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New system ‘sees’ through fog to keep ships safe

Thursday 28 September 2006

New system ‘sees’ through fog to keep ships safe

Ports of Auckland’s new Universal ship identification and tracking system, AIS (Automated Identification System), is vastly improving safety on the Waitamata harbour. The sophisticated identification and tracking system allows Ports of Auckland’s Harbour Control to track and manage a ships progress in and out of the Waitemata harbour.

Even in the worst visibility conditions, ships, some more than two football fields long, are tracked and managed to 5-metres accuracy. Operational since June, AIS has already been used on several occasions to help ships navigate their way in and out of Auckland’s port in extremely foggy conditions.

On foggy days like yesterday, Harbour Control staff at the Port of Auckland are joined by an experienced Ports of Auckland pilot and Fullers skipper to assist with monitoring vessel movements and advising ships of potential hazards.

“The AIS system significantly improves the safety of both port and passenger vessels on the Waitemata Harbour,” says Ports of Auckland Marine Services Manager Wayne Mills. “The system also gives us the ability to have a longer lead-in time to arrange resources, personnel and plant to provide a more efficient and safer commercial shipping environment,” says Wayne Mills.

About the AIS system AIS is effectively an electronic identification system. All ships over 500 Gross Registered Tonnes (GRT) must now be equipped with AIS, which constantly transmits their unique identifier, name, course and speed to all stations able to receive on VHF frequency.

Port of Auckland’s Harbour Control receives this information from ships from as far north as Cape Reinga and as far south as Tauranga. The data from AIS and radar is mapped onto sophisticated port management software, NaviHarbour, to form one integrated piece of information. This information is displayed on four large screens at Harbour Control, showing ships moving within the monitored area.

AIS improves resource allocation Marine Services’ Harbour Control is the hub of the AIS system at Ports of Auckland. The unit operates 24/7, monitoring operations and carrying out resource planning and allocation for any vessel of 500 GRT or more calling Auckland - around 1600 ship calls each year. With Harbour Control juggling 15 or more ship movements on any given day, it benefits from getting the earliest possible confirmation of a ship’s arrival time at berth.

This enables the team to commence final resource allocation - arranging pilots and tugs, checking berth availability, creating the berth schedule, nominating the vessel’s position at the berth and finally communicating all the information to the Port’s Ship Planning and Operations department.

Wayne Mills explains: “AIS automatically tells us which ship is approaching, how far away it is from the pilot station, and what time it will arrive based on the vessels actual speed. The system also gives us visibility of vessels as they move down past Whangarei or around the Coromandel Peninsula. “AIS gives us the capability to more accurately allocate the appropriate resources well in advance and with certainty,” says Wayne.


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