machine learning technologies to optimise our port operations and enforcement to meet existing as well as future demands,” said Andrew Tan, MPA CEO. The SAFER project will enable us to reap immediate benefits, especially in the areas of next-generation port enforcement and monitoring of vessel movements.”

“AI is transforming every industry and the marine domain is no exception. The SAFER solution is an example of how IBM’s AI Singapore Strait's dense passing traffic can be seen from the guard tug over the wreck of a dredger.

research for business is supplementing and increasing human capacity by making our waterways and sea lanes safer and more efficient,” said Robert Morris, Vice President, Global Labs, IBM Research.

MPA and IBM are still developing and testing the other four modules to provide advanced information on traffic density within Singapore port waters - detect illegal bunkering activities; detect vessels moving into prohibited areas; and predict vessel arrival time.

In another move earlier this month, Vesper Marine, in partnership with Brand Marine Consultants (BMC), Hanseatic Underwriters and the (MPA), has completed an installation of its AIS-based Guardian:protect system.This system was designed to protect vessels from hazardous shipwrecks within the Singapore Strait entrance channel to the port and alert the authorities as to its presence. One of the catalysts for installing the system was the sinking of the dredger ’Cai Jun 3’ on 12th March this year. Realising the potential danger, the Singapore authorities knew that action had to be taken quickly. As an immediate safeguard to warn vessels entering the Strait near the sunken vessel, two tugs were stationed at the site of the wreck as ‘guard boats’, while salvage operations were ongoing.

As the cost of running the tugs was astronomical, salvage company BMC contacted Vesper Marine, which specialises in AIS collision avoidance and subsea hazard protection systems, The company worked with BMC to alert inbound shipping in a more cost-effective method.

Vesper Marine’s Guardian:protect solution, a 24/7 asset protection system specifically designed to prevent accidental encroachment on marine assets by vessels, was temporarily placed on board one of the tugs, eliminating the need and expense of a second tug. The solution was claimed to have the additional advantage of minimising human error with smart rules that trigger automatic vessel notifications if a ship is on a collision course with the wreck. The system sets concentric electronic cordons at five nautical miles, two nautical miles and 500 m around the shipwreck and automatically alerts vessels and the control team when vessels are predicted to come too close.

Dennis Brand, BMC managing director, said “We needed a partner that had a lot of hands-on experience with marking offshore hazards and Vesper Marine had done work similar to this all over the world.”

The system went live in June and was relocated to a land-based site on the coast of Malaysia in August. This has further reduced costs, decreased liabilities for the insurer and enabled the marking and cordoning off of even more potential hazards, the company said..

The wreck was a dangerous obstacle being located at the entrance of the Traffic Separation Scheme in the Singapore Strait, a critical area for one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. Since the solution went live, more than 8,000 vessels have been warned about their proximity to the danger zone.

Jeff Robbins, CEO and co-founder of Vesper Marine described the wide scope of this innovative protection system, “The Guardian system is precisely designed for natural and man made hazards, fixed and moving zones, and can be changed in real time with changing conditions. “In the Singapore Strait situation, while managing safety of vessels around the wreck, as salvage operations progress, the zones can be redefined dynamically within our cloud based software, to enhance the safety of shipping, salvage operations and the efficiency of the shipping lane,” he said.




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